LATCHMORE REPORT Section 2
Submissions from involved Statutory Bodies
1. The Verderers of the New Forest
2. Natural England
3. The Forestry Commision
1. The Verderers of the New Forest
On 3rd July the Official Verderer of the New Forest, Mr Dominic May, wrote:
“The Verderers of the New Forest strongly support the Latchmore wetland restoration project:
• It turns the clock back to remove previous man-made interventions;
• It will improve the landscape amenity of the forest;
• It will encourage the re-establishment of the flood plain, depositing beneficial organic matter
on the forest rather than it being washed out to sea;
• It will reduce flood risk downstream;
• It will improve grazing for the benefit of the grazing animals.
The work will restore this part of the Forest to favourable condition for nature conservation”.
2. Natural England
This submission was prepared by Hannah Thacker, New Forest Team Leader for Natural England and Network Lead for Land Management in Dorset, Hampshire and the IoW.
Natural England’s purpose: is to advise government and landowners on how to conserve and enhance the nation’s natural environment.
The New Forest Designations: The wildlife within the New Forest is some of the most rare and unique in both the UK and Europe. In recognition of this, it is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) under UK legislation, as a Special Protection Area (SPA) and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under EU legislation and it’s wetlands are of international importance designated under the Ramsar Convention. The protected areas cover 29,000ha of the New Forest National Park’s boundary of 57,000ha.
Reasons for the above designations: the New Forest is the largest area of unsown vegetation in lowland England and is one of the most intact networks of wetland habitats in Western Europe; comprised of wet heaths, mires and fens. It is also home to important bird populations and other rare species such as butterflies, amphibians and insects. Some species are only found within the New Forest.
Why are wetland restoration works needed?
Previous drainage activities took natural New Forest streams and straightened them to a more canalised form. This has disconnected these streams from their surrounding wetlands, causing the surrounding land to dry. This has had a negative effect on the wet habitats which are drying out and thus no longer providing the habitat for the wetland species that thrive in these locations. The wetland restoration works thus seek to restore the streams to their natural, meandering state, increasing the wetness of the ground here. Other benefits which the works will provide are flood alleviation (as the floodplain can now soak up and slow the water which had been running straight downstream), improved in-stream habitat for fish and other animals and plants and grazing is improved as the silt from the streams enriches the grazing land alongside the streams. The other key purpose of the works is to prevent erosion of the stream banks, which has taken place on straightened streams. This was resulting in soil being washed downstream and the loss of important wildlife habitat. Not only will the works restore the condition of the wetland habitats, but it will ensure that no further loss of land occurs down the streams.
Bogs (mires) were also subject to drainage and had channels dug through them to drain the water away. This has resulted in a reduction in the size of the bog and a loss of associated species.
It is a legal duty of statutory bodies “to maintain and restore damage to habitats and to control invasive non-native species” under the SAC conservation objectives.
Previous wetland restoration works:
Wetland restorations have been taking place in the Forest for the past 20 years with EU funding under a LIFE project beginning this in the 1990s, as a partnership project between Hampshire County Council, Forestry Commission, Environment Agency, English Nature (now Natural England) and the RSPB. There have been a number of partnership projects since then to restore the fragile wetland habitats and remove invasive non-native species.
Current wetland restoration works:
Most of the current programme of restorations is funded under a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Agreement with the Verderer’s of the New Forest. This agreement provides funding to the Verderer’s to support the management of the habitats and species within the New Forest; the wetland restorations being one of many projects and management practices being funded through this scheme.
Natural England set up the HLS with the Verderers in 2010, on behalf of DEFRA; our role in this process being to set out the management requirements that the species and habitats require under SSSI legislation. The Verderers have signed up to carrying out this management, receiving HLS funds to do this.
The implementation of this management is carried out by the Verderers. Sometimes contractors are used to carry out works (the FC have been contracted to deliver the wetland restoration works by the Verderers). As with the other thousands of HLS schemes across the country, Natural England acts as an ecological adviser to the agreement holder when required, to enable the outcomes of the scheme.
Some projects have required Planning Permission and thus have been submitted to the New Forest National Park Authority which is responsible for taking these projects through the planning process.
We are seeing the benefits of previous restoration works in the form of enhanced wetland habitats, increased flood alleviation and grazing palatability and reduced erosion and loss of land. We look forward to supporting the partners and landowners within the New Forest to continue restoration of the site towards a healthy, functioning ecosystem that future generations can enjoy.
3. Forestry Commission
Bruce Rothnie, Deputy Surveyor, Forestry Commission kindly prepared the following material:
Wetland restoration in the New Forest
The New Forest is one of the UK’s most unique and popular rural landscapes, which is testament to the 13.5 million visitors it attracts each year. For many visitors, this picturesque landscape is a refuge from the pace of modern life and provides a tranquil backdrop to relax, recharge and admire its varied landscapes and wildlife.
As one of the most beautiful and protected landscapes in Western Europe, we are fortunate to have the New Forest on our doorstep and it has a long history of management. Its wealth of habitats and species cannot be found on this scale anywhere else in the UK and the land is managed by more than 160 landowners. The Forestry Commission is responsible for the largest area, known as the Crown Lands. All these landowners are morally and legally responsible to maintain and protect these unique features.
Natural England is in charge of monitoring the condition of the designated features and advises landowners, such as the Forestry Commission, on the work needed to maintain and improve the land.
Natural England has deemed some of the Forest’s wetland as being in ‘unfavourable' condition because of the historical drainage and straightening of the stream channels. This occurred most extensively 50-70 years ago when the natural processes were less well understood. The sites were drained as it was believed that it would improve the grazing for commoning stock and extend the area where trees could grow inside the Inclosures.
It is clear today that this action has disturbed a natural balance with the floodplain and consequently affected the wetland ecology – and this is the reason why we need to address this issue and protect the Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for future generations.
Restoration work: A history
The key restoration work is to infill sections of the straightened watercourses and re-direct the natural water flows back into the original meandering stream channels. This will help ensure that the levels in the restored stream beds are shallow enough to prevent further erosion of permanently waterlogged soils or ‘valley mires’, whilst increasing in-stream habitat diversity.
The Forestry Commission undertook its first restoration work on wetland habitats in 2001 and included consultations with government agencies, scientific advisors and the commoning community to agree restoration techniques and to implement this on a range of sites. This included Markway Stream, Holly Hatch Bottom, Stony Moors Mire, Allum Green Lawn and Holmsley Inclosure. In 2006, a further 10-year wetland management plan was prepared to build on the experience of those early sites and since then, a rolling programme of restoration work has been carried out to the present day. However, more work is needed across the Forest to restore the wetland habitat.
During restoration, the work can appear to be intrusive with huge machinery and large quantities of materials brought in to infill old water channels. This decision is not taken lightly, as the planning of these works is meticulous and can take up to two years to complete. The existing wildlife and archaeological interests on the site are also assessed and the routes of historical channels are investigated by specialist teams, such as hydrologists, ecologists and archaeologists. Our detailed restoration plans are created in consultation with key interest groups, and are timed to minimise the impact and disturbance to wildlife.
By making these changes we can re-establish the natural systems which will then sustain the habitats in the longer term, prevent further damage and create a more robust landscape.
Latchmore Brook is one of the UK’s most important sites for wildlife and is widely recognised as being exceptionally important for nature conservation throughout Europe. However, the artificial deepening and widening in the mid-19th century and early 20th century has disturbed the natural ecology.
We can help to address this by restoring its natural course. Natural systems do not recover overnight but the Forest is robust and stabilises quickly once restoration work has been completed.
An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the Latchmore wetland restoration is currently being finalised by independent environmental planning consultants LUC, which will be submitted to the New Forest National Park Authority as part of the planning application later this year.
A great deal of planning and research goes into our proposals to reduce adverse impact to the Forest and residents, so we work very closely with key stakeholders and consultants to assess the impact of our proposals. This includes Natural England, New Forest National Park Authority (NPA), Commoners Defence Association, New Forest Access Forum, New Forest Association, Verderers and Agisters.
We are hosting a public exhibition on Tuesday 6 October between 4pm to 8.30pm at Hyde Church Community Centre, near Fordingbridge, SP6 2QJ. This will provide local people with the chance to see the latest proposals, meet our team and provide feedback on the plans to restore Latchmore Brook.
Some of the New Forest restoration projects, such as Latchmore Brook, are located close to residential areas and so we understand that the local communities may want to know more about the restoration work we are proposing to carry out. We hope by explaining the work and providing examples of other completed sites, we can explain the benefits and show how this vital work will protect our wetlands for generations to come.