New Forest National Park Authority Chairman Julian Johnson, who became Chairman in June 2010, said: ‘This report relates to a very difficult period for the Authority, now over two years ago.
‘We acknowledge that at that time, since the organisation needed to act quickly and decisively in difficult circumstances, some processes were not taken forward in the best way. However, it is important to mention that the course of action taken was backed by Members.
‘All the Auditor’s recommendations have already been implemented and we have a new team in place, with a new CEO who started in June 2010.’
He said: ‘As a publicly-funded organisation we are fully aware of our responsibilities to the community and tax-payer. When decisions were taken in 2009, I am clear that it was in the belief that it was the right course of action for the organisation, for the community and for the tax-payer.’
Mr Johnson said he was pleased the Auditor has recognised that improvements have already been achieved and the Authority’s commitment to continuing this process.
He added: ‘We have always been keen for the report to be published and fully respect the Auditor’s responsibilities. I am confident that the Authority has moved forward significantly since 2009, has developed robust and transparent governance procedures and is working closely with its partners to deliver lasting benefits for the New Forest. We have responded to the recommendations and will continue to move forward positively from a turbulent period and to focus on all important delivery for the New Forest.
‘Our recent Annual Report shows we are championing the Forest and are focussed on delivery:
- engaging over 8,000 children and young people in learning about the Forest
- helping to secure very significant funding for commoning and habitat management on the Open Forest
- supporting many community projects through our Sustainable Development Fund – with over 100 projects in place engaging around 55,000 people and drawing in new funding of £1.8 million
- recording new information about our coastal heritage and engaging 200 volunteers in doing this
- adopting a Core Strategy giving clear planning guidelines for the National Park
- working closely with Parishes on planning and a wide range of other projects such as the creation of a community nature reserve at Landford.’
Recommended Reading: The New Forest National Park: Leisure Walks for All Ages