THE organisation that runs the New Forest National Park has dumped its chairman amid continuing controversy over mass cycling events.

Retired company director Julian Johnson, 82, was ousted at the annual meeting of the National Park Authority (NPA) yesterday after four years in the role.

Cllr Johnson was nominated as chairman for 2014-2015 but attracted only a handful of votes.

He was replaced by his deputy, former Official Verderer Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, who won the ballot by an overwhelming majority.

Mr Crosthwaite Eyre, a former barrister, said: “I was not going to put my name forward unless there was a vacancy, but it appears I have the support of the majority of members and I accept the post.”

After the meeting members cited the need to tackle the problems being caused by huge cycling events in the area.

They pointed out that Cllr Johnson lived in Wiltshire, whereas Mr Crosthwaite Eyre resided in the Forest.

Cllr Maureen Holding said: “It needs someone who lives in the Forest and understands all the problems that cycling has brought.”

Fellow NPA member Cllr David Harrison added: “Julian has displayed a pretty high degree of enthusiasm and competence.

“But Oliver is well-known in the Forest as an extremely competent and dynamic person and his links with the Verderers will probably help the NPA achieve its objectives.”

Cllr Johnson, a member of Wiltshire Council, is one of 11 local authority appointees to the 22-member NPA.

Last night he said: “Losing the chairmanship came as a bit of a surprise.

“During my four years I feel the authority has progressed a lot.”

He added: “I think I probably understand the issue as well as Oliver. There’s no lack of awareness on my part.”

Cllr Johnson congratulated his successor, saying he would make an excellent chairman.