Letter: Where’s the gratitude for New Forest's pop-up campsites?
SIR – I read with interest your article (A&T, 2nd April) about the national park authority’s (NPA) plans to restrict pop-up campsites in the New Forest.
There seems to be no credit or thanks given to these operators for the essential service they have been providing. It almost seems as if the NPA view them as a potential revenue stream.
What they appear to have forgotten is that the NPA’s chosen campsite partner – Camping in the Forest – decided to close down all their campsites in the New Forest last year just when UK families, hard-pressed by Covid lockdowns and denied the opportunity of foreign holidays sought staycations, particularly outside in the fresh air.
The government, in one of their better decisions, recognised this and allowed pop-up camp sites to operate for 56 days a year without planning permission instead of the normal 28 days.
Surely the existence of these local businesses operating in a sector that has struggled to survive during the pandemic should be viewed as a win for everyone? These businesses, the wider community and UK holidaymakers all benefit as well as the Forest itself by reducing the environmental threat from wild-camping.
The NPA seem to be concerned that these pop-up sites operate in an environmentally damaging manner, despite seemingly not providing any evidence of such. They appear to ignore that pop-ups are invariably on private land where no landowner is going to risk damaging their land by not taking safe waste disposal very seriously.
Meanwhile one of the largest sites operated by Camping in the Forest is now open for this year but without any facilities whatsoever so campers will have to fend for themselves. How environmentally damaging will that be?
The NPA exercise seems to be a typical bureaucratic response to an imagined problem, which they intend to compound by doing away with the planning dispensation for pop-up campsites, going against national guidelines.
Next year hopefully things should be back to normal. The government will revert the planning dispensation for pop-up campsites back to 28 days, halving at a stroke any potential environmental damage. Meanwhile there will probably be a rush for foreign holidays thus reducing the overall demand for staycations.
These pop-ups are marginal businesses under the current 56-day dispensation. They will be wiped out by imposing the extra costs of planning approvals and licensing when the 28-day dispensation returns.
So here’s an alternative strategy. Leave things exactly as they are and after a return to normality establish whether an environmental problem then actually exists from pop-up campsites and, if so, weigh-up the costs and benefits before threatening them with new regulations.