The New Forest Association has hit out at Government plans to sell off the 'crown jewels' of the New Forest, labelling the plans "appalling". The charity has also warned that the plans, published today (January 27), could lead to people being charged to use the New Forest.
"Plans to find a charity to run the New Forest show a complete lack of understanding of how the forest works," said New Forest Association Chairman William Ziegler. "In the 64 page Government consultation document1 there is no reference to the commoning system, which has created and maintained the forest for all to appreciate.
"This new threat is the most serious attack on the New Forest for 160 years. Any charity that takes on owning and managing the New Forest will be required to find its own funding after initial government help to offset the £2.9m annual deficit. This could mean charging the public for access to the New Forest and will almost certainly involve selling off parts of the estate which currently provide the cornerstone of commoning."
Mr Ziegler said the existing system of management, involving the various but interlocking interests of commoning, conservation, timber production and recreation, would be lost alongside the expertise that the Forestry Commission has gained over many decades.
"The Forestry Commission's staff, and in particular the keepers, have huge local and specialist knowledge of the wildlife which should not be swept away at the stroke of a Whitehall pen," he said.
"We are shocked by the proposals - the Government must be left in doubt as to the real value of the New Forest and we commend everyone that cares about the area to let their thoughts be known to DEFRA."
The New Forest Association, formed in 1867, is a charitable organisation which has over 140 years of experience in working to preserve, conserve and protect the New Forest. It was formed at a time when Government measures threatened to sell off the New Forest in the middle of the 19th century.
The Association is dedicated to the preservation, conservation and protection of the New Forest and is a membership based organization. Further information can be found at www.newforestassociation.org.
(DEFRA's press release: http://ww2.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/01/27/englands-forests/)