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New Forest habitats to be protected by new ‘pop-up’ campsite guidelines

New planning guidelines have been agreed for new and larger temporary ‘pop up’ campsites within the New Forest National Park, to help protect the environment and local communities.

From 30 September 2022, temporary 28-day campsites with 51 pitches or more, and any 28-day campsite established after 1 March 2020 will need planning permission from the National Park Authority.

The move follows concerns from local residents, parish councils and others about the number of temporary campsites operating in the New Forest National Park and their impacts on local communities, the New Forest’s protected landscape and sensitive habitats.

The New Forest National Park has seen an increase in pop-up campsites in recent years. It now has more than three times the number of camping and touring caravan bed spaces per square kilometre than the average of all other English national parks. There are currently 12 known temporary campsites operating, with pitch numbers ranging from 12 to 90.

Under national permitted development rights, temporary campsites can currently legally operate for 28 days a year without planning permission (this figure was extended to 56 days during 2020 and 2021 to help businesses help recover from the pandemic). The New Forest National Park Authority’s new ‘Article 4 Direction’ means all new and the larger existing sites within the National Park would require planning permission. This enables the proposals to be considered in more detail and planning conditions applied where appropriate to protect communities and the environment. Article 4 Directions are well-established tools that can be used by planning authorities to protect the special qualities of an area.

A six-week public consultation held in late 2021 helped inform the NPA’s decision to agree the Direction. The Authority considered comments from a wide range of respondents, including residents, organisations, existing campsite operators and key stakeholders. The majority supported the Direction, including all 12 of the town and parish councils within the National Park that responded, the RSPB, and the Verderers of the New Forest. 20 per cent of respondents to the consultation objected and nine per cent did not express a preference.

Gordon Bailey, Chair of the New Forest NPA’s Planning Committee, said: ‘The New Forest is already one of the most visited national parks in England, and it is vital we protect the very thing that people come here to enjoy.

‘The new National Park-wide Article 4 Direction does not necessarily stop temporary campsites being established – only that they require planning permission in the future. The new guidelines don’t affect smaller temporary campsites which have been operating for a number of years, only new and larger sites.

‘Given the range and scale of internationally-protected nature conservation sites in the New Forest and on its coast, these legal considerations are particularly important in the National Park.’

The Article 4 Direction comes into effect on 30 September 2022.

The NPA has also provided guidance to help landowners meet the separate requirements of the habitat regulations. These documents are available to view on the Authority’s website.

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