Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Lone New Forest councillor hits out at authority's "dubious" cycling schemes

David Harrison says he's unhappy about lack of consultation, resurfacing and outside park ideas...

The New Forest National Park Association (NFNPA) yesterday voted to submit to the Department for Transport (DfT) a set of proposals for ways it should be allowed to spend some of the £3.7 million it has been granted for cycling. It turns out only one member of the committee had doubts about the idea, Councillor David Harrison.

A Liberal Democrat, Harrison represents Totton South and Marchwood on Hampshire County Council. On his Facebook page, Harrison gives a fascinating insight into the workings of the national park's governing cabal as it decided how to spend money originally awarded by the DfT for a hire bike system and a family cycling hub.

Harrison writes: "Not for the first time, I found myself a lone voice on the New Forest National Park Authority."

The issue he says he couldn't get his colleagues to understand is that a public body like the NFNPA has a responsibility to ensure it follows due process before spending government money - and that means public consultation.

"A publicly funded body (the NPA), spending public money (£2 million of government cash), should follow proper procedure and tell the public what it proposes to do and invite them to comment and raise any concerns," he writes.

Harrison describes the creation of the plans to spend some of the DfT grant as "a very mad rush to put together a varied collection of other schemes, aimed at ensuring the money is spent in this part of the country before the deadline expires".

According to Harrison, the vote to approve the expenditure - dubbed Plan B by local riders - was not on the meeting's agenda, but was covered by "Any other items that the Chairman decides are urgent". The proposals had only just been posted on the NFNPA website, so neither committee members nor the public had a shance to study them.

Harrison writes: "Members dismissed my concerns, saying that local people knew all about them and were supportive. When it was put to a vote, I was the only one against."

While he approves of some of the ideas in Plan B, Harrison says he thinks others have "rather dubious merit". He singled out the two most controversial aspects for criticism.

"The proposed Rhinefield scheme looks very much like resurfacing the road, saving Hampshire County Council the expense, rather than a transformation towards family friendly cycling, especially since I now understand there will be no road widening permitted.

Similarly, whilst it would be nice to see investment in Moors Valley country park to improve facilities for cycling, it isn't within the boundaries of the park and doesn't improve access to it (in the same way as the Totton to Marchwood link does). I would argue that it benefits the New Forest by encouraging cyclists away from the more sensitive areas of the New Forest, but this isn't why I understand the money was allocated to us and others may have better ideas for other schemes that promote family friendly cycling in the New Forest proper."

One point Harrison doesn't mention making to his colleagues, but perhaps he should have is that DEFRA guidelines for the conduct of members of national park governing bodies says:

All Authority members, no matter how they are appointed, have a primary responsibility to seek to ensure that the Authority furthers the statutory Park purposes … They should regard themselves first and foremost as members of the Authority, with a duty to act in the best interests of the Authority and of the Park, rather than as representatives of any interest group.

NFNPA officers now have to meet with DfT officials and persuade them that instead of a very specific cycling scheme in the New Forest, it should be allowed to spend money resurfacing roads and encouraging people ro ride outside the park. 

Harrison adds: "I wish them luck."

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

Add new comment


brooksby | 9 years ago

The story that just won't die - ...


More than £84,000 was spent on a New Forest cycling scheme that was rejected by the national park authority.

In total, £615,000 of £3.6m given to the authority by the Department for Transport has already been spent, a Freedom of Information request showed.

The plan was rejected in August over "anti-cycling sentiment", the authority said.

Money was spent on a desk-based study, design, procurement and legal support for the so-called Boris bike scheme.

In the Task and Finish Group report, from the 19 August meeting where the decision was made, out of 139 responses from the public consultation 50 people who live in the forest supported the bike hire scheme, compared with 35 people who did not.

PonteD | 9 years ago

Get rid of Clegg and make this David Harrison the next LibDem leader. At last, a 'politician' with morals!

KiwiMike | 9 years ago

Here's the info from @forestcyclist on the campaign:


Despite my best efforts @newforestnpa now openly back schemes that largely benefit only motorists, and with cycling funding!

The decision to authorise this spending now resides with @transportgovuk Patrick McLoughlin MP, Robert Goodwill MP, & Baroness Kramer

I NEED each & every one of you (& everyone you know) to email them with this link to the news article I did with

Here are their emails:

patrick.mcloughlin [at] [at]
kramers [at]

Please help me guys!

Airzound | 9 years ago

The NFNPA is much like the NRA in the USA.

bikebot | 9 years ago

It looks like New Forest Cyclist (@forestcyclist) will have some action plan tomorrow to lobby the DfT. I would suggest anyone interested in this matter keeps an eye on him and lends any support he needs.

I'm sure will publicise any requests he has as well.

Scrufftie | 9 years ago

Once they've got ride of all the cyclists, they just need to be shot of all those ponies cluttering up the place. Then they could spend the money widening the roads, perhaps putting in a few dual carriageways, and the NF will be a fantastic place to drive through really fast. Isn't that what they really want, rather than all this leisure stuff cluttering up the place?

Simmo72 | 9 years ago

I think they need to focus on getting drivers (locals and visitors) to slow the hell down. Every time I go through the area I seem to see a crash on what is a relatively straight A road. its appalling. On the A35 2 weeks ago I saw 1 crashed motorbike and 1 car driven into a tree within 5 miles, both on straight roads, no other vehicles involved, at least not on the scene.

One also has question the stupidity of the Cameron government allowing lorries to drive at 60 rather than 50mph on single carriageway A roads. Another nail in the coffin for cyclists and other road users.

mrmo | 9 years ago

Does sound like the royal we as far as many of those councillors are concerned and abuse of public office sounds a reasonable statement.

Mentioned elsewhere I am aware of roads that have been resurfaced where councillors or certain people live, yes they needed it, but not as much as many other roads that have not been done. Proving corruption is far harder than seeing things that are questionable.

Latest Comments