Monday, January 26

New Forest National Park-Public Consultation?

When the New Forest National Park Authority's Consultation Paper was published a number of local interest groups, both commercial and 'amateur;, were concerned enough to form themselves into public lobbyists. For many a new and strange experience.

Some were able to adapt their existing group/club to meet the challenge, keeping their membership informed, and co-ordinating feedback. Most quickly linked up with other groups via the well established network of contacts already covering the New Forest area.

Other organisations, such as the Forest Uprising Group (FUG), came together originally from a grass root sharing of information built around their own outdoor interests. Feelings running high that individual voices were not likely to be truly represented without some sort of umbrella organisation.

One such group formed as an outcome of a public meeting was ONE VOICE. However its a group that has been more in the background than some of its allies.

(I'll come back to this organisation, their co-lobbyists, and their aims in a later piece)

However today I'd like to pass on details of an on-line petition which you may be unaware of, and possibly wish to support.

ONE VOICE spokesperson Sue Baillie explained:
"The recently formed New Forest National Park Authority (NFNPA) has put together their 20-year "Vision" in 2 draft consultation documents: The Park Plan and the Recreation Management Strategy.

Their proposed policies will have a devastating effect on living, working or visiting the New Forest.

If you ever visit the New Forest for recreational pursuits you may find yourself heavily limited in where you can walk, cycle, pitch tent or caravan.

The general public was excluded from the consultation process which is why ONE VOICE was formed.

We have submitted a Formal Complaint on the process of this exercise and should get a response by the end of January 09.

You will find the complaint at where you can add your support in opposition. Even if you only visit one day a year - you are entitled to have your say.

People of the South Downs - be afraid - whatever is rubber stamped for the NFNPA, DEFRA have stated that it will be the blueprint for all subsequent National Park Authorities. Show your support and lets make sure they get it right for everyone"

Undoubtedly ONE VOICE doesn't instantly carry the emotional overtones associated with some other local lobby organisations. Its aims are centred on proper representation during a statutory due process, rather than a reaction to the NFNPA's perceived threat against specific outdoor interest groups.

But their key message ultimately has a much broader impact. Potentially defining the consultation process of future National Parks (South Downs for one) that will go through a similar birthing process to the NFNPA.

The on-line petition can be read and signed here.

What's all this to me you may be asking?

Those associated with the 2008 Wildcamping E-Petition quickly learnt how important it was to co-ordinate the disparate voices of many outdoor activity groups. And to use a variety of statutory processes to get real public concerns out into the open. To be heard in the right places. A first step.

So perhaps you walk or camp in the New Forest area? Or maybe are interested as to how National Park Authorities in general will listen to NP users when deciding future strategy (or is that restrictive practices?)

Then here's your chance to have your say. Whilst you still have a voice.

More to follow .........

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Duly read and signed. Dawn
Petition signed
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