Landmark scheme for New Forest makes great strides

Published Wednesday 21 July 2010

Europe’s largest agri-environment scheme designed to restore and enhance internationally-important habitats in the New Forest has begun to make a real difference on the ground.

The Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme – £16m of European money over 10 years – was announced in March. It was the result of a successful bid from a partnership between the Verderers, Commoners, New Forest National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission and Natural England.

It aims to fund:

  • The maintenance and restoration of internationally-important habitats for wildlife
  • The historic practice of commoning and the Verderers, who administer the Forest’s unique agricultural commoning practices which maintain the unique New Forest landscape
  • Improved access to and education about the area’s unique environment.

Today (Wednesday 21 July) the Verderers announced a raft of measures to bolster commoning.

Official Verderer Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: ‘The New Forest animals are often said to be the ‘architects of the Forest’. Without commoning and grazing animals, the landscape would go back to scrub and the benefits to wildlife would be dramatically reduced. The unique New Forest habitat – much of which is important on a global scale – is supported by this ancient practice of commoning, but these days commoning is not commercially viable. So I’m delighted that we can make these improvements, helping to ensure the New Forest is cared for now and for the future.

‘These first year projects are an ambitious and promising start to the 10-year HLS programme, and our intention is not only to help conserve the landscape and biodiversity of the Forest through supporting grazing, but also to leave a legacy after 10 years that will benefit the next generation of practising commoners.’

The measures include:

  • A scheme to upgrade the Beaulieu Road Sale Yard where commoners auction their ponies (without these improvements the current basic facilities would soon be in breach of trading standards regulations) - £340,000
  • Continuation of the grazing payment scheme where commoners are supported in putting their stock on the Forest and to help manage the landscape and preserve traditional practices - £400,000
  • Reflective pony collars worth nearly to help prevent animal accidents on the roads - £9,000
  • New stock trailers for the Agisters who help manage the stock on the Forest - £22,000
  • A grant towards a Land Advice Service to help land managers increase environmental measures - £10,000.

Alison Barnes, New Forest National Park Authority Chief Executive, said: ‘Commoning underpins the whole delicate balance of the New Forest -supporting the wildlife, tourism and the local economy. It’s impressive to think what we can achieve with the HLS and I’m delighted to see such practical action with tangible results so early in the scheme.’

Graham Ferris, Chairman of the Commoners' Defence Association, said: 'We are very pleased that at this early stage of the Higher Level Stewardship scheme there are a number of projects with significant long-term benefits for the future of commoning - exactly in line with the criteria established by the partners for approving HLS projects.'


Notes to Editors:

  • The New Forest National Park Authority took up its full powers in April 2006. Its purposes are to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities.
  • The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woodland for the benefit of the environment and the general public. It is the UK’s largest land manager and the biggest provider of outdoor recreation.
  • The Verderers protect and administer the New Forest’s unique agricultural commoning practices and conserve its traditional landscape.
  • Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. It conserves and enhances the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. It increases opportunities to make the natural environment an enriching part of people's everyday lives, and improves its long-term security by contributing to the sustainable management of our natural resources.

Media Contact:
Hilary Makin, Communications Manager, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646600

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