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New Forest organisations call on Government to support commoners, Verderers, farmers and landowners in ‘Green Brexit’

New Forest organisations presented Defra Minister Lord Gardiner with a paper outlining how future agricultural schemes could protect the unique Forest environment.


Defra Minister Lord Gardiner celebrating National Parks Week at New Forest Show with Alison Barnes & Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre

New Forest organisations presented Defra Minister Lord Gardiner with a paper outlining how future agricultural schemes could protect the unique Forest environment.

They have put the case for a locally managed and led support scheme to be put in place post 2020 to build on how commoners, Verderers and landowners already work together to protect the landscape. They said the scheme should reward the New Forest’s farmers for the environmental services that they provide, either through practicing their common rights or managing their land within and around the National Park.

The paper and covering letter, signed by the New Forest National Park Authority, Verderers, Commoners Defence Association, New Forest Land Advice Service, National Farmers Union and CLA, was presented to Lord Gardiner at the New Forest Show during National Parks Week.

It says that Forest organisations are already farming with the environment and public benefit in mind, as set out in Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s speech last week (21 July) calling for a ‘Green Brexit’.

‘Our farmers are already doing exactly what the Secretary of State hopes for when he spoke recently about his vision for a “Green Brexit”,’ the letter said.

‘With our proven record of partnership working we continue to be effective custodians of the National Park’s landscape, protecting and improving it for future generations, and providing a major public benefit. We believe that our farmers should be rewarded for that public benefit.’

Commoning and farming are vital in maintaining the fragile New Forest landscape, over 50% of which has the highest level of environmental designations to protect its rare habitats and species.

The Forest was awarded the Verderers Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme in 2010 – the largest HLS scheme in Europe. In partnership with the NPA and Forestry Commission, it provides £19m of European funding over 10 years to enhance the landscape further and bring it up to standard. However this funding expires in 2020.

New Forest National Park Authority Chairman Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre said: ‘We are pleased to be able to echo the words of the Secretary of State – our farmers, Verderers and landowners have always respected the beauty of the landscape and working with the environment and the public good in mind is at the heart of what we do.

‘The Forest’s organisations already have a strong track record of delivering the best on a landscape scale for the New Forest’s environment, society and economy.

‘So we have come together to present this case at a critical time and we hope that it will assist in looking after the Forest for future generations.’

National Parks Minister Lord Gardiner said: ‘The New Forest is home to some of our country’s most magical and important landscapes. With idyllic glades, open moors and ancient woodland, it truly is deserving of its special National Parks status which helps protect the precious habitats and species that thrive within.

‘While visiting the New Forest, I was delighted to meet the farmers, Verderers, Agisters, Commoners, landowners and army of volunteers who are already working together to protect the Forest and hear about the fantastic work they do. It is great to see a community coming together to preserve this historic forest so it can be enjoyed for generations to come.’

Official Verderer Lord Willie Manners was among those who met the Minister at the Show. He said: ‘We had a very constructive engagement with Lord Gardiner who we thought showed a great understanding of the complex issues facing the Forest and we are hopeful for a positive outcome.’

Tony Hockley, Chairman of the Commoners Defence Association, said: ‘New Forest commoners know that their daily effort delivers incredible value to the country: an effort without which the much-loved landscape and culture of the Forest would be lost for ever. We were delighted to have the opportunity to talk about this with the Minister, and explain all that is being done to encourage the next generation of commoners.’

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