PAUL Walton has been appointed head of environment and rural economy for the New Forest National Park Authority.

He joins the authority’s management team from the National Trust, where he was a general manager for the trust’s estate in mid and south east Cornwall.

Mr Walton has considerable experience of working in protected landscapes. He was the first manager of the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and previously worked for the Sussex Downs Conservation Board before the South Downs National Park was designated.

He said: “I am very excited at the prospect of working in the New Forest. It is a very special area, but one that faces a lot of challenges if it is to retain its unique qualities – its natural beauty, remarkable nature conservation interest and cultural heritage. I am particularly looking forward to working with the many people and organisations whose knowledge of the New Forest can help the environment and rural economy team shape the future of the park.

“Commoning, farming and woodland management are the critical factors in maintaining the New Forest landscape and habitats. The current New Forest Higher Level Stewardship scheme is the largest in England and a new Rural Development Programme will begin in 2015.

“We will be working with farmers, land managers, growers and producers to ensure the New Forest benefits from as much support as possible from the programme.”

Mr Walton’s position was created as part of a restructure last year designed in part to put a greater focus on the environment and rural economy and to lead on a £2.9m landscape partnership grant for the New Forest earmarked by the Heritage Lottery Fund and announced last year.