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Letter: Explanation needed on lease of New Forest campsites

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SIR – Those of your readers who follow Forest affairs will be familiar with the current controversy over camping and caravan sites on the Crown lands and how those sites are said to be contrary to the conservation objectives of the Forest.

Last July, Mr Brian Tarnoff made a presentment to the Verderers’ Court dealing with the “fundamental incompatibility” of the campsites on the open Forest with the conservation status of the Forest.

More recently, Mr Anthony Pasmore, in his New Forest Notes in the A&T, has referred to a lease of the Forest camp sites granted in 2006 for a term of 75 years, thus putting control of the camp sites out of the reach of the Forestry Commission until 2080 at the earliest.

Setthorns campsite in the New Forest
Setthorns campsite in the New Forest

Who currently controls the sites?

Prior to 2006, the campsites were managed on an annual basis by the Forestry Commission but that changed radically in 2006 when, in circumstances which are obscure, a lease of the campsites was granted.

The parties to the lease were the secretary of state for the environment and Forest Holidays LLP. Forest Holidays is a Limited Liability Partnership which over the years since 2006 has seen a number of corporate changes. The current partnership is Forest Public Sector Holidays LLP in which partnership, I presume, the benefit of the lease is currently vested.

More detailed corporate information is available online free of charge from Companies House.

The term of the lease was 75 years and the lease is probably renewable in 2080. It is an unusually long term and is tantamount to a sale of the sites.

A copy of the lease can be downloaded from whatdotheyknow.com (search: Lease of New Forest camp sites for 75 years dated 2005) but the rent and rent review clauses are blanked out.

The lease is subject to the commoners’ rights but it is not obvious who is responsible for protecting those rights or the wider conservation requirements of the sites. Whoever has the benefit of the lease and pays the rent would doubtless run the sites for profit rather than conservation

In the circumstances, a number of questions arise: did the secretary of state/Forestry Commission have the power to alienate Crown lands for a period of 75 years? Were the verderers consulted – if not why not? Was the consent of the verderers required and if so, was it given? If their consent was required and not given, is the lease void?

I feel that the Forest is entitled to an explanation such as Mr Pasmore sought in his New Forest Notes in June 2006 but to no avail.

J.N. Rudd,
Address supplied

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