Know before you go this summer - new rules come into force in the New Forest
6 June 2023
This summer, local people and visitors are being encouraged to make sure they know about new measures in the New Forest to ensure they have a safe and enjoyable time here. We have introduced two new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs), supported by Forestry England, the New Forest National Park Authority and the Verderers of the New Forest.
The use of BBQs and fires in the Forest, and feeding and petting ponies or donkeys are all banned, with those failing to comply liable to a fixed penalty fine or prosecution.
Their introduction follows repeated fire damage to the Forest caused by campfires and BBQs, and the growing risk of wildfires due to increasingly hotter and drier conditions.
The PSPO bans the lighting of fires of any type including BBQs and any outdoor cooking facilities or equipment. It also makes it an offence to place, throw or drop items likely to cause a fire such as lit cigarettes.
Concern over the safety of the public and Forest animals, following injuries to the people and animal deaths resulting from being fed human food, created the need to better manage public interactions with these free-roaming animals.
The PSPO relating to this activity bans feeding and petting ponies or donkeys on the Forest. Teams from Forestry England, the New Forest National Park Authority and the Verderers of the New Forest will be patrolling and engaging with the public to explain more about the new rules. Signs and information will be in place across the Forest. Along with other key things to know about visiting the area, the new rules will also be highlighted in the New Forest Code, widely publicised across the area and shared by local tourism businesses with many visitors before and during their stay.
The new orders apply from 1 July and where necessary can be enforced by issuing fixed penalty notices of £100, a sum which can rise to £1,000 following a successful prosecution.
Cllr Dan Poole, New Forest District Council's portfolio holder for community, safety and wellbeing, said, "Most people enjoying the Forest do so with great care and regard for the New Forest Code. By making these PSPOs, we expect a reduction in the rare but damaging cases of anti-social behaviour associated with wildfires and barbecues on the Forest, and the feeding and petting of Forest animals."
Charlotte Belcher, community manager at Forestry England, said: "The New Forest is a haven for nature and a special place to spend time. We want to make sure everyone coming here, locals and visitors alike, can enjoy their visit and do so responsibly."
"Our teams have spent increasing amounts of time over recent years working with the fire service to put out forest fires and trying to stop these spreading. It only takes one spark to start a wildfire. These new rules will help us ensure more people understand why it's just not worth taking that risk. Please enjoy the Forest but always bring a picnic instead of a BBQ."
Patrick Heneghan, deputy chair of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: "The New Forest National Park is a world capital for wildlife, with many rare species and habitats. This unique landscape is created with the help of grazing by commoners' animals who play a vital role in creating and maintaining the habitat that allows other species to flourish. It's important to recognise that they are not tame animals and can unexpectedly bite and kick. It's logical that we must take steps to ensure the precious landscape and wildlife is protected, as well as keeping people safe. Joint patrols by the partners will focus on engagement and education, and we're sure that the majority of people will continue to respect the New Forest Code."
Jonathan Gerrelli from the Verderers of the New Forest, said "A number of people have been badly injured by ponies which have been fed and become demanding. It is unfair on the animals which have to be removed permanently from their home if they injure someone and it is distressing for members of the public, including children, who may be kicked or bitten. The ponies and donkeys are not domesticated, and they should be treated as wild animals, not pets."
More information on the Public Space Protection Orders can be found online.