RIGHTS OF WAY WATCH
The Forestry Commission plan to redevelop the visitor facilities including building a new education centre, a new central visitor building as well as convert existing workshops to a cycling centre and convert a cafe to a childrens indoor play area at Binstead and Bentley, East Hampshire
Local riders are against it.
SAYS DAVID COMBER
"It is noticeable that Permits are required for horse riders. In spite of this no special provision has been made for them. It seems they are expected to pay for access which everyone else has for free. This directly conflicts with the SDNP duty of the social well being of local communities within the National Park."
As the existing buildings are inadequate and past their sell by date now is the time to replace all of them. They are not in the right place for people to access and car journeys are essential. To help the national targets of co2 and nitrous oxide emissions the buildings should be either near the railway station at Bentley or opposite Birdworld which is an existing hub of activity with large car parks and opposite the Lodge Pond which offers exceptional opportunities for recreation. Both of these attractions would then be available with one car journey involved. In addition would be much closer to and accessible from the villages of Rowledge and Holt Pound.
It is important to note that Hardings Ride a Byway Open to All Traffic runs through the middle of the proposed application. It is marked on the FC maps as a 'no horse riding' area and yet this is the only available public right of way for them to use. For many years this has been impossible both as a result of all the activity either side of it and before that a reluctance by the Local Highway Authority to maintain the surface which ponds in places.
It is a turf path which is ideal for horse riders and just needs making up in the low spots. During the last ten years the FC have been manufacturing paths for ''cyclists only'.
This changes the nature and ambience of the ancient forest and is not in keeping with the ideals of its inclusion in the South Downs National Park which are:
The Authority has an important duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of the local communities within the National Park.
In this respect it is noticeable that Permits are required for horse riders. In spite of this no special provision has been made for them. It seems they are expected to pay for access which everyone else has for free. This directly conflicts with the SDNP duty of the social well being of local communities within the National Park. There are many horse riders both within and witout the boundaries of the National Park. They have been further inhibited by the A325 which dissects, both Alice Holt and Broxhead Common and is a cause of community severance as it carries approx 20,000 vehicles a day making it impossible to cross by non-motorised users. It is lamentable therefore that a crossing facility for walkers and cyclists has been negotiated with Birdworld which excludes horse riders because it is in an unsuitable location.
Over the last ten years the Forestry Commission in pursuit of its recreational objectives has destroyed green spaces for its car parks. There seems to be a conflict between generating income from car parking and recreational activities against reducing biodiversity and degrading the local character of the ancient woodlands plus placing a strain on local infrastructure. Overall I consider that the proposed development is not in the right place and would fail to conserve or enhance the natural beauty of the area and would therefore be contrary to the aims of the South Downs National Park.
A Local Rider asks:
"Why am I unable to access Alice Holt Forest by the only possible means available to me, on horse back, without a permit and without the constant fear of harassment by assiduous Forestry Commission staff?
Further to the BHS Campaign for 'Say No To Permits' a planning application has been made by the Forestry Commission at Alice Holt Forest on the Hampshire/Surrey border for amongst other things a 'cycling hub'
As there is mention of just about everyone else except horse riders you may wish to make representation. Please feel free to ask the question why, after many years of comment from local people and recently the campaign by The British Horse Society, the Forestry Commission continues to discriminate against horse riders by demanding payment for permits for access to this public property and the continuation of Byelaw xiii which makes it an offence to lead or ride a horse?
Even when permits are purchased this bears no entitlement to a special
facility or provision, but only entitles the bearer to use the same
tracks and trails used by everyone else for free.
This means that in the summer months when parts of the forest are busy no advantage can be taken of the permit simply because the nature of the horse requires a tranquil environment.
The permit is by way of a contract and yet when a path needs repair it is simply removed from the permit and no repairs are done. Existing paths are allowed to overgrow and are not maintained. The exits and entrances are too narrow so that one can hurt ones knees on the posts. 'Cycle only' paths now take away from useable tracks around the quieter perimeter of the forest.
The A325 which transects Alice Holt Forest has a crossing facility for cyclists but despite many requests for a controlled crossing facility, horse riders are told it is too dangerous to cross in any case and the Local Highway Authority says it may cause 'tail end shunts' for motorists !!
The surrounding single track carriageway country lanes have a speed limit of 60mph which is not a safe speed to travel and is not considerate of the safety of non-motorised users.
This problem is compounded by the numerous visitors by motor vehicle to the forest's large car parks. (Alice Holt)
You will remember that very recently the Police were called by the Forestry Commission to arrest horse riders who did not have permits.
I would like an explanation as to why I, who fit the 'protected characteristics' (Page 8 fourth para.) of the FC Equality and Diversity document, in more sense than one since I am elderly, hard of hearing with reduced mobility due to arthritic knees, am unable to access Alice Holt Forest by the only possible means available to me, on horse back, without a permit and without the constant fear of harassment by assiduous Forestry Commission staff?"