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Leadership team

Alison Barnes, Chief Executive

Alison Barnes, Chief Executive

Alison is Chief Executive at New Forest National Park Authority and has worked in the field of landscape management for 20 years. She is an elected Fellow of both the Landscape Institute and RSA. 

Previously as a Director for Natural England she led engagement with large regeneration programmes such as for the Olympics and took organisational lead on landscape and green infrastructure.

Earlier in her career, Alison worked in Scottish local government and with RSPB on opencast mine restoration projects. She later led on local biodiversity policy within Defra and was Head of Advocacy for English Nature, developing policy across Parliament, Whitehall and Europe and supporting the passage of the NERC Act.

Alison is on the Board of Directors for Business South, is appointed to the Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee of Forestry England and is a Trustee of the National Park City Foundation.

Alison was inspired to follow her career path by her childhood in Dorset exploring the heathlands and coasts of the area and the nearby New Forest. She graduated from Oxford University with a Masters in Biological Sciences and achieved an MSc in Conservation at University College London. In her spare time she enjoys walking, sailing and music. She plays the flute and sings with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Inspiration Community Choir.

Steve Avery

Steve Avery, Executive Director Strategy and Planning

Steve joined the New Forest National Park Authority as Head of Development Control in 2006. Prior to joining the National Park Steve spent eight years working as a Principal Planner with New Forest District Council. Steve has also previously worked for other local planning authorities in Essex and Cornwall.

As Executive Director Strategy and Planning, Steve leads the Authority’s planning team as well as the Authority’s other statutory functions in relation to the conservation and enhancement of the natural environment, cultural heritage, access to the countryside and preparation of the National Park Management Plan.

Steve currently chairs the Royal Town Planning Institute’s Management Board and Activities Committee for the South East Region.

Nigel matthews

Nigel Matthews, Head of Recreation Management and Learning

Before moving to the New Forest in 2006, Nigel worked for Kent Wildlife Trust as Head of Wildlife Awareness and Education. He played a key role in developing visitor centres, volunteer and outreach initiatives, public events, interpretation and educational work with schools.

Nigel’s current role is to lead much of the Authority’s activities aimed at promoting opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of the New Forest, balancing this with the need to protect the Forest into the future. This work includes links with schools, interpretation, recreation, the team of rangers, and sustainable tourism and transport.

In recent years Nigel has helped build productive partnership approaches to encouraging safer driving, responsible dog walking and cycling.


Paul Walton, Head of Environment and Rural Economy

Paul’s role is to lead the Authority’s work in conserving the landscapes and habitats of the National Park and foster a healthy local economy that can sustain the Park’s special qualities.

Paul has considerable experience of working in protected landscapes.  He has come to the New Forest having previously worked in Cornwall, as a General Manager for the National Trust for five years and prior to that as the first Partnership manager of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  He also worked as an Area Manager for the Sussex Downs Conservation Board prior to the creation of the South Downs National Park.

In 2011 Paul completed a Masters degree in Town and Country Planning.

Organisation structure

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