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Friday, 12 August 2011

Peter Roberts rebuts Anthony Pasmore's Article Concerning Our Submission to the Independent Panel on Forestry

In the his 5th August 2011 "New Forest Notes" column in the Lymington Times, Anthony Pasmore took exception to the New Forest Association's submission to the Independent Panel on Forestry. His interpretation patently ignores our defence of the New Forest Acts, our praise for the good side of the Forestry Commission, and insinuates a non-existent "bias in favour of replacing state control" (both a repurposed state control and suitably endowed charity options are discussed). He does seem to concur with, and illustrates our criticism of the bad commercial forestry driven management of the Forestry Commission. To read the full Article click here (the NFA are not responsible for content on other sites).

Our Chairman Peter Roberts has written a letter to the Lymington Times in rebuttal. The full text of which is included below:

9th August 2011
Dear Sir

It is good to see that Anthony Pasmore has taken up the challenge to open a debate on the New Forest Association's views to the Forestry Panel (NF Notes 6th August). Whilst the headline of our Press Release captured the attention of the media it is the detail of what we are actually looking for that is important.

The aims of the Association are simple:- to protect, conserve and enhance the unique mix of flora, fauna and heritage that make up the New Forest, for present and future generations to enjoy. Clearly over a long history (we are more than fifty years older than the Forestry Commission) we have had many dealings with management policy. Our response to the Independent Panel on Forestry recognises the good work done by excellent staff of the Forestry Commission. Our aim is to obtain the best possible management for this unique area, we are far more interested in how the Forest is managed than who manages it.

Five years ago we published The New Forest Design Plan - Recovering Lost Landscapes to influence management thinking and correct some of the damage done by inappropriate planting. Inappropriate because softwood species are not native and can be grown more successfully elsewhere and inappropriate because of the loss of part of the largest lowland heathland in Europe - an internationally recognised and protected area. Few people now remember the damage done by conversion of many of the old inclosures from broad-leaved trees to conifer from the instigation of the Forestry Commission in 1924 until the outcry of 1970. Your columnist should remember, for he, alongside David Stagg and John Lavender, produced an excellent survey of the hardwoods at that time on behalf of the New Forest Association.

We have linked our response to the work of Sir John Lawton, whose committee produced a report Making Space for Nature last autumn. This fundamental rethink on how we can best use land for nature conservation (not for its own sake alone but because our own future is closely linked with wildlife) is an opportunity to seize.

As for Anthony's concerns for the New Forest Acts none know their value better than the New Forest Association for our founding fathers' decade of work led to the 1877 Act. We explicitly quote the New Forest Acts in our response stating that they and the Verderers activities should continue 'regardless of who in future is responsible for managing the New Forest.'

Anthony's comments on current ownership explain why we used the phrasing we did. Our submission talks of the Crown Estate of the New Forest to remind the Forestry Panel that it consists not just of the lands open to the public but also vital back-up grazing as well as considerable housing stock. The latter has provided a core of commoners housing for a considerable time to the benefit of the New Forest. We believe it is essential that all this should remain as a unit and not be sold off.

Our views to the Forestry Panel stated that the New Forest should be treated as a special case. We also believe in a balance between conservation, recreation and a working environment and that this view is shared by other bodies including the Commoners Defence Association and the National Park Authority. Removing national forestry policy from the Forestry Commission in the New Forest may provide the best possible way forward for management of this unique area. Whatever system of management is put in place it will need to take account of nature designations and public access as well as commoners usage for the benefit of the nation. It seems likely that this balance will only be achieved at a considerable cost to the public purse.

Our full submission may be found at newforestassociation.org

Yours sincerely



Peter Roberts
Chairman, New Forest Association



Note: the version published in the Lymington Times, may have been edited for space or content.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Join NFA in Summer Fun

Want to find out more about the New Forest? If so then you’re invited to some free events organised by conservation and campaign body the New Forest Association this summer and autumn. All are welcome, including non-members.

  • On Wednesday August 17 Ann Biffin will lead a walk and talk on Eric Ashby’s Bench and Sumner’s finds. This walk will take in the wooden memorial bench dedicated to New Forest film maker and conservationist Eric Ashby and will also cover some of the topography, history, traditions and scenery narrated in Heywood Sumner's famous Guide to the New Forest, published by Charles Brown and son of Ringwood over 80 years ago. The guide, published in 1923, is considered by some to be the best guide to the woods of the New Forest.
Anyone wishing to take part should meet at Fritham car park at 6pm.
  • On Tuesday September 6 you can join NFA Chairman Peter Roberts and his colleague Phil Marshall, Countryside Manager for the National Trust, for a walk and talk on Pylons and Plantations. This event explores the impact of plantations and pylons in the north of the Forest and the management of Forest heathland.
Meet at Turf Hill car park at 6pm.
The NFA will also be attending several Forest events this year for anyone who wants to find out more about Forest issues or the work of the association. These include the Frogham Fair on August 27, the Romsey Show on September 10, and the New Forest Festival on September 25.

“We’ve been around for 144 years but we’re not a bunch of old fuddy duddies,” said Peter Roberts, who took over as Chairman in May.

“We are very keen to reach out to people of all ages and to tell them more about our work and about the New Forest’s important ecology, biodiversity and heritage. There are some fascinating stories to tell. We want to help generate people’s excitement about the Forest and their enthusiasm for the special environment around them.

“We attracted a lot of interest from local people at the New Forest Show and it was our best Show yet. We hope as many people as possible will join us on some of these events both to enjoy the New Forest and to find out more about it.”

Further details about all these events, including locations, duration and what to wear can be found on the NFA website at http://www.newforestassociation.org/events.html.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Presentment to The Verderers: NFA Response to the Independent Panel on Forestry

Presentment to The Court of Verderers.

Wednesday 20th July 2011
Peter Roberts. Chairman. New Forest Association.

The New Forest Association asks that the Verderers consider supporting the response of this Association when they respond to the Independent Panel on Forestry. Our submission is detailed so I will just highlight six points.

1 The New Forest Crown Estate should be kept intact because the back-up land and cottages are vital to commoning.

2 Remove intensive commercial forestry because the plantations sterilise bio-diversity. A return to broad leaved woodlands in some areas would reverse this. It would probably take 50-60 years to harvest existing plantations thereby allowing the timber extraction industry to adapt to the changes.

3 Replace Forestry Commission with landscape managers. It is difficult for the Commission to adhere to national policy whilst attempting to manage a unique area in an appropriate manner.

4 Retention of local expertise in any new body is vital because many Commission staff have great local knowledge.

5 The New Forest could be the basis of an Ecological Restoration Zone thereby fulfilling needs recognised in the Lawton report 'Making Space for Nature' and the recent Government White Paper.

6 Last but not least the retention of the New Forest Acts is of fundamental importance.

How the Forest is cared for matters more than who cares for it.

The full submission may be found on our website.

http://www.newforestassociation.org/NFA%20Response_to_the_Independent_Panel_on_Forestry.pdf.

NFA Chairman on BBC Radio Solent (link available until 27th July 2011)

Peter Roberts, the Chairman of the New Forest Association, was interviewed by Julian Clegg on BBC Radio Solent on his Wednesday 20th July 2011 show, explaining the NFA's call for the Forestry Commission in the New Forest to be replaced with new landscape managers.

You can listen to (link available until 27th July 2011)
http://www.bbc.co.uk/i/p00hwbbj/

The link is to the full Julian Clegg show of Wednesday 20th July 2011. Peter Roberts may be heard in two clips from the 3 hour programme:

a) 0:46:00 to 0:51:38 Peter Roberts discusses call for removal of Forestry Commission from New Forest
b) 1:41:39 to 1:48:36 Peter Roberts rebuts points made by Sue Bailey of One Voice

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Replace the Forestry Commission and remove conifer plantations in the New Forest, says NFA

PRESS RELEASE:
The New Forest Association has called for the Forestry Commission to be replaced in the New Forest and for the Forest's conifer plantations to be phased out in favour of traditional broadleaved forest.

The 144-year-old Association, which aims to champion, protect and conserve the unique heritage and ecology of the New Forest, has made the radical suggestions in its written submission to the Independent Panel on Forestry this month (July 2011).

Over the last 200 years, says the NFA, large conifer plantations used for intensive commercial forestry have reduced the beauty and biodiversity of much of the New Forest, rendering it "sterile". In order to repair this damage, the historic broadleaved woodlands of the Forest should be allowed to develop naturally, providing sustainable products for the local economy.

The NFA also suggests retaining state ownership of the New Forest under new landscape managers, bound by the requirement to protect its unique status.

"Management of the New Forest by the Forestry Commission is merely an accident of history," says the submission. "The Forest owes its unique character and survival to the commoners grazing their stock which has brought about the open heaths, lawns, pasture woodlands and wetlands we see today. The conflicts with timber growers are legion and go back centuries. There is a case for easing the burden on the Forestry Commission by removing them from the area totally."

The NFA argues that the New Forest is of exceptional importance for biodiversity and should be designated as one of the proposed Ecological Restoration Zones outlined in the Lawton report last year. This report, commissioned by DEFRA, concluded that England's wildlife sites were too small and too isolated, leading to a decline in traditional species which would only get worse through the effects of climate change.

With its 20 sites of Special Scientific Interest, six Natura 2000 sites, two Ramsar Convention sites, many rare species and unusual mix of habitats and wildlife, the New Forest National Park area should be considered as a special case for conservation and should be protected from further mismanagement or decline, says the NFA.

The NFA also calls for the whole of the Crown Estate land to be protected, including the back up land and cottages which are so vital to commoning, and for the expertise of local Forestry Commission specialists to be retained in any new structure. The New Forest Acts of 1877 to 1970, which give the Verderers responsibility for the management of the Open Forest and the commoners' grazing system, should also be retained, it says.

Peter Roberts, NFA Chairman, said that continuing management of the New Forest for softwoods is inappropriate, given the outstanding value of the area both for wildlife and for people.

"The New Forest has enormous potential for increasing its biodiversity and landscape beauty, as well as its value for recreation," he said. "At present, many of its habitats are in poor condition as a result of mismanagement in previous decades. There is an urgent need for habitat restoration, to address this problem.

"Although the Forestry Commission's management of the Open Forest heathland has been carried out well in recent years, restoration is held back by the subsidised forestry culture and by the large swathes of conifer planting, which fragment internationally rare habitats, introduce diseases and damage the archaeology of the New Forest.

"No further establishment of non-native trees should occur in the New Forest and non-native plantations should be returned to native woodlands. There are enough soft woods to supply the local timber industry for the next fifty or sixty years already, without the need for further plantings. A return to more broad-leaved plantations would increase the beauty of the New Forest, would help species to diversify and would also help local businesses," he said.

For the full text (pdf) of the response sent by the NFA to the Independent Panel on Forestry click here.

NFA Issues Its Response to the Independent Panel on Forestry

After the government climbdown on the proposed sale of public woodlands on February 17th 2011, the Independent Panel on Forestry was established on 17 March 2011 to advise government on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England. The Panel's terms of reference state:

1. To advise the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England.
2. To advise on the role of the Forestry Commission in implementing policy on forestry and woodland in relation to England.
3. In formulating this advice, the Panel should consider:

a) how woodland cover can be increased, given competing pressures on land use for food production, energy and development;
b) options for enhancing public benefits from all woodland and forests, in the light of the Lawton Report and the Natural Environment White Paper, including;
* public access for recreation and leisure;
* biodiversity, wildlife protection and ecological resilience, including through restoration of open habitats and plantations on ancient woodland sites;
* climate change mitigation and adaptation;
* economic development, particularly to support a sustainable timber industry and a wide range of small and medium sized enterprises, including social enterprises; and
* engagement and participation of civil society.
c) constraints and competing demands on public expenditure for this Spending Review period and beyond;
d) the role of Forest Enterprise England as the manager of productive forestry resources;
e) the value for money and cost-effectiveness of the public forest estate in England and options for its future ownership and management.

4. In formulating its advice to the Secretary of State, the Panel will be expected to engage and take evidence from the widest range of views and interest.
5. The Panel will report to the Secretary of State in the autumn of 2011.


Today the NFA have issued its response to the Panel. The response calls for the New Forest to remain in public hands, a hands off approach to the existing New Forest Acts and the cessation of commercial forestry in the New Forest. For the full text (pdf) of the response sent by the NFA to the Independent Panel on Forestry, including the answers to the above questions, and addenda click here.

Submissions to the panel must be in by 31st July 2011. The Panel’s findings and advice will be presented in a final report in April 2012. More on the Independent Panel on Forestry may be found on its home page: http://www.defra.gov.uk/forestrypanel/.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

A New Chairman for the New Forest Association

The 144 year old New Forest Association is delighted to announce the election of Peter Roberts as its new Chairman.

A former Amenity Verderer, Peter has been involved with the Association for more than twenty years. He has taken lead roles in the New Forest CPRE as well as being a past President of the Hampshire Field Club. He represents the NFA at both local level on the Consultative Panel, and also nationally for the Campaign for National Parks as a council member.

An orienteer, cyclist and runner (he recently completed a 26 mile charity walk for Wiltshire Wildlife - the Sarsen Trail), Peter is committed to developing the NFA’s strength as a major force for conservation and protection. He believes that his task is to help create the conditions for the organisation to bring the message of the importance and fragility of the New Forest to a new generation. 'We must embrace modern technology in ensuring that our successors understand that the pressures on the New Forest are greater than ever and cannot continue without unacceptable further erosion.'

No stranger to campaigning, Peter, alongside outgoing Chairman, William Ziegler, most recently played a major part in the NFA's successful campaign to thwart the coalition government's unworkable Forest Estate sell-off plans.

A keen local historian he has written a number of specialist books and articles on the Forest and was responsible, with Richard Reeves, for the publication of five volumes in the New Forest Record Series published by the New Forest Centre.

Peter’s wide life experience includes owning and managing an electrical retail business in Hythe before turning to recycling - running a second-hand bookshop at Ashurst for ten years with his partner Georgina Babey. An enthusiastic user of the Forest he is also a keen photographer, often combining history, wildlife and the Forest into a day’s walk.


A note on the outgoing Chairman, William Ziegler
by Peter Roberts:


William Ziegler's infectious enthusiasm has carried many a project in the last ten years. He steered a middle course, when it was needed, in negotiations that led to the implementation of a National Park. His pragmatism then ensured that the NFA worked with the emerging Authority to achieve the best from it. He worked hard with other stalwarts to set up a 'show team' that continues to tour in the summer carrying our message. He also led the team and was involved in a huge amount of work that made the National Park Societies Conference in 2008 such a success at Foxlease. He has maintained good communications with many other Forest organisations, in particular the Verderers offering support and ideas for the benefit of the Forest.

New vice-chairman

John Ward has been elected vice-chairman.