A LEADING leisure company has sparked fury by refusing to reopen ten New Forest campsites which provide a total of 3,000 pitches.

There are fears the Forest will be invaded by a huge number of families determined to camp in the area despite the closure of official sites.

Camping in the Forest leases sites from Forestry England, which is urging the company to review its decision to keep them shut until next summer.

Some of the facilities run by other organisations in the area are reopening following a relaxation of the national lockdown.

But the continued closure of Hollands Wood and other major sites has sparked fears that the Forest will be hit by a wave of illegal camping.

Residents claim the area could suffer the sort of chaos seen at Bournemouth last week, when huge numbers of people packed the beaches.

Richard Frampton, of Bransgore, is a former member of New Forest District Council and the New Forest National Park Authority.

He said: "This is going to cause absolute armageddon in the Forest. We're going to have wild camping everywhere. We're going to be getting fires, and we're going to be getting litter.

"We've already seen what Bournemouth beach is like and we've also seen the recent fires in Wareham Forest."

District councillor David Harrison added: "It’s clearly unwise for people to visit the New Forest, expecting to camp, without being able to secure a campsite booking."

In a message to customers Camping in the Forest says: "We are sorry to say our sites will remain closed for the rest of 2020.

"It was clear our forest campsites posed unique challenges, meaning we would be unable to meet our high hygiene standards and adhere to government guidance on new measures around the running of campsites."

But many people have taken to social media to criticise the company, with some claiming the area will be inundated by people "camping anywhere".

One person posted: "At least one of your campsites, Setthorns, has no shared facilities, so where is the concern for hygiene standards there?"

A Forestry England spokesperson added: "Camping in the Forest has advised us of their decision not to open any of the campsites they have across the UK for the rest of the season.

"We hope they might take the time to quickly review and reconsider.

"We continue to work with other forest organisations, landowners and local stakeholders to find additional ways to try to limit the impacts of wild camping and other anti-social use of the Forest."


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