THANKS EVERYONE - LAYBY REINSTATED ON 27 FEB 2013 (SEE BLOG FOR MORE DETAILS)
Give us our Forest access back
We want the Forestry Commission to reinstate the large gravelled parking area (the layby) giving access onto Setley Plain (near the Filly Inn) without delay. If a ditch is still deemed necessary at this point it should be moved back to it’s original position, behind the layby, and gaps giving pedestrian access to the Plain provided.
Extensively used by the public for 20 years or more it is the only layby the Forestry Commission have removed as part of a ‘Car free ditching’ project under the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship Scheme (HLS).
The HLS is managed by a partnership of the Verderers of the New Forest, the Forestry Commission, and the New Forest National Park Authority. It is funded by the Treasury and EU (public money).
Setley Plain is unique - it is a relatively flat well drained area and favoured by local walkers, dog-owners, and visitors. The layby provided parking for 10 -12 vehicles and gave safe, easy access to this popular part of the Forest however parking has now been reduced to 2 spaces only (in a bus stop) and all direct level access to Setley Plain removed.
We believe, in making such a major alteration to the public’s access in this area, the Forestry Commission has contravened one of the core HLS objectives (the HLS access objective); it has failed in its responsibility to avoid detriment to the local community; and has compromised road safety in the area.
Our key concerns include:
• Loss of access for the less mobile
Many elderly /less able-bodied residents were regular visitors to Setley Plain. They have now been denied the simple but greatly valued pleasure of getting out on the open Forest. Even if they can get one of the remaining parking spaces, at this layby or the one further along the road, they cannot negotiate the ditches that surround them.
The alternative car parks suggested by the Forestry Commission do not provide easy access onto Setley Plain and they do not provide the level, comparatively dry, easy-walking sites these individuals require.
• Reduced access to the general public
Although Setley Plain did not have any problems with unauthorised vehicles getting onto it (joy riders) we support the car free ditching work as it aims to protect the Forest by preventing it. However, we believe this work should be undertaken sympathetically - it should not remove or reduce the public’s access and enjoyment to the Forest. The promotion and improvement of public access is a core HLS objective and the work carried out by the Forestry Commission at Setley Plain appears to directly contravene this objective.
• Personal safety
Forestry Commission car parks are, as a rule, tucked away or somewhat obscured from the road. Although they can be busy one moment they can be deserted the next and unaccompanied drivers are nervous about using them. The Setley Plain layby, being in full view of a well-used road, offered the potentially vulnerable a very safe place to park and peace of mind.
• Demand for access - increasing not decreasing
The National Park Authority is currently using £550k of Heritage Lottery Funding to unearth information on World War II activities in the Forest before it is lost forever. The project includes mapping the Setley Plain Prisoner of War campsite. PoW relatives already visit the remains of the site and this project will clearly generate more historic interest in the area. Despite both being partners in the HLS, it is concerning that the Forestry Commission and New Forest National Park Authority do not appear to have worked together on this. The reduction to local Forest access appears to be totally at odds with the WWII project.
• Road safety
Irrespective of roadside ditches people will continue to park near to where they want to walk. Two parking spaces are clearly insufficient and we have already seen an increase in verge side parking in the area, this will undoubtedly have an impact on future road safety. Revising the work to reinstate the layby and access to the Plain will be the safer option for all road users.
• Lack of public consultation
The popularity of the layby to access Setley Plain was well known locally, it must have been noticed by the Forestry Commission, and would have been clear to the contractor undertaking the work. We want to know what action the Forestry Commission took to ensure concerns over public access were taken into account and, if any were, why they chose to ignore them. We want the Forestry Commission to actively involve and act on any advice given by the New Forest Access Forum (NFAF) in all future car free ditching plans, to prevent a similar situation occurring in future.
The NFAF is the statutory local access forum set up to advise on the improvement of access to land under the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 – partners in the HSL have a duty to consult the NFAF in order to meet the HSL access objective. The NFAF meet quarterly, we note the minutes of their December meeting register their concerns at the Forestry Commission’s failure to send any representative to the previous 2 meetings.
Thank you for your support.
Local resident and regular Setley Plain visitor
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