Oliver Cook - Chairman of the New Forest Young Commoners.
A David and Goliath struggle is developing in the ancient New Forest between its Commoners, whose rights date back to the 13th century, and Forestry England.
A public body has been accused of threatening the future of the New Forest by charging 'extortionate' rents to young commoners who help to maintain it.
Forestry England has come under fire for charging full market rents on 65 Crown properties which, for over a century, have been set aside for commoners, the group of people with ancient rights to graze ponies and cattle in the Hampshire national park.
Monthly rents which ranged from £300 to £500 have shot up to between £1,450 and £2,000, making them 'completely unaffordable' for commoners, it is claimed.
As a result, it is feared a 'whole generation' of young commoners will be forced to leave the forest, with 'lasting consequences' for the conservation of the precious landscape.
The rent increases have been imposed despite the government stipulating they could only be set at 15 per cent of a commoners' monthly income in the Illingworth Report (1992), according to the New Forest Commoners Defence Association. « less