New Forest Habitats Regulation Assessment

Habitats Regulation Assessment

Updated 1st May 2024

By law, any event or group activity planned to take place on the Forest requires formal permission from Forestry England, as the landowner, before taking place. We are legally required to assess each activity using a Habitats Regulation Assessment (HRA) to ensure that it will not cause any significant harm or impact on protected habitats and wildlife.

The framework for the HRA has been agreed with Natural England, the Government body responsible for checking compliance with law in this area. The assessment criteria has recently been strengthened to reflect increased protection of critical wildlife and landscapes.

It is our aim to find a way to meet the legal requirements to protect the New Forest’s critically important habitats and species while at the same time supporting the health and well-being benefits that organised recreational activities can provide to people.

If the HRA requirements cannot be met or sufficiently mitigated against then it will not be possible to permit the event or activity.

Assessment criteria

Applications are assessed against a number of key criteria, including:

  • ecology and wildlife – avoiding disturbance of sensitive locations and protected habitats.
  • working forest – avoiding areas where forestry operations are taking place to ensure public safety.
  • livestock – the New Forest has free roaming livestock, owned by commoners, grazing on it. This means consideration will be given to activities supporting the welfare of the animals.
  • peak pressure – being a popular destination, consideration must be given to avoiding congestion at peak periods and limiting any potential damage to the landscape.
  • other planned events – with around 1,200 permitted events and activities taking place each year, we work hard to avoid these clashing and competing for limited parking spaces and facilities.