In 1994 the NFA produced "An Agenda for the Forest's Future". It set out the Association's policies and priorities for the New Forest. The Agenda serves as a benchmark in our attitude to the issues which affect the Forest. Although it is kept under review, the principles have remained unchanged. The latest revision which was completed in March 2011, follows below.
An Agenda for the Future of the New Forest
The New Forest Association was formed in 1867 at a time of great change when the very existence of the Forest was in doubt. It played a leading role in the successful fight to secure a future for the Forest. Since then the Association has continued to be an independent, campaigning charity based on its membership and volunteers. Additionally, following establishment of the New Forest National Park, the Association was recognised as the New Forest National Park Society and became a Council member of the national Campaign for National Parks. Today some of the problems facing the Forest are as challenging as those that the Association confronted at its inception.
The New Forest* is a unique survival of medieval Europe. It is internationally important to nature conservation and biological science. Cultural and natural elements have blended to form a unique landscape in which grazing by the commoners' animals has played a dominant role in shaping the nature of the vegetation. The undeveloped coast of the northwest Solent shore forms much of the New Forest's southern boundary.
The New Forest contains twenty Sites of Special Scientific Interest covering a wide range of habitats from grassland to freshwater and marine environments. The "New Forest SSSI" is the largest covering almost 29,000 hectares including the Crown lands and manorial commons. The UK Government has designated two Special Protection Areas under the EC Directive on the conservation of Wild Birds, and two Wetlands of International Importance in accordance with the International Convention on the Conservation of Wetlands. In addition much of New Forest has been designated within four Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive. There are more than 200 ancient monuments in the Forest; and extensive areas covering the New Forest villages have been designated as Conservation Areas in recognition of their special architectural or historic interest. These various designations impose international as well as well as national conservation responsibilities. But designations alone do not avert threats and problems.
The Forest is squeezed between the large conurbations of South Hampshire and South‐East Dorset. Since the 1960s thousands of houses have been built in and around it. It has succumbed to many demands from the infrastructure associated with the growing development areas – roads, gravel extraction, pumped storage reservoirs, pipelines, overhead power lines and other utilities.
It has become a playground for the neighbouring urban populations, besides attracting tourists from further afield. There is evidence that in some areas these demands are exceeding what the Forest can sustain without damage to its natural habitats, wildlife and wilderness quality. Now is a time for firm policies and radical decisions if we wish the Forest to survive for future generations. In the face of many competing demands on this relatively small area of unique countryside, the New Forest Association believes that priority must be given to the conservation of the Forest and its tranquil wilderness qualities.
* New Forest or Forest refers to the area designated as the New Forest National Park