Forest England has chosen a ‘preferred operator’ for new forest camps

The new Forest Show Association is to start a contract to manage Forest England-owned campsites in the national park for the next 10 years.

Final agreements have yet to be signed but Craig Harrison, deputy surveyor of the new forest at Forest England, described the Brockenhurst-based charity as a “preferred” option at a meeting at Verderder Court on Wednesday.

As reported by A&T, Forestry England (FE) wants to take full control of nine local campsites previously run by the Camp & Caravan Club’s camping service in the forest.

Hollands Wood is one of nine campsites that will soon be run by the new Forest Show Association.

Mr Harrison told the Verderers of the number of companies that had been licensed to manage Hollands Wood, Sethorns, Homesley, Ocknell, Long Beach, Ashurst, Denny Wood, Roundhill and Matley Wood. It has been announced that a new license will be issued for 10 years instead of the previous 65 working years.

The New Forest Show Society will run an already successful 100-pitch camp at its New Park Showground. In the year During 2020 FE camps were closed due to covid and made extra facilities.

Mr Harrison confirmed that the new Forest Show Association has been selected by his trading company, New Forests Ltd, to proceed to the next stage of formal negotiations.

“We hope to be in a position to make a formal appointment in October,” Mr Harrison said. “Once the appointment of the new operator is confirmed, the priorities will be the preparation for the 2023 season and the implementation of the current management plans to take care of the venues.”

Mr Harrison said FE would work with the new operator to start the process “to work towards a more sustainable future for the camps”.

He added: “Our aim is to find a long-term solution so that people can enjoy being in the forest, better understand and value its unique features, and at the same time protect those special features from inappropriate activities.”

Official Verderer Lord Conduct
Official Verderer Lord Conduct

Official Verder Lord Manners said Verderers look forward to working closely with the show community in the future.

He said: “We welcome the option of a local body managing the campsites as we believe this will bring about co-operation and local accountability.

“Any new arrangement that Forestry England offers for the camps will of course be based on the rights of the existing co-residents.”

Martin Stewart, chairman of the society, said: “It’s an exciting opportunity for us – and as our primary remit is to educate people about agriculture, horticulture and forestry, we couldn’t be better placed.

Martin Stewart, Chairman of the New Forest Show Association
Martin Stewart, Chairman of the New Forest Show Association

“We are a volunteer-run local charity that invests money back into the forest economy, rather than having the camps run by foreign businesses.”

Mr Stewart said finalizing the licensing deal would help bolster the finances of the hugely popular New Forest show.

He said: “Two years of wet shows can end up financially, so this gives us more security as an organisation.

“We want to work with all interested parties, many of them to come up with positive solutions.

“Things are definitely different – people know where we are and can come and talk to us at any time.”

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