Two new public space protection orders (PSPOs) have been introduced by New Forest District Council, supported by Forestry England, the New Forest National Park Authority and the Verderers of the New Forest.

The use of barbecues and fires in the Forest, and feeding and petting ponies or donkeys are all banned, with those failing to comply liable to a fine of up to £1,000.

Their introduction of the fire rules follows repeated fire damage caused by campfires and barbecues, and the growing risk of wildfires due to increasingly hotter and drier conditions.

The PSPO bans the lighting of fires of any type, including barbecues, and any outdoor cooking facilities or equipment. It also makes it an offence to place, throw or drop items likely to cause a fire, such as lit cigarettes.

Concern over the safety of the public and Forest animals, following injuries to people and animal deaths resulting from being fed human food, created the need to better manage public interactions with the free-roaming animals.

The PSPO relating to this activity bans feeding and/or petting ponies or donkeys in the Forest. 

Teams from Forestry England, the New Forest National Park Authority and the Verderers of the New Forest will be patrolling and engaging with the public to explain more about the new rules. Signs and information will be in place across the Forest.

Along with other key things to know about visiting the area, the new rules will also be highlighted in the New Forest Code, widely publicised across the area and shared by local tourism businesses with many visitors before and during their stay. 

The new orders apply from Saturday, July 1, and where necessary can be enforced by issuing fixed penalty notices of £100, a sum which can rise to £1,000 following a successful prosecution.

Patrick Heneghan, Deputy Chair of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “It’s important to recognise that they are not tame animals and can unexpectedly bite and kick. Joint patrols by the partners will focus on engagement and education, and we’re sure that the majority of people will continue to respect the New Forest Code.”

Jonathan Gerrelli from the Verderers of the New Forest, said: “A number of people have been badly injured by ponies which have been fed and become demanding.

"It is unfair on the animals which have to be removed permanently from their home if they injure someone, and it is distressing for members of the public, including children, who may be kicked or bitten. The ponies and donkeys are not domesticated, and they should be treated as wild animals, not pets.”

More information on the Public Space Protection Orders can be found here.