National Park looks to the future

Published Wednesday 26 April 2006

Ted Johnson, who was today re-elected unopposed as Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, has described the organisation’s first year as ‘memorable and historic’.

Mr Johnson said: ‘We have moved from enthusiastic idealism at the start to practical, functioning outcomes one year on.  This is the first time that setting up a new national park has been attempted in this country for 50 years and it has never been done before in a south-east context with the very different challenges to those faced by established national parks.  The fact that we achieved the deadline of 1 April, and the effort that went into that process, is incredible and something of which all those involved can be proud.

‘It was noted when we were appointed that 20 of the 22 members were local and already had a role and profile within Forest organisations: this was not a take-over by outsiders.   As we have worked together over the year, I have developed an increasing respect for the skills, enthusiasm and commitment that all members have and for their depth of understanding of Park issues.  Those have been essential in contributing to our development and achievements during this inaugural year.’

Mr Johnson went on to say that this was also a time for the National Park to look to the future.  He said: ‘Now the real work begins.  We have to review our Management Plan, publish our Corporate Plan explaining what we will do over the next two years, start work on our own Local Development Framework, develop partnerships and action on the ground, and release Sustainable Development Fund grants for innovative projects by local communities.

‘A few individuals, who are clearly not aware of most of the essential facts, have been quick to criticise the National Park Authority for its start-up costs, its job titles, even the speed with which it took over planning!  If they would like to visit us at South Efford House, we would be delighted to explain to them what we do and what it costs.  But I am pleased to say that most people seem prepared to give us time to prove that the National Park will be good for the New Forest as I firmly believe it will as it sets about delivering its two purposes which are widely supported both locally and nationally.  These are: conserving and enhancing the Park’s natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and promoting understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities.’

Mel Kendal, who was re-elected unopposed as Deputy Chairman of the National Park Authority, said: ‘I am particularly pleased that the National Park Authority has established such strong relationships so quickly with key partners such as the Forestry Commission, the Verderers and New Forest District Council.  This will be crucial to its future success.

‘We are pleased that the Minister for Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity, Jim Knight MP, helped the New Forest National Park meet the significant one-off costs of setting up in the south-east and also recognised that our capacity to generate income to support national park purposes will take time to build and may well be less than in other national parks.  

‘Although our budget will be extremely tight, we will work hard to develop partnerships and projects in our early years.  We will be imaginative and creative in our approach and we will be careful only to take on staff we judge are essential to carry out the challenging work programme we have set to help safeguard the National Park and ensure that people will continue to understand and enjoy it.’

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Media Contact
Martin O'Neill, Head of Communications, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646647
Email: martin.o'neill@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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