Reduce the impact of vehicle use on the Forest environment through coordinated traffic management, and improve travel choice through an affordable, integrated and sustainable transport network
The increased use of the private car as the dominant means of travel, particularly over the past ten years, has had major implications for the environment of the New Forest. An estimated 96% of all recreational visits are currently made by car (New Forest Sport and Recreation Study, 1996), and cars are used for 84% of local journeys over one mile. There is every indication that the rate of growth of car use is still rising and will continue to do so without firm traffic management policies, a change in cultural attitiudes and new measures to provide efficient and comfortable alternative means of travel. The rate of traffic growth for the New Forest Heritage Area, if no measures are taken, is forecast to be 11% by 2020, based on 1999 figures of an estimated 602,000 vehicle kilometres travelled in the area on an average week day.
There is no doubt that local communities view the effects of traffic on the environment as one of the central issues in the Forest which needs to be addressed urgently. Increasing levels of traffic are not sustainable, and have a severe impact on both the quality of life of local people and (through air, noise, light and visual pollution) on the special qualities of the Forest itself. Traffic congestion and pedestrian safety are issues in a number of villages, such as Lyndhurst and Burley, and the almost constant vehicle movement on many roads undermines the tranquillity of the remoter parts of the Forest.
Looking at wider environmental issues, central Government now accepts that increasing levels of private car use is having serious effects on nonrenewable energy supplies, air quality and climate change. Traffic congestion also has a considerable impact on the economy. Government guidance has made clear the need to address transport issues, particularly through the development of more sustainable and integrated transport systems and a close link between land use planning and transport planning. It will be essential to influence national and regional strategies (and specific proposals) where they affect the Forest.
The New Forest Transport Strategy produced in 1998 by Hampshire County Council, provides a basis for coordinated traffic management and public transport provision in the New Forest Heritage Area. The document is currently being revised and will include the coastal towns of Lymington and New Milton. It is also important that it takes into account the wider boundary likely to be included within the possible National Park and promotes integrated transport policies over the whole of the Forest area. The Transport Strategy sets out objectives and actions over a ten year period, funded through the Hampshire Local Transport Plan. To a large extent these coincide with the broader framework provided by this document. Some notable successes have already been achieved, particularly with regard to traffic calming, lorry restrictions, community transport initiatives and pedestrian
Nevertheless it will require careful planning, substantial financial investment and a high level of political will to engage the public in changing their travel habits, and put into practice the traffic management measures and real public transport alternatives needed in the Forest.