New plans to improve the New Forest for wildlife and peoplePUBLISHED ON: 11 JULY 2019
Joint Press Release
New Forest organisations are considering how outdoor recreation activities can be better managed in the future to both protect the Forest and improve facilities.
The Forest is protected for its international importance for wildlife. At the same time, it is experiencing unprecedented numbers of people using it every day and with widespread housing development planned in the region this is set to increase further.
22 proposed actions aim to make the Forest more resilient to rising levels of public recreation. These are based on the results of Future Forest public consultations completed last year in which 2,500 people gave their views on managing recreation.
The proposals have been devised by the Recreation Management Strategy Steering Group which comprises seven organisations with a remit for managing recreation in and around the area: New Forest National Park Authority, Forestry England, Hampshire County Council, Natural England, New Forest District Council, Test Valley Borough Council and the Verderers.
Top priorities for the new strategy are:
- respect – helping people to understand why the New Forest is special and how to care for it
- resilience – locating the right recreation facilities in the right places
- resources – increasing the level of funding available.
To ensure the Forest is resilient into the future, one of the tasks is to develop a spatial strategy for where facilities should be located in order to protect rare wildlife and provide a better experience for people. This would include car parks, walking trails and cycling routes, and both small and large green spaces in and around the National Park.
To progress these ideas, the Steering Group asked the National Park Authority, as the planning authority, to consult the public and other bodies to help design a ‘Local Development Order’ (LDO). The LDO would establish criteria to help review where recreation facilities, including car parks, could best be located.
Members of the New Forest National Park Authority today (11 July) unanimously gave the go-ahead for exploring the creation of an LDO with other partners and the public.
Many of the 22 actions are already being progressed, usually through joint-working between organisations. This includes raising awareness of how special the New Forest is, improved educational campaigns, securing more funds, further research and greater coordination between local authorities as they plan housing developments.
New Forest National Park Authority Chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: ‘We know that nature is under threat globally and the New Forest is no different. Thousands of new homes are being built in the area over the next few years so we need new and improved green spaces close to where people live to take pressure off the Forest, improved rights of way to encourage people to use them – and we need to improve the distribution of parking to protect the things that make the New Forest so special.
‘It’s vital that we look at car parking provision because we know most people still come into and move around the Forest by car. We think the overall number of car parking spaces is probably about right, but some car parks are not big enough and others may not be in the best place to protect wildlife – and we want to use an LDO to find a way forward.
‘We will need people to help us design the scope and criteria for the LDO so we’ll be asking conservation experts, commoners, residents and those who visit the Forest for their views.’
Members of the NPA were advised that developing and establishing an LDO would probably take about a year. After that, people would be able to comment on proposals to change specific car parks so that improvements are as good as possible. Such changes would then be phased in over several years.
An LDO would not supersede the existing powers of Natural England or the Verderers. A Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening would also be required.
Bruce Rothnie, Forestry England’s Deputy Surveyor of the New Forest, said: ‘The last significant changes to recreation in the New Forest took place in the 1970s when vehicles were prevented from driving on to the open Forest and over 140 car parks were built. Much has changed since then, including significant increases in the number of people and cars coming to the Forest and our improved understanding of the importance of wildlife here. We all need to face up to fresh challenges and share responsibility for this place that we cherish.
‘The actions Forest organisations are signing up to aim to create the best recreational experience for people, while also protecting the very thing they come to see – the spectacular, yet fragile working landscape and wildlife it supports.’
See the full list of the 22 actions and how you can get involved at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/futureforest.
Notes to editors
1. What is a Local Development Order?
Local Development Orders (LDOs) are orders made by local planning authorities (under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) that grant planning permission for a specific type and scale of development within a defined area.
They streamline the planning process by allowing locally-agreed ‘permitted development rights’.
LDOs are recognised in the National Planning Policy Framework (2019) as a useful tool in tailoring planning controls to local circumstances:
‘Local planning authorities are encouraged to use Local Development Orders to set the planning framework for particular areas or categories of development where the impacts would be acceptable, and in particular where this would promote economic, social or environmental gains for the area.’ (para 15).
2. What is the process of making an LDO?
The process would provide a robust, legal mechanism through which the principles and parameters are debated and confirmed in public.
- An LDO is drafted
- A statement is prepared with the reasons for making an order
- Consultation on the draft order
- Responses considered and modifications made
- The order is adopted
- The Secretary of State is notified.
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