HAMPSHIRE County Council is saying No to road pricing and has expressed concerns about other policies in the National Park Authority’s plan, which it believes could harm the social and economic wellbeing of New Forest communities.

Leader of Hampshire County Council, Councillor Ken Thornber, said: “Hampshire County Council is responsible for the highways, and road pricing is not on this administration’s agenda, not in the New Forest or anywhere in the county. We do not think that road pricing is an effective solution, it would not only be unpopular, but would increase pressure on those parts of the network that are not affected and would actually exacerbate rather than relieve problems.”

In a consultation document on the future of the New Forest the NPA has proposed road pricing to limit the number of cars accessing certain vulnerable areas, making some car parks dog-free zones to protect ground nesting birds and bringing in stricter planning rules for the keeping of horses.

The council feels the proposed policies are too restrictive, that local people have not been consulted enough and that issues such as economic viability have been sidelined. Cllr Thornber added: “The New Forest National Park Authority has three duties.

These are to conserve the forest, promote enjoyment of the National Park and to foster the economic and social wellbeing of local communities within its boundaries.

We believe that the park authority has not struck the right balance between those duties in developing its plans and policies for the future.

“Yes we need to have a strategy in place that will protect the unique environment that is the New Forest, but at the same time we need to ensure that businesses in the New Forest can thrive, residents can live their lives, visitors can come and enjoy the forest’s beauty and public services can be delivered effectively.”

A spokesman for the NPA pointed out that Hampshire County Council’s transport plan states they will investigate road user pricing.

The plan states: “To investigate measures such as road closures and road pricing to manage the use of the New Forest’s highway network and reduce the undesirable effects of traffic on wildlife, outdoor recreation, the unique New Forest environment and the understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities.”

She said the plan was approved by the Government office for the south east and the Department for Transport and that is why the NPA are paying due regard to it.

Clive Chatters, chairman of the National Park Authority, said: “The New Forest National Park Authority welcomes the views of Hampshire County Council on its draft Park Plan, just as it welcomes the views of all those who care about and care for the New Forest.

“The authority is surprised that the county council rules out even considering the option of road user pricing to tackle the Forest’s traffic problems, since it appears in the county’s own plans.

“Authority members will consider carefully the county council’s views about the balance between the different two statutory National Park purposes and a related socioeconomic duty in the draft plan as it reviews and revises the proposals over the next few months.”