GUARDIANS of the New Forest are calling for campsites across the district to be moved to less sensitive locations.

The Verderers are alarmed at the "worsening" conflict between campers and animals owned by commoners - villagers with the right to let their ponies and cattle roam the area.

The Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest - SSSI.

Problems linked to nine campsites run by the Camping in the Forest (CITF) were raised at a monthly meeting of the Court of Verderers.

A report of the meeting said: "Campsites are incompatible with commoning and the SSSI and it was agreed the time has come for serious consideration to be given to relocating the campsites off the open forest.

"Whilst fencing may help reduce conflicts between animals and camping, it will do nothing to protect the SSSI.

"Forestry England is naturally concerned at any loss of income from the campsites.

"Such income goes towards paying for essential Forest management and its loss would have a significant effect on the works that can be carried out for the benefit of commoning, the SSSI and access by the public.

"Members of the court will consider possible alternative locations for the campsites. A solution is needed."

The report said the Official Verderer, Lord Manners, would seek a meeting with the chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, Gavin Parker.

The debate followed comments made in April by Charlotte Lines, chair of the New Forest Commoners' Defence Association (NFCDA).

She said: "The NFCDA believe we have reached as critical point where an extensive review into the practicality and viability of camping on the New Forest is needed."

Mrs Lines cited the interaction between animals and campers, the impact on grazing and the impact on protected habitats and species.

She also referred to "numerous conflicts" between campers and animals over the years, saying the number and seriousness of the incidents appeared to be increasing.

CITF runs leases Hollands Wood and eight other sites - Setthorns, Roundhill, Holmsley, Long Beech, Matley Wood, Ocknell, Ashurst and Denny Wood.

The Verderers say CITF has vowed to “strengthen” its message to visitors in a bid to minimise the risk of incidents involving livestock.

A spokesperson for Forestry England, which oversees the land on which the campsites are located, says it is "committed to protecting the New Forest”.

It has asked the NFCDA to provide “further evidence” to substantiate its concerns.

In a statement CITF said: "We are a responsible campsite operator and care passionately about the wildlife and the environment that our New Forest campsites are located within.

"Providing campers with regular and clear information about safety matters such as the importance of keeping a safe distance from wildlife and keeping food locked away is communicated through our website, customer booking confirmation and on the campsites themselves through signage and leaflets.

"We also sponsor the animal safety campaign on the New Forest Tour Bus and are a member of the Share Forest Business Group.

"Camping in the Forest has been running ten campsites in the New Forest for more than a decade and during that time our staff have built up considerable experience of managing the sites with safety and environmental considerations at the forefront.

"We understand how important the forest environment is, and the important part everyone can play in its protection.

"We would be happy to meet with representatives from the Commoners' Defence Association and the Verderers to listen to their concerns and collaborate on ways of working together."