ONE OF Britain's biggest campsite operators has rejected calls to reopen ten facilities across the New Forest.

Forestry England volunteered to defer the rent it charges Camping in the Forest (CITF) after the organisation announced that Hollands Wood and other sites would remain closed until next summer.

But despite the offer CITF has decided to keep the facilities shut in a move described as "inexcusable" by a New Forest MP.

As reported in the Daily Echo, the district council has warned that the continued closure of the 3,000 pitches could cost the local economy at least £16m.

In a statement CITF confirmed that all its sites across the country would not reopen this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Daily Echo:

It said the "unique challenges" posed by the facilities meant it would be unable to meet high hygiene standards and comply with government guidance on social distancing.

"We do not believe it is viable for CITF to operate any of its sites for what remains of the 2020 season, even if new financial support was to arrive."

The statement said CITF would have to rely on the trade generated by customers "over a very short period of time".

It added that the extra costs involved in operating the sites safely, in line with government guidelines and with reduced occupancy levels, meant the financial risk to the organisation would be "significant".

"This would have a big impact on the ability of Camping in the Forest to operate successfully next year and beyond," it said.

Daily Echo:

But Sir Desmond Swayne, Tory MP for New Forest West, said: "A number of wardens have contacted me to say they are quite capable of making necessary arrangements.

"Their (CITF) position is absurd and the damage they are doing to local traders and the Forest is inexcusable."

CITF was responding to a statement issued by Forestry England, formerly the Forestry Commission.

It said: "We’ve asked Camping in the Forest to reconsider their decision and offered them financial support by deferring their rent for sites in England.

"Forestry England is aware of the concerns raised by politicians and others about Camping in the Forest closing sites, including those in the New Forest. We share those concerns and are acutely aware of the potential impacts of the continued closure.”

Last week Sir Desmond said the "rough end of a pineapple” should be used to encourage officials to reopen the facilities.