Wednesday 16th February 2011
William Ziegler. Chairman. New Forest Association.
In common with many hundreds of thousands of others the New Forest Association is deeply concerned by the proposals outlined in the Government's consultation document relating to the disposal of the Public Forest Estate which is presently owned and managed by the Forestry Commission and in particular to those proposals relating to the New Forest.
We are concerned not just by what is in the consultation document but, just as importantly, what is not as it fails to address a number of vital points pertaining to the New Forest:-
- No reference is made as to the New Forest being treated as a Cultural as well as a Natural Heritage Forest.
- No information is given as to whether the full infrastructure of the New Forest would remain intact e.g. the housing, timber, staff etc nor any recognition of the fact that it vital that the whole Forest estate is kept together as a single unit.
- No reference is made as to whether the existing New Forest Acts would remain unaltered as the cornerstone of the existing protective legislation the New Forest presently enjoys nor that the Verderers' powers would continue unaffected.
- No reference is made as to how or by whom any new management body would be deemed to be experienced and competent enough to run the New Forest.
- Apart from suggesting that any new management body might "pursue income generating activities in the Forest" no detail is given as to how adequate funding might be made available to run the New Forest in the long term.
- No definite information is given as to how the current levels of public access would be maintained.
We are also deeply concerned by the power that would be granted to the Government by the proposed Public Bodies Act as it appears that it could be used to override the existing New Forest Acts and we are making moves to include an amendment to the bill stating "Nothing in this Act shall prejudice or derogate from the provisions of the New Forest Acts 1877 to 1970 or any byelaw made thereunder, or s.4 of the Agriculture & Forestry (Financial Provisions) Act 1991."
We would therefore ask the Verderers to reject the consultation as it stands now and support our efforts to ensure that the Public Bodies Bill is not allowed to threaten the existing New Forest Acts which are the legal basis of their powers.
Note: The NFA, established in 1867, is one of the oldest conservation organisations in the world. It is an independent charity with over 900 members. Campaign for National Parks recognises NFA as the New Forest National Park society.