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Forestry climb-down ‘too little,
too late’ say furious owners


New Forest Dog Owners’ Group has dismissed the partial climb down by the Forestry Commission over car park closures as "too little, too late". Without consultation, the Forestry Commission announced at a recent meeting of the New Forest Consultative Council that it was closing 31 car parks for five months, starting at the end of October.

However, alert NFDOG members spotted that notices that were erected shortly afterwards had extended the closures to six months, starting from the beginning of October.

Following protests from NFDOG, the Forestry Commission announced that there had been an error, and reverted to the five months closure plan.

NFDOG secretary Lynne Griffin said: "We are adamantly opposed to any closures for any duration. The revised plan is too little, too late, and still means we are losing nearly a quarter of our car parks for nearly half the year.

"The Forestry Commission has failed to come up with a convincing argument to back their claim that it will make significant cash savings by reducing wear and tear. It is clear to us that the same number of motorists will be crammed into fewer car parks. This will result in excessive damage to them and to the surrounding Forest as more people set off from the same starting point rather than spreading the load as at present.

"We are predicting that it will also lead to more motorists being tempted to leave their vehicles on roadside verges when they find their favourite car parks closed. This will cause still more unsightly damage that will be difficult for the Forestry Commission to repair."

The Forestry Commission first accepted that the signs announcing closures from October 1 were "a mistake" on September 24.

"We were surprised, to say the least, that some or all of those notices were still on public display two days later, said Mrs. Griffin. "How many hundreds of Forest users were falsely given the impression that the car parks were closing this week during that two-day delay?

"NFDOG is left feeling that this is a misconceived proposal that has been badly mishandled. The Forestry Commission still has a month to reconsider. We urge them to abandon the proposal since it has prompted so much opposition from so many Forest users."

Meanwhile, the controversy has prompted a rush of new membership applications from dog walkers angered by the proposal. Typical of them is Julie Sheppard, of Pitmore Lane, Sway, who walks her golden retriever puppy, Chester, from the Longslade View car park.

"It’s the perfect spot for me to train my retriever because it has a steep hill for exercise, shallow water and access to the woods," she said. "Longslade Bottom is no good for me because it gets too crowded to carry out serious training.

"When I heard that NFDOG was fighting the proposal, I decided to join because I remembered how successful they were in fighting off the threat that we would have to walk our dogs on short leads in the Forest."

NFDOG membership secretary Penny Gayler can be contacted on 01425 622736 to obtain a membership form. Alternatively, they are available on the group’s website, www.newforestdog.org.uk