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Thursday, 27 January 2011

National Park responds to grant cut

The New Forest National Park Authority plans a wide-ranging package of measures to respond to the 21.5% cut in its government grant over the next four years which was announced in December last year.

The proposals are a mixture of budget savings, use of reserves, new ways of working, restructuring and improved income generation.

Chairman, Julian Johnson, said: ‘The scale of the savings we need to make to balance our budget is significant: our grant reduces from just over £4m this year to £3.16m by 2014 – a cut of £866,000 or £217,000 a year.  This comes on top of the 5% saving we had to make within this financial year and does not include the impact of inflation and the loss of other grants.

‘Nevertheless we have approached this challenge positively, carefully considering all the ways in which we could address the issues and coming up with a plan that uses a range of measures.  In doing this we have worked hard to safeguard our ability to deliver benefits in and for the New Forest and to minimise the need for redundancies.’

Key features of the plan include:
  • Substantial savings through sharing office accommodation with New Forest District Council and reduced central and support costs
  • Salary savings – a mixture of not filling vacant posts, reduced working hours, voluntary redundancy, centralised administration, sharing services and the loss of around 10 posts
  • A greater focus on generating income to support the National Park Authority’s work in delivering projects into the Forest
  • A reduction from three departments to two with a flatter structure allowing more of the Authority’s limited resources to be focused on delivering in and for the Forest

Alison Barnes said: ‘Although this has been a difficult time for everyone, I am confident that our response will put us in the strongest position possible to work with people across the Forest to meet the challenges ahead.’

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Consultation for draft Landford Village Design Statement

A consultation is being launched today (24 January) on a draft Village Design Statement for Landford.

The draft Statement has been prepared by a steering group from the local community who are keen to ensure that the design of any new development in the parish respects the distinctive local character of the area.

The role of a Village Design Statement is to provide more detailed design guidance for a parish and to supplement the planning policies of the local planning authority.

Steve Avery, Director of Strategy and Planning, said: ‘The local community have worked hard in preparing a draft Village Design Statement for Landford over the last two years. Their draft Design Statement reflects how important keeping the area’s character is to the local community.’

Ken Parker, Chairman of Landford Village Design Statement committee, added: ‘As a village mainly within the New Forest National Park, but with a small, but significant area outside, Landford’s  Village Design Statement will provide a unifying set of goals and guidelines designed to retain and enhance the traditional character for the whole parish.

‘Although produced by the village, for the village, we are very grateful to the New Forest National Park Authority and Wiltshire Council who have both been readily available for any help and assistance we have needed along the way.’

There is now a four week consultation period starting today for comments to be made on the draft Design Statement. Following the consultation the National Park Authority and Wiltshire Council will consider any comments and the final Design Statement will be presented to the National Park Authority meeting in March to be formally adopted.

Once the Statement is adopted it will form part of the Local Development Framework for the National Park and will be a consideration in determining planning applications within Landford.

The draft Landford Village Design Statement can be viewed at the New Forest National Park Authority offices, Wiltshire Council offices, Salisbury and Downton libraries and Landford Village Stores. It can also be viewed online at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/consultations

Comments need to be sent to Policy and Plans Team, New Forest National Park Authority, South Efford House, Milford Road, Lymington SO40 0JD or emailed to policyandplans@newforestnpa.gov.uk by 5pm Monday 21 February 2011.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Healthcheck for ancient New Forest way of life

An ancient way of life which shapes the New Forest landscape will have its first healthcheck in 10 years when ‘commoners’ will be asked their views.

There are around 700 practising commoners who own or rent land which has ‘common rights’, allowing them to let their animals roam the ancient landscape.  Last year they turned out a total of just over 7,000 ponies, donkeys and cattle which were allowed to graze on the open Forest, as well as more than 500 pigs.

Grazing by commoners’ animals helps maintain the rare open heath and wood pasture, preventing the landscape from turning to scrub and supporting precious habitats and a wide range of wildlife.

This month commoners will receive a confidential census in the post from the Verderers who protect and administer this unique agricultural practice. They will be asked for details about their way of life, their views on the future of commoning, and the most serious threats they are facing. This is the third in a series of census, previously conducted in 1991 and 2001, so it will provide invaluable data on trends in commoning.
 
Commoning today is viable only with financial support. Fortunately a ‘Higher Level Stewardship Scheme’ agreement with Natural England, which is worth £16 million over 10 years, enables not only the support of commoning but also significant wetland restoration work in the Forest This is currently the largest such Scheme in Europe, and is managed by a partnership between the Verderers of the New Forest, the Forestry Commission and the New Forest National Park Authority.

Commoners will be asked in the census how they think that some of the money from the Stewardship Scheme should be used to support commoning.

Announcing the census in the Verderers’ Court on 19 January, Mr Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, the Official Verderer, said: ‘The 2011 census will have special significance because it has been tailored to allow us to find out what measures need to be taken to support commoning in the years ahead with the help of the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme. The census will be a valuable tool to help us decide how to spend this money wisely so that the benefits continue well beyond the 10-year lifespan of the scheme. Indeed the project to upgrade the Beaulieu Road [pony] SaleYard is a good example of how we wish to use these funds to provide a lasting legacy.

‘All the census forms will be treated in the strictest confidence and will not be shared with any other person or organisation, and any personal information that could help identify a respondent will be removed.

‘I urge all recipients to complete and return the forms which will help us gain a clear picture of what matters to practising commoners today, and what needs to be done in the future to support them.’

Researcher Jo Ivey said that the questionnaire will cover a range of aspects including whether younger people are coming into commoning and who is still turning animals out onto the Forest.  She said: ‘Issues which have previously been raised and might come up again include the market for New Forest stock, land, housing, road accidents involving animals and the many pressures which threaten the future of this way of life.’

Interesting Facts:

There are six registered Common Rights:
  • Pasture Grazing ponies, cattle and donkeys on the Forest
  • Sheep Grazing sheep on the Forest
  • Mast Turning pigs out on the Forest in the Autumn to feed on beech mast and acorns, known as the ‘pannage season’
  • Marl Taking clay to fertilize agricultural land (no longer exercised)
  • Estovers Gathering firewood
  • Turbary Cutting turfs for fuel (no longer exercised)

Useful resources and Websites:
  • The Verderers protect and administer the New Forest’s unique agricultural commoning practices and conserve its traditional landscape. Visit http://www.verderers.org.uk/.
  • The New Forest National Park Authority took up its full powers in April 2006. Its purposes are to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park and to promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities. Visit http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/.
  • The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woodland for the benefit of the environment and the general public. It is the UK’s largest land manager and the biggest provider of outdoor recreation. Visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest.
  • Natural England works for people, places and nature to conserve and enhance biodiversity, landscapes and wildlife in rural, urban, coastal and marine areas. We conserve and enhance the natural environment for its intrinsic value, the wellbeing and enjoyment of people, and the economic prosperity it brings. We increase opportunities to make the natural environment an enriching part of people's everyday lives, and improve its long‐term security by contributing to the sustainable management of our natural resources. Visit http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

New Forest: Record low for animal accidents

Animal accidents last year on New Forest roads were the lowest since records began in 1956.

Last year 65 commoners’ animals (ponies, pigs, cattle and donkeys) were killed and 27 were injured; compared to 10 years ago, when there were 89 animal deaths and 31 injuries.

The New Forest National Park Authority, Verderers, Forestry Commission, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Police and the Commoners’ Defence Association have been working hard on a number of partnership initiatives that include; targeting speed hotspots, enforcement notices, publicity, portable signs placed at the site of an accident and verge clearance.

Nigel Matthews, Head of Visitor and Recreation Services said: ‘It is good news that animal deaths are at their lowest since records began, however, this is still too many. We won’t be complacent and we know there is still a lot of work to be done.

‘To further reduce accidents, two new schemes are currently being trialled: pinch points at South Weirs in Brockenhurst and new changing signage on the B3054.

‘Most accidents occur at night, drivers need to be careful especially when blinded by oncoming traffic. When a pony is near the road, a driver should slow down and give it a wide berth, as it may step out onto the road without warning.’

Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre added: ‘We would like to thank all the organisations that have worked with us, to help lower the number of animal accidents on the Forest’s roads.

‘Animal accidents are a serious issue, the Agisters work long hours often in distressing circumstances, especially when an accident goes unreported. Although we are glad to see a reduction in animal deaths, we still want to remind people to drive sensibly and slow down when they pass Forest livestock.’

If you are unsure of what to do if you witness or are involved in an accident involving a pony, donkey, cow, pig or sheep please email enquiries@newforestnpa.gov.uk for an animal accident ‘hotline’ card that tells you who to call. For more information on how New Forest organisations are working to reduce accidents visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/animal_accidents

Friday, 14 January 2011

Still time to answer National Park governance questionnaire

If you are interested in how National Parks are governed there is just under three weeks left until the consultation closes.

The 12-week national consultation closes on Tuesday 1 February and has been organised locally by the New Forest National Park Authority on behalf of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The review looks for ways in which the governance of National Park Authorities can be made more effective and how National Park Authorities can be more responsive to the concerns of local communities.

At the end of the consultation the New Forest National Park Authority will produce a summary of all responses received relating specifically to the New Forest for the Authority meeting on 10 February. The Authority will also consider its own response to the consultation at this meeting.

Julian Johnson, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘This is people’s last chance to comment. This consultation is extremely important; it affects everyone who lives in a National Park.

‘We want to encourage people with an interest in the New Forest to respond to Defra’s consultation. By responding, it ensures Defra is aware of your views in considering whether any changes should be made to the governance of our National Parks – a decision we expect them to announce by the end of March 2011’.

During November and December the New Forest National Park Authority held four public meetings across the New Forest. Approximately 200 people attended to learn more about the consultation from Authority Members and Officers.

For more information on the governance review, including the Defra consultation document, please visit http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/  or www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/nationalpark-governance/index.htm