Support sustainable businesses and services which contribute to the Forest’s economic well-being, environmental quality and special character, and use local knowledge, expertise and resources to create more Forest-based work
Over the last twenty years a number of factors have influenced the pattern of employment and the types of work available within the Forest. Although unemployment figures are low compared to regional and national averages, jobs within the Forest are relatively poorly paid and nearly one third are parttime. The tourism and retail industries are the most important employment sectors, followed by professional services and public administration. Key workers in education, health and emergency services also contribute significantly to the overall workforce. The numbers employed in traditional rural industries associated with forestry, farming, commoning and crafts have declined dramatically and currently account for a very small percentage of the workforce.
A high proportion of people living within the Forest commute to more readily available and better paid jobs in the Waterside, Southampton, Dorset, Eastleigh and Test Valley. The main centres for employment within the Forest itself are the towns of Lymington and Ringwood, and Local Plan policies strongly emphasise the need to support the areas of existing employment use in order to safeguard local jobs.
Policies and objectives for economic development are set within the context of Regional Planning Guidance for the South East and South West, and the Regional Economic Strategies of the South East England Development Agency and the South West of England Regional Development Agency.
Although the Forest is attractive to many businesses in terms of its location and quality of environment, the opportunities for development, particularly in the villages and rural areas, are limited precisely by the need to conserve the unique qualities of its landscape and the character of its built environment. Local planning policies therefore require new development for employment uses to be carefully designed and located in order to prevent traffic impacts and minimise adverse effects on the Forest environment.
However, support for sustainable businesses and services, which take pride in being within the Forest, is vital if the Forest is to remain alive and viable economically. A better dialogue and understanding of business needs has developed since the New Forest Business Partnership was formed in 2002. The Partnership represents the interests of some 200 local businesses and works closely with New Forest District Council.