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					                                                                                   NFNPA 20/05


                  NEW FOREST NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITY

                      AUTHORITY MEETING – 19 JULY 2005
              TAKING FORWARD NATIONAL PARK PURPOSES IN 2005/6


Report by:     Maddy Jago, Director of Policy


Summary:

This report identifies the range of policy activities that the National Park Authority (NPA) is
either currently involved with, or which it may choose to engage with, during its
establishment year. Proposals take into account that members have yet to discuss priorities
for the NPA once fully established, and that the NPA will not take on its full statutory powers
and functions until 1 April 2006. They also have regard to the very limited staff that the
Authority may currently draw upon.

There are many demands and opportunities being presented to the NPA. The paper
proposes a basic level of activity to ensure that the NPA contributes to National Park
purposes, as well as actions needed to help prepare the NPA for its full role from April 2006.
It identifies some areas where there are immediate choices to be made and decisions to be
taken. Proposals are grouped together to reflect the Authority’s three proposed policy
directorates: conservation, understanding and enjoyment, and strategy and planning.

The background information will be considered in more detail later this year. It is included
for those members who wish to know more now. Other members need read only the
specific recommendations.

Recommendations:

(1)    to agree the priorities set out in paras 4 and 5 of the report;

(2)    to commission a tranquil areas study for the New Forest National Park to support the
       State of the Park Report currently being prepared;

(3)    to ask officers to prepare a paper over the next few months on the process and
       merits of preparing a Biodiversity Action Plan for the New Forest National Park;

(4)    to explore informally, with English Heritage and other partners the implications of
       pursuing World Heritage site status for the New Forest;

(5)    to confirm the Authority's 'in principle' commitment to developing and co-ordinating
       the Forest Friendly Farming project;

(6)    to agree the groupings for the 3 proposed stakeholder meetings;

(7)    to commission a baseline study of camping and campsite provision in and around the
       National Park;

(8)    to indicate an 'in principle' interest in assisting with the funding of the New Forest tour
       bus in 2006/07;

(9)    to support the funding of the New Forest Transport Strategy Officer post, and to offer
       accommodation for the officer if needed;
(10)    to defer reviewing the evidence base relating to commoning until additional staff have
        been recruited, but to identify it as a priority for the future;

(11)    to support the balance of activities outlined in the paper for the transitional year.


Resources: The proposals do not exceed any budget / staff allocations already
committed for this year. Some recommendations have implications for budgets in
future years.


Other major considerations: None




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                                                                                          NFNPA 20/05


                 TAKING FORWARD NATIONAL PARK PURPOSES IN 2005/6


Report by:       Maddy Jago, Director of Policy


Introduction

1.      During 2005/6 the National Park Authority (NPA) needs to deliver National Park
        purposes, with the following constraints:

        a) the NPA does not take on its full statutory powers and functions until April 2006;

        b) it has limited staff resources, and this will not change significantly before late
           autumn/winter;

        c) its activities are limited to those that will help its establishment by April 2006, and
           will ensure that NP purposes are not undermined. The parameters have been
           agreed with Defra and exclude the NPA from being able to make grant payments
           during 2005-06.

2.      This paper considers what this should mean in practice. It looks first at resources
        and priorities. It then makes proposals for each of the Authority’s three emerging
        policy directorates: conservation, understanding and enjoyment, and strategy and
        planning. Each section examining statutory and then non-statutory functions.

Resources

3.      The NPA has very few staff. The current policy team comprises the Director of Policy
        and two policy advisers, supplemented by 3 part-time planning consultants who
        together equate to one full time member of staff. The team is supported by 1 full-time
        and one part-time administrative assistant. From October, the senior management
        team, and at least 2 additional policy advisers should be in post. From December
        onwards, more new staff will be employed to take on the statutory and non-statutory
        functions of the Authority (see table below). Finance is not a big constraint in the
        current year. Some of the proposals in this paper also have implications for the
        NPA’s Communications team.

Policy staff in post in 2005/6
                                                    A       M   J   J    A S O    N D J       F   M
Administrative support                              √       √   √   √    √ √ √    √ √ √       √   √
Director of policy                                  √       √   √   √    √
Director of enjoyment and understanding                                      √    √   √   √   √   √
Director of conservation & enhancement                                       √    √   √   √   √   √
Director of strategy and planning                                            √    √   √   √   √   √
Policy adviser- Conservation                        √ √         √ √      √ √ √    √   √   √   √   √
Policy adviser- Socio-economic duty                 √ √         √ √      √ √ √    √   √   √   √   √
Policy adviser- Recreation                          *√ *√       *√           √    √   √   √   √   √
Policy adviser- Planning                               *        *  *     *   √    √   √   √   √   √
Planning and other staff to be recruited                                              √   √   √   √
ready for April 2006

* Indicates part-time placement or consultancy support




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Priorities in 2005/06

4.      In confirming its priorities for the current financial year, the NPA needs to:

        •    ensure it is able to meet its statutory responsibilities for access, planning and
             management plan preparation from 1 April 2006;
        •    ensure it is practically equipped to deliver National Park purposes from 1 April
             2006;
        •    build on current initiatives in the spirit of the Minister's advice to the NPA;
        •    ensure that the qualities of the National Park are safeguarded.

5.      In addition it is suggested that the National Park Authority:

        •    engages in appropriate partnerships and relationships with stakeholders;
        •    secures any early 'wins' that are clearly within the scope of proposals within the
             adopted interim National Park Management Plan, and within the capacity of the
             NPA's policy staff team.

Recommendation 1: to agree these priorities.

Conservation - statutory functions and related responsibilities

State of the Park Report

6.      The NPA has limited statutory functions with respect to delivery of the first National
        Park purpose, “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural
        heritage of the National Park." It must publish policy proposals in a National Park
        management plan and monitor their effectiveness. An early step, already agreed by
        the NPA, is to produce a baseline State of the Park Report, which will clarify the
        environmental condition and recreation qualities of the area. A tranquil areas study is
        needed to support this and it is proposed that this should be commissioned in the
        current financial year.

Recommendation 2: to commission a tranquil areas study for the New Forest
National Park to support the 'State of the Park Report' currently being prepared.

Data

7.      The NPA will need to consider, with local partner organisations, the best way to
        secure, maintain and provide data about the National Park, including its conservation
        interests. NPAs in England have created a shared framework for websites that will
        provide compatible and accessible information about all the National Parks. This is
        in the spirit of Government guidance to public bodies. The NPA needs to take
        advantage of this shared 'portal' facility during 2005/06, with an initial registration and
        ongoing service charge. (This has benefits and applications across the whole range
        of the NPA’s functions, not simply for conservation.)

Statutory planning functions

8.      The NPA has conservation responsibilities within its statutory planning functions.
        These relate to the care of the built environment and of trees protected by tree
        preservation orders. These responsibilities will need to be anticipated as the NPA
        prepares to take on its planning functions from 1 April 2006. How to take forward
        these specialised activities will be clarified through in the project to transfer planning
        functions. Part of the work to prepare the Local Development Scheme for the New
        Forest may prompt research to support conservation-related policies, e.g. for back-up
        grazing for commoning, and staff will need to advise on the priority with which this
        should be taken forward.
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Other legislation

9.      The NPA is also affected by other legislation e.g. as a relevant authority under the
        Habitats Directive, it must assist in meeting Government targets for some nature
        conservation sites. The NPA will need to work with bodies like English Nature (soon
        to become part of Natural England), the Forestry Commission, and other partners to
        decide how it may best do this.

Conservation: non statutory functions

Priority-setting

10.     At a strategic level, the conservation issues facing the New Forest National Park are
        reasonably well understood. The NPA will want to consider what particular
        challenges it should address in future, which will in turn influence the way it
        establishes itself and the partnerships it enters into. To assist in this process,
        workshops with members are proposed in another paper for this meeting.

Biodiversity Action Plan

11.     Some progress could be made now on a recommendation from the Strategy for the
        New Forest Action Plan. A biodiversity action plan (BAP) was proposed, to identify
        what needed to be done to protect and enhance wildlife outside nationally designated
        sites. It would be useful to investigate how a BAP could be prepared, the timetable,
        resources required, and partners to involve.

Recommendation 3: to ask officers to prepare a paper over the next few months on
the process and merits of preparing a Biodiversity Action Plan for the New Forest
National Park.

Ensure that the qualities of the National Park are safeguarded

12.     The NPA will need to respond to consultations of strategic or operational significance
        during 2005-06. This is likely to include commenting on conservation issues relating
        to planning policies and applications, and regional and national policies. Some of
        these may emerge through involvement with particular groups, e.g. Association of
        National Park Authorities (ANPA) working groups, the South East Rural Development
        Consultation Group etc.

NPA supporting and building on existing activities

13.     Ongoing activities led by other partners, if relevant to National Park purposes, will
        need to be supported e.g. involvement with the Solent Forum and the Coastal
        Defence Strategy group, the Forestry Commission's review of the Forest Design
        process for inclosures, and involvement with the advisory group for the New Forest
        Countryside Stewardship scheme. The NPA might also usefully discuss with English
        Heritage nominating the New Forest for World Heritage Site status before the expiry
        of the Government's tentative list in 2009.

Recommendation 4: to explore informally, with English Heritage and other partners,
the implications of pursuing World Heritage Site status for the New Forest.

14.     The NPA provides a lead in co-ordinating the Forest Friendly Farming project,
        working closely with New Forest District Council as managers of the LEADER+
        funding which supports some of the Forest Friendly Farming initiatives. Officer
        support by the National Park Authority may lead to the establishment of a local
        abattoir for New Forest stock in the short-term. In the medium-term, the NPA may
        wish to work with local people to review the project and to see what needs to be done
        once LEADER+ funding expires in 2007/08. Discussions could start in 2005/06.
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        Proposals for the Sustainable Development Fund need to be announced in
        September, and mechanisms put in place to allow expressions of interest to be
        made, ready to start processing applications from 1 April 2006.

Recommendation 5: to confirm the Authority's 'in principle' commitment to
developing and co-ordinating the Forest Friendly Farming project.

Creating partnerships and involving stakeholders

15.     The NPA will need to invest and support a range of working and consultative
        structures, some long-term like the New Forest Consultative Panel, and some
        specialised ‘task-finish' groups focused on the delivery of individual projects. In the
        short-term the NPA will need to meet key groups to establish dialogue and ways of
        working in the future. It will particularly need to establish an effective working
        relationship with the new agency, Natural England.

16.     To further relationships between the NPA and local interests, three meetings are
        proposed in late September/early October with farmers and commoners, with
        recreational access interests, and one with parish councils and the general public.

Recommendation 6: to agree the interest groupings for the 3 proposed stakeholder
meetings.

17.     The National Park Authority needs to join a range of formal partnerships, usually
        contributing to running costs. The main groups are: S.E. Protected Areas, the Solent
        Forum, Association of National Park Authorities, the Council for National Parks and
        Europarc.


Understanding and enjoyment - statutory functions and related responsibilities.

Access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

18.     In relation to the second National Park purpose: "to promote opportunities for the
        understanding and enjoyment of the Park's special qualities by the public", the
        National Park Authority is an 'access authority' and a 'relevant authority' for access
        under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. It will be responsible for running
        a Local Access Forum and for making directions for access restrictions, as well as
        ensuring access land is available to the public under the terms of the Act. A
        relatively small area of land is affected, but it is important that the management of it is
        consistent and compatible with other areas of open access within the National Park.

19.     Before April 2006 the NPA needs to assist the Countryside Agency with work to
        clarify the extent of land exempted from this legislation within the National Park. It
        will also need to continue to develop and facilitate the New Forest Access Forum,
        ready for it to become a stand-alone forum from 1 April 2006. (It is currently
        constituted as a sub-group of the Hampshire Access Forum).

20.     The NPA must also decide, in conjunction with the 2 affected County Councils, how it
        means to take on its access responsibilities for land with access rights under CRoW.
        This will need to be brought to a future meeting of the NPA.

21.     The Authority will need to work with the Countryside Agency, and others, to clarify its
        relevant authority role. This includes getting ready to take responsibility for
        administering the restrictions casework from 1 April, using a national database and
        website.




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Statutory planning functions

22.     To help support its statutory planning function, it is recommended that the NPA
        undertakes some research on campsite provision in and close to, the New Forest.
        This will require a consultancy contract, and working closely with partners like the
        Forestry Commission. It should be carried out during this financial year so that a
        camping strategy can be developed over the next few years.

Recommendation 7: to commission a baseline study of camping and campsite
provision in and around the National Park.

Understanding and enjoyment - non-statutory functions

Rights of way

23.     The National Park Authority is not the highway authority but the rights of way network
        administered and managed by Hampshire and Wiltshire County Councils is a key
        resource in the delivery of the second National Park purpose. In many National
        Parks, responsibility for the day-to-day management of rights of way is delegated to
        National Park Authorities. This has not been proposed in the New Forest, but the
        NPA needs to engage in the preparation of the Rights of Way Improvement Plan for
        the New Forest which is currently being prepared by Hampshire County Council,
        expected to be completed during the autumn. It also needs to engage with any
        similar process for the Wiltshire part of the National Park.

Traffic and transport

24.     The Authority will have a significant interest in traffic and transport policy and
        programmes, and needs to be involved in the New Forest Transport Strategy
        Members Panel and officer groups, and maintain an interest in the Solent Transport
        Strategy Panel. A current priority for the NPA is to ensure New Forest National Park
        interests are given enough scope and priority within the emerging Local Transport
        Plan (LTP). This is a bidding document for Government grant towards capital
        transport programmes, which can include measures for rights of way. It will influence
        transport priorities and resources within the National Park over the next few years.

Education and interpretation, visitors and rangers

25.     Over the next few months the NPA will need to begin to consider with partners and
        stakeholders how a holistic National Park approach may be developed towards the
        provision of education and interpretation, visitor and ranger services.

Ensure that the qualities of the National Park are safeguarded

26.     This area of activity includes providing specialist comment on any national, regional
        or local policy of strategic or operational significance to the second purpose of
        National Parks.

NPA supporting and building on existing activities

27.     The NPA needs to continue to engage with current projects and programmes that
        can help deliver National Park purposes. One significant programme is the Forestry
        Commission-led PROGRESS research project, to guide the long-term management
        of recreation in the National Park. The Solent Forum has a Heritage Lottery-funded
        project to improve the access and interpretation of the Solent coast. There is an
        opportunity too for the NPA to support the running and further development of the
        New Forest tour – the visitor bus service to encourage car-free tourism. An ‘in
        principle’ indication of the NPA's interest in helping fund this in 2006/07 would be
        helpful.

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Recommendation 8: to indicate an 'in principle' interest in assisting with the funding
of the New Forest tour bus in 2006/07.

28.     Initial work to jointly promote recreation activities and events being run in the Forest
        (see National Parks week promotional leaflet), needs to be further explored and
        developed. Input into such programmes will help develop partnerships and raise
        awareness about the National Park.

Creating partnerships and involving stakeholders

29.     This has already been referred to in terms of the need to identify appropriate working
        structures and make best use of the New Forest Consultative Panel, groups set up to
        support the PROGRESS project etc. In addition, the National Park Authority has
        been invited to work with Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council and
        the Forestry Commission to fund the New Forest Transport Strategy officer for a
        further 3 years from April 2006. This post has helped local transport initiatives move
        up a gear, with a focus on car-free tourism and cycling initiatives. The invitation
        provides an opportunity for the NPA to engage with transport issues right from the
        start, with practical programmes that assist in the delivery of National Park purposes.
        The NPA is invited to become a key partner, supporting the post at a cost of £15,500
        per annum for three years in the first instance.

Recommendation 9: to support the funding of the New Forest Transport Strategy
Officer post, and to offer accommodation for the officer if needed


Strategy and planning - statutory and related responsibilities

30.     The National Park Authority takes on its statutory planning functions from
        1 April 2006. The principles for taking this forward were agreed at the June meeting
        of the Authority and the process is dealt with in other papers for this meeting. In the
        current year, the National Park Authority will need to advise on the public
        consultation processes and draft policies proposed for the National Park, particularly
        in the emerging New Forest District Council Local Development Framework and
        Hampshire County Council's Minerals and Waste Local Development Framework.

31.     The National Park Authority has already taken up its seat to represent National Park
        interests at the South East Regional Assembly. Providing advice and input on
        emerging regional and sub-regional plans and policies, (both for the South East and
        South West), is currently a key priority and will continue to be so over the coming
        months.

32.     The NPA must take Community Plans into account as part of its role as a planning
        authority, and, in preparation for this role, there is already member and staff
        representation on the New Forest District Local Strategic Partnership. There are 4
        other Community Plans that affect the National Park, and the relationships with these
        also need to be explored.

33.     The National Park Authority has a statutory responsibility to produce a management
        plan for the National Park, and the NPA has already agreed to adopt the Strategy for
        the New Forest as the interim National Park Management Plan, with a reworked
        cover and inserted pages. It has also decided to publish a 'State of the Park'
        baseline report in this financial year, and to develop proposals for the review of the
        National Park Management Plan by April 2006.




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Strategy and Planning - non statutory activities

Ensure that the qualities of the National Park are safeguarded

34.     During 2005/06, although not the planning authority, the NPA will wish to comment
        on significant planning applications. The public are already contacting the Authority,
        and drawing planning-related issues to the NPA's attention at public meetings.
        Recommendations on how to deal with planning cases are the subject of a separate
        paper.

35.     The National Park Authority needs to comment on some draft planning policies and
        development proposals operating outside the National Park to ensure that National
        Park purposes are not undermined. In April 2006 this will become a statutory
        function for the Authority.

NPA support for other existing activities

36.     NPA staff have been included in discussions about developing a rural housing
        strategy with a range of bodies. The NPA needs to continue to engage with this work
        to inform its planning activities. In addition it needs to consider the priority to be
        given to work initiated by the New Forest Committee: to promote the importance of
        commoning amongst adjacent local authorities and to review data sources relating to
        commoning, with a particular view to providing an evidence base to support the
        development of planning policy.

Recommendation 10: to defer this activity until additional staff have been recruited,
but to identify it as a priority to support the planning function for the future.

Creating partnerships and involving stakeholders

37.     Over the last 8-10 years, regular liaison opportunities have been operating to help
        local planning authorities co-ordinate and focus their activities in the New Forest.
        This has happened both through the formal meetings of the New Forest Committee,
        and more specifically through an officer working group on planning. The National
        Park Authority needs to ensure that this co-ordination is maintained and enhanced by
        facilitating liaison arrangements. (Also see previous references to the New Forest
        Consultative Panel and proposals to convene three stakeholder meetings in the
        autumn.)


Conclusions

38.     The next few months will be busy for the National Park Authority. It must develop its
        capacity to deal with its statutory functions, and work with a range of partners and
        stakeholders to clarify its priorities and ways of working. The proposals in this report
        offer a mix of ongoing work and new priority tasks, while allowing the Authority to
        evolve its priorities throughout the transitional period.

Recommendation 11: to support the balance of activities outlined in this paper for the
transitional year.




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