CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

Lymington Times – 10 August 2002

More than five hundred people packed a meeting on Tuesday in Brockenhurst to reject plans to close Hollands Wood campsite, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, to open a new facility on neighbouring New Park Farm land, covering the parking area for the annual New Forest Show.

The meeting, presided over by in­dependent chairman, James Murray, concluded with those attending unanimously opposing the controversial scheme, put forward by Eng­lish Nature and the Forestry Commission to protect the rare wood pasture and wildlife, and giving their backing to an alternative proposal.

Devised In July at the Cadnam office of Julian Lewis, the MP for New Forest East, as a way to meet English Nature's plans to restore the area to its natural state as well as meeting the remonstrations of the action group "New Park Concern Committee" and of Brockenhurst Parish Council, the plan envisages keeping the campsite in Hollands Wood, but within a smaller area.

It was Dr Lewis who raised the compromise at the meeting, and Hampshire County Council Leader, Coun. Ken Thornber, present in the audience, suggested it be voted on at the end of the evening as an alterna­tive solution to the controversial plans.

The crowd cheered and ap­plauded as Coun. Thornber said:

"Hampshire County Council has a social, economic, and environmental well-being statutory duty, that is why we shall be opposing this proposal. HCC is also the highway authority for the county, Including the A337, and we will be lodging an objection on highway grounds. I propose that this meeting passes a resolution that a reduced and up-graded Hollands Wood site be the solution."

Mr Thornber’s request came dur­ing the one hour question time slot for the public to address the speakers, Deputy Surveyor for the Forestry Commission, Donald Thompson, English Nature team leader for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Robert Wolton, his deputy, Russell Wright, and Dr Lewis.

… None of the five possible solutions pin-pointed by Mr Thompson re­flected the potential compromise he was proposing, said Dr Lewis.

More than 65% of the Brockenhurst electorate had signed the petition opposing the campsite, the MP pointed out, but following his intro­duction of the petition in the House of Commons, the Government had "passed the buck" to English Nature.

Dr Lewis continued that Dr Wolton's flexibility and openness to discussion which he had shown at their meeting in July, had led him to hope that the promise of "a significantly reduced" campsite could be a way forward.

The MP expressed perplexity at the Forestry Commission’s decision to ignore the compromise option.

The crowd applauded as the MP expressed his hope that neither European legislation nor any other form of procrastination would be used to prevent the compromise op­tion, if it were accepted, under which three-fifths of Holland Wood would remain a campsite, while the remaining two-fifths would be restored to its natural state.

Issues such as the potential traffic congestion in the Brockenhurst area, the disruption of recreation activities, the downturn in trade and the possibility of considering land not under the Forestry Commission for new campsites, were all raised in question time, but anxiety for the future of the New Forest Show was the main issue.

Asking how the future of the show could be safe if New Park land was to be turned into a campsite, the show chairman, Geoff Morgan, said: "I think we would say to English Nature that they ought to remember there are people too".

Answering 14-year-old Emma Collier, representing the New Forest Pony Club, who asked what would become of her club if the plan went ahead, Mr Thompson stressed: "We would try to make sure that the show would continue and there will be other places for these activities".

Said Everton resident, Phil Gossling, a Forest Show ex-presi­dent:

"Moving the campsite is definitely the death of the show. The ancient woodland they were talking about was a rubbish tip 50 years ago. I say things have improved in the last 50 years".

[NOTE: On 16 November 2002, the LYMINGTON TIMES reported that the Forestry Commission had "reviewed its strategy" and abandoned plans to move the Hollands Wood campsite to New Park.]