Thursday, 14 July 2016

Forest Design Plan - next steps

NFA Statement to the National Park Authority Meeting 14th July 2016

[The Forest Design Plan is both the Forestry Commission’s long term vision for the Inclosures, and the Felling License and Restocking Plan for the next ten years. ]

The NFA find much to commend in the “New Forest Inclosures - Forest Design Plan - 2016 Forestry Commission Consultation draft”. On the surface, it seeks to deliver the emphasis on habitat restoration demanded by the Minister’s Mandate, the SAC management plan, the Lawton White Paper, Policy on Ancient Woodland Sites, and this authority’s Biodiversity Action Plan.

Sadly, we find the current draft flawed at the detail level. Good intentions have not been applied in a way that will produce functional habitat. For example, there are nods to habitat defragmentation, but large plantation blocks and fencing remain. Without a thorough ecological review, this draft would likely fail the inspectorate’s habitats regulation hurdles. The NFA offer the Forestry Commission our resources and experienced ecologists to assist; and hope that the National Park will lend the expertise of their relevant officers. We also ask this Authority to join us in urging the Forestry Commission to pause, take stock and accept our help to revise the detail plan. This should be fixed before it is submitted to the next stage.

Campsites and Recreation

Consistent with the SAC Management Plan 2001, the NFA campaigns for the removal or relocation of campsites situated on Ancient and Ornamental Woodland, and other important woodland sites. These are managed to the detriment of both biodiversity and landscape; have less than half the canopy of comparable woodland sites; and just this year Hollands Wood has been subject to an incident of unguided felling by over-enthusiastic contractors and inappropriate investment in new road priorities at its entrance.

The Plan explicitly seeks to fulfil the SAC Management Plan, and states an objective for recreation provision “best placed to balance public enjoyment with protection of habitats and biodiversity”, however it dodges the issue with this caveat, “this Plan does not attempt to pre-suppose or assume any issues or proposals which may arise in due course as part of a wider recreation strategy for the New Forest.”

However, if camping provision in A&O woodlands is to be suitably relocated, existing Inclosures are likely candidates. This plan cannot exist in isolation. It needs this National Park Authority to implement a comprehensive review of recreation infrastructure on the Forest, which is currently arbitrary, outdated, and has no strategic relationship between forest users and the habitats whose condition they may affect.

At this moment, when concerned habitat campaigners, including the New Forest Association, are looking to all levels of government for reassurance that our habitat’s protections, policies and funding will continue at current, or better standards, positive engagement on these issues would be very welcome.

Statement made at the Authority Meeting by Brian Tarnoff, Chair, NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee. The current draft of the plan was open to a public consultation until 4th July 2016.

From the SAC Management Plan 2001 Part 3 General Prescriptions, page 30:

The following table lists the locations of camp sites in or adjacent to pasture woodlands. A summary of their impact and their contribution to unit condition is given together with a prioritised recommendation for action.

Campsites : Denny Wood, Hollands Wood & Longbeech
Location : In pasture woodland
Impact : Severe reduction in old trees/ dead wood/ lichens & ground flora
Condition Assessment : Unfavourable declining
Recommendation : Relocate camp site / Restore pasture woodland
Priority : High

Campsite : Ashurst
Location : In pasture woodland
Impact : Severe reduction in old trees/ dead wood/ lichens & ground flora
Condition Assessment : Unfavourable maintained
Recommendation : Redesign infrastructure to maintain existing features & prevent further degradation.
Priority : Low