THE NEW Forest will be designated a National Park, junior DEFRA minister Alun Michael has announced.

The decision follows a recommendation made by the Inquiry Inspector following a seven-month public inquiry.

“The decision will help protect the unique character of the New Forest, whilst recognising that it is a working, living place with social and economic needs,” said Mr Michael.

“Our national parks have a vital role conserving our national heritage, but conservation alone is not enough – the parks must balance environmental priorities with those of the communities.”

Mr Michael said he had carefully considered the Inquiry Inspector‘s report and agreed with his recommendation that the New Forest met the criteria to be a National Park. 

But the news came as a disappointment to the National Farmers Union who had opposed the designation.

“A National Park Association won‘t really address the problems that exist in the forest as it‘s not within its powers to do so,” said Shaun Leavey, NFU south-east.

“A major concern is that the NPA will not have sufficient land management expertise. We need to ensure that farmers and commoners are on any future NPA-board to give it future credibility,” he added.