Wednesday, 20 May 2009

New Forest Association First to Present Against Mobile Shop Proposal

At the May Verderers Court the NFA launched a pre-emptive strike against Forest Holidays proposal to run a twice daily retail van mobile shop service to three of of their New Forest campsites. The Deputy Surveyor presented the proposal to the court on behalf of Forest Holidays, asking for the Verderers "agreement and support" for the proposal. The proposal claims the service would champion the New Forest Marque local produce and would reduce car pollution from campers off-site journeys.

The NFA Presentment took issue, claiming the proposal "fails on its supposed merits." In hiding their proposal behind the New Forest Marque, "They have dressed up their Trojan horse to look like a New Forest Pony", and that once market forces took over Forest Holidays would be unlikely to honour a preference for local produce indefinitely. The supposedly eco-friendly reduction of car journeys presents a similar sham as two of the proposed campsites are within easy walking distance of the local shops. Local businesses would inevitably suffer loss of both direct and passing trade. The forest would suffer further ecologically if more goods are bought and consumed on site producing more rubbish and packaging waste.

The NFA further chided Forest Holidays for their overly commercialized attitude as "wholly inappropriate" to the New Forest, and for failing to show the court respect by issuing the proposal through the Forestry Commission rather than sending their own representative.

The Verderers are due to make a decision on the proposal after hearing more from the public during the upcoming June court.

[To read a full text of the NFA May presentment , see the first comment below, or click here.]

1 comment:

  1. Presentment NFA Campsite Retail Van

    Brian Tarnoff, New Forest Association (Land Management Committee)

    Campsite Retail Van

    While there is no doubt that the camping segment of the vital local tourism is important to the Forest economy, and we do not begrudge Forest Holidays running a business that profits from this and supports the influx of these tourists, although we do not support their current or future use of protected areas to do so. As to the matter at hand, Forest Holidays proposal to run a retail van on three of the campsites fails on its supposed merits.

    Forest Holidays would have us think they are merely the champions of local producers. They have dressed up their Trojan horse to look like a New Forest Pony. Undertaking to give preference to local suppliers is commendable, but there's no way that they could be held to this long term. Once the mobile shop has been given permission to trade market forces will take over, and if there is demand for less expensive, non-local products, the stock will shift that way to keep the van in profit.

    Forest Holidays also contend that an ancillary benefit will reduce car journeys. However, in the case of the Ashurst campsite, the local shops are in easy walking distance. For each car journey saved, that is a loss of trade not just for the local shops selling similar goods, but their neighbouring shops that rely on passing trade. Many of these shops themselves support the local suppliers and the New Forest Marque® as well. Bringing the mobile shop into the Forest brings an unwelcome commercial element to the natural setting, along with much of the packaging waste that would then result from sundries bought and then consumed on site.

    The most worrying aspect of this proposal is that it shows that Forest Holidays thinking is based around a business model that is wholly inappropriate for the New Forest. The campsites are all on the protected SSSI and the SPA, SAC, RAMSAR site, some are also in the Ancient and Ornamental Woodland, and also must co-exist with the Commoners de-pastured stock. Further commercialization of these campsites shows a patent disregard for the nature of their situation.

    If Forest Holidays were thinking in the right direction, they would be trying to make a virtue of their situation, selling low impact ecologically sound wilderness camping, rather than retail vans, pre-erected tents and ready-use caravans. They would be considering fewer, larger pitches, at an eco-friendly marketed premium to reduce their impact.

    Forest Holidays should work with the Forestry Commission, the Verderers, the Commoners and Natural England (amongst others), to find suitable alternative sites on robust land outside the protected areas, allowing the closure of these inappropriate venues.

    I would also invite Forest Holidays to give the Court enough respect to present their proposal to the Verderers directly through their own representative, rather than put the Deputy Surveyor in the unenviable, and due to his own duties to the protection of the Forest, inevitably compromised, position of presenting their proposals.

    We ask the Verderers to reject the proposal out of hand, and further, to ask Forest Holidays to adequately revise their thinking to take care of the forest, or to get out.