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Money for hire bike scheme to be used for resurfacing, and facilities outside park

Local cyclists have slammed the New Forest National Park Authority's (NFNPA) proposals to redirect some of a £3.57 million grant for cycling facilities into road maintenance and funding facilities outside the park. The Department for Transport money was intended to support the first rural Boris Bike-style hire scheme and a family cycling centre, but NFNPA now plans to spend it on resurfacing roads and other projects with only the most tenuous connection to cycling in the New Forest.

The proposals, dubbed 'Plan B' by local riders, have been hastily drawn up by the NFNPA after it voted to axe the original scheme because of local opposition.

Resurfacing

The largest proposed expenditure will go on repairing the edges of a six-mile section of road in the forest, Rhinefield Drive. The NFNPA says it will spend £1,275,000 to "‘cycle proof’ an important on-road route through the centre of the National Park. Upgrade road edges on both sides (without road widening), creating a consistent, high quality surface for cyclists to access this key scenic route through the heart of the National Park."

Critics of the plan say this is using cycling funding to repair a road damaged by motor vehicles.

New Forest Cyclist, a local cyclist and prolific tweeter who founded a petition to save the hire bike scheme, says: "I cycle this road regularly, and this proposal is not needed or wanted by cyclists. It will only benefit drivers, who will be able drive faster on this road once it has been improved or widened, and it will not increase cycle trips, so it simply doesn't deliver the DfT's stipulated outcomes."

He points out that the DfT's grant is intended to be used for capital projects while this is road maintenance, and he casts doubt on the NFNPA's claim that the repairs will not widen Rhinefield Drive. "Road widening by stealth" is a big issue in the forest, he says. "The damage caused to this road has been done solely by motorists, why should cycling funding be used in this way?"

The NFNPA also plans to spend money on two other projects that are arguably resurfacing and maintenance work, rather than meeting the DfT requirement for ideas that demonstrate a "high quality of scheme design and innovation".

Replacing gravel with, er, gravel

The national park will spend £140,000 resurfacing 16 miles of Forestry Commission gravel roads, replacing the current loose gravel with "a more compacted path gravel surface".

"This will not lead to an increase in cycle trips, or an increase in number of cyclists," says New Forest Cyclist. "The gravel track network is currently very disjointed and of negligible benefit to cyclists."

Another maintenance project that has been rolled into the plan is the resurfacing of the A35 Lyndhurst to Ashurst cycleway. The £700,000 track was opened six years ago and the authority now plans to spend £130,000 "upgrading" its surface.

The NFNPA says DfT approval has already been granted for this expenditure, which is curious as it's hard to see how this amounts to capital expenditure and not maintenance. It's also not clear if the necessary permission has been obtained from Natural England and the often vociferously anti-cycling New Forest Verderers.

New Forest Cyclist describes using this path as "terrifying" as the narrow grass strip between the path and the A35 puts cyclists "inches away from HGV's travelling at 60mph in the opposite direction". It also appears to be substantially narrower than the DfT's recommendation of 2.7m for a bidirectional path.

Extra-park activities

Most bizarrely, the NFNPA proposes to spend £300,000 on a project outside the boundary of the national park.

A few miles west of the New Forest, Moors Valley Country Park and Forest is an adventure park with a narrow gauge railway, golf course and Go Ape activities including zip-wires and Segway rides. Moors Valley doesn't charge entry, but four hours' parking costs £7.80 in the summer peak.

NFNPA intends to give £300,000 of the DfT's money to Moors Valley to develop its Family Cycling Centre. The authority says this "would provide higher quality experiences for a wide range of cyclists. Moors Valley intend to upgrade and expand their on-site cycle centre; improve their range of specialised routes for mountain bikers of all abilities; expand their inclusive cycling offer; and increase cycling education/taster opportunities for children and novices.

"While this is not within the National Park it is immediately adjacent and has good cycling and public transport links."

New Forest Cyclist disagrees. He says: "Moors Valley plays a role in keeping cyclists out of the National Park, but the DfT guidance's for this grant was all about increasing cycling within the park."

He also questions whether Moors Valley even needs the money. "Moors Valley is a commercially viable visitor attraction, operated by East Dorset Council and the Forestry Commission, funded almost entirely through car parking charges," he says.

He also questions the NFNPA's mention of Moors Valley's "links". "Nearly 100% of visitors drive there," he says. "It has no cycling links to the New Forest whatsoever."

Unlike the original plan for a hire bike system and the Brockenhurst Family Cycling Centre, the NFNPA's 'Plan B' proposals have not been subjected to any public consultation, and even a cursory glance at the proposal for those schemes and NFNPA's Plan B shows the latter to be half-baked at best.

New Forest Cyclist tweeted this morning that he had just attended a NFNPA meeting to discuss Plan B. There were, he says "constant member referrals to their parish/district/county council roles."

This failure of NFNPA members to understand their role is to manage a national asset and not pander to the objections of a small number of vociferous locals seems to be at the heart of the New Forest National Park's issues with cyclists.

New Forest Cyclist says: "As a local cyclist I'm quite simply sick to my stomach that a clearly 'anti cycling' local authority is now seeking to spend valuable cycling funding on schemes that will either only benefit motorists via resurfacing or will actually remove cyclists from the New Forest."

Plan B now awaits approval from the Department for Transport.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

38 comments

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Simmo72 [645 posts] 2 years ago
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Money to be used to fund clearing up tacks and nails distributed by local inbreds and hunter wearing 4x4 tosspots from the city.

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brooksby [2230 posts] 2 years ago
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Quote:

Critics of the plan say this is using cycling funding to repair a road damaged by motor vehicles.

Exactly. If the authority had any integrity then they would hand this money back and make an application for some new cycling infrastructure or projects (ones which wouldn't attract the ire of the New Forest NIMBYs). Or, someone else could use that money for their own cycling projects. General road maintenance is not cycling specific and is not an appropriate use of cycle fund money.

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deblemund [263 posts] 2 years ago
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In 2 minds about this.. motorists have damaged the roads but wouldn't most cyclists prefer to ride on roads that have been repaired? I do get the point, though, that this should come out of general road budget and that this is surely a misuse of the funds, which should either be spent "on cycling" or handed back.

What's the deal with the gravel roads - are they for horses and bikes, or are cars allowed on them? More compacted gravel means a fast surface for cars but still impassable for any road biker who doesn't want to spend all day falling off and mending punctures.

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bikebot [2120 posts] 2 years ago
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After a quick look through some other coverage of this story, it looks as though they do still need to convince the DfT that this expenditure is appropriate.

This is the sort of story that is so ridiculous, that it might even generate quite a backlash against the NFNPA. The only thing the Daily Mail readers of this world hate more than cyclists and immigrants, is quangos misusing taxpayers money!

Oh, and nice picture!

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Bez [608 posts] 2 years ago
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It's not even simply the fact that heavier traffic caused the damage that's the issue.

The Ornamental Drive is a single-lane stretch of tarmac bordered by concrete hatchings that are a kind of "feathered" edge to the road: they're not smooth, but they do support a vehicle's weight without damaging the sides of the main surface. They allow vehicles to pass without excessive erosion.

The Ornamental Drive is relatively appealing on a bike for one crucial reason: it's not very appealing in a car. (Like many of the minor roads near Lyndhurst, its main appeal is as a rat-run in the summer, when Lyndhurst grows several miles of traffic jams from each of its tentacles.) The stretch to the north of the A35 in particular requires drivers to be relatively cautious, and it's these feathered edges and (in places) imperfect road surface that contribute to this - as well as the bends and gradients in the route. (Please note: the OD's surface is still quite superior to many much busier roads I can think of.)

To widen and resurface this road would gain cyclists no benefit. It would, however, make the route more appealing to drivers. Thus it will be busier, and cycling will be both less appealing and more dangerous.

I'll also point out a glaring piece of hypocrisy behind this hijacking of the funds: most of the Forest's cycle network is gravel. Indeed, much of the low-cost work in Plan B is - as noted - just different gravel. There is an implicit but clear expectation that cyclists using the network will be willing to ride on bumpy, loose and rough surfaces. The surface of Ornamental Drive is, in this context, currently of a standard way above nearly all of the network.

It's hard to see the suggestion that resurfacing is of benefit to cyclists as anything short of shameless deceit. It seems patently clear that it will benefit motorists, which will have a detrimental effect on cyclists; all sold under a thin veil of reasoning which does not bear even basic scrutiny until the rest of the network is tarmacked.

To plunder nearly two thirds of the funding for this purpose, even before considering the rest, seems to be little short of brazen hijacking.

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Labrat [2 posts] 2 years ago
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There were "constant member referrals to their parish/district/county council roles."

Wonder what the government guidelines say about that?

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil...

168. 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

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usedtobefaster [197 posts] 2 years ago
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From the NFNPA website;

"What is the National Park Authority?

The National Park Authority is the body that makes key decisions about the delivery of National Park purposes. The decisions are made by 22 members, 12 of whom are elected to local authorities in the National Park, four elected by parish councils and appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and six appointed by the Secretary of State to represent national views. The Authority employs 70 staff."

16 of the 22 NPA members are elected to the membership by parish and local councils, is it any wonder that there bias is on supporting schemes that they're electorate would be in favour of, rather than considering the requirements and desires of the wider community.

Like the majority of politicians they will act in a way that get's them re-elected to the same gravy train.

Re-surfacing and widening of Ornamental Drive;

Firstly the surface isn't that bad compared to other roads in the area, and widening it will only make it more dangerous to cycle as it will encourage increased vehicle speed and poor overtaking behaviour - there are small stretches now where drivers have to wait behind single cyclists due to the width which is the safest policy.

The majority of traffic is using this road as a rat run between Brockenhurst and the west side of Lyndhurst, particularly in the summer months when, as Bez poetically explained above, Lyndhursts tentacles of traffic queue extend out in all directions from the town. When a road becomes a rat run all drivers are interested in is getting to the end of it as quickly as they can otherwise there's no point in using them, and this in turn has safety implications for more vulnerable road users.

The other main use of OD is to reach the 4 star Tudor age hotel, and this presents a lovely hazard in itself as vehicles entering the grounds from the A35 direction simply drive straight across the corner cutting across on coming traffic. So if these vehicles can travel quicker due to road improvements .....

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gforce [57 posts] 2 years ago
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Surely, if cycling money is being used for the roads, we can boot the cars off our 'cycle lanes', that they haven't paid for!

As is says in the article, Moors Valley is a commercial venture, including the cycling centre - it shouldn't be subsidised by funds for the New Forest.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1582 posts] 2 years ago
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Does this mean this sum will get added into the total the next time some minister wants to boast (or complain) about how much is being spent on cycling?

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cidermart [498 posts] 2 years ago
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Good to see you used a picture of "Cycling ponies". Just look at them taking over the village green and that one standing looks like it's about to leave something nasty  3

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Some Fella [890 posts] 2 years ago
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My local council is very keen to patronisingly point out the difference between 'capital' and 'revenue' expenditure when i moan about them wasting money on capital projects whilst cutting services and staff
In this case it seems NFNPA are as confused as i am about the difference - spending capital funding on what would seem revenue expenditure.
These people of flipping hypocrites as well as clearly being flipping idiots.

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Brigader [5 posts] 2 years ago
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so they got the money under false pretences under the cycling banner then?,is that legal?.

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Brigader [5 posts] 2 years ago
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so they got the money under false pretences under the cycling banner then?,is that legal?.

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HalfWheeler [596 posts] 2 years ago
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deblemund wrote:

In 2 minds about this.. motorists have damaged the roads but wouldn't most cyclists prefer to ride on roads that have been repaired?

Was thinking that too but it's good money thrown after bad. It wouldn't take long for the roads to deteriorate again and all that money that was intended for new capital projects for cycling would have been pissed up a wall.

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martib [78 posts] 2 years ago
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Clearly an abuse of the system to use money put aside for a Cycle Scheme to improve roads that they are trying to stop cyclists using. The words immoral & corrupt come to mind and a public enquiry should be held, the members of the NFNPA are not fit to hold office.

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Northernbike [229 posts] 2 years ago
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it would seem that the Dft's aims behind this funding;

''It is the intention that schemes should:
encourage and enable recreational visits to, from and around National Parks by cycle;
 encourage and enable people living and/or working in and around National Parks to travel for day-to-day journeys by cycle''

are somewhat at odds with what by all accounts seems to be the aim of the new forest national park which is to do everything it can to discourage cycling in its area of jurisdiction

Dft maybe needs to ask some questions here around whether the park authority ever had any intention of using this funding for the purpose it was offered

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herohirst [75 posts] 2 years ago
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Serious Question:
Can anyone explain exactly WHY so many people who live in the New Forest seem so aggressively (and disproportionately) opposed to an idea as simple as encouraging people to get around by bike?

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Bez [608 posts] 2 years ago
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Northernbike wrote:

''It is the intention that schemes should:
encourage and enable recreational visits to, from and around National Parks by cycle;
 encourage and enable people living and/or working in and around National Parks to travel for day-to-day journeys by cycle''

Of course, the road resurfacing fits neither of those criteria. It will not attract any more recreational visits (it's a tarmac road, and will be a tarmac road - who inspects the local road surface before deciding where to go on holiday?); nor will it encourage more utility journeys - both for the above reason of it simply continuing to be a tarmac road (indeed, after resurfacing, a rather more heavily-trafficked one) but also because the Ornamental Drive simply doesn't go anywhere useful. Maybe there might be someone who lives in Brock and works at Bolderwood, I dunno. £1.2m seems a bit like pushing the boat out for that guy, though.

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Mart0023 [24 posts] 2 years ago
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We can't let them waste this money.

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levermonkey [681 posts] 2 years ago
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Cycling budget hijacked by authority. Sound familiar?  39

Bedford's Turbogate anyone?

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David JB [1 post] 2 years ago
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The proposals of the NFNPA are disgusting!
Personally, however, I'm not convinced by the original "Boris Bike" scheme either. Surely the private sector can provide bike rental, if there's the demand for it.
My belief is that any money available to improve cycling in The Forest should in the first instance, go to improve it for the many, many of us who already live and cycle here. The first things I'd like to see would be proper improvements to the routes between settlements, and good secure bike parking in the hearts of these settlements. Those of us who are not only recreational cyclists, but wish to reduce the amount of car journeys we make, need to be able to ride between the towns and villages, legally and safely, without the sort of detours that this would currently entail. Sadly, many of the Forest tracks are reserved for walkers and horse riders - sorry, but how many of these are making journeys related to their work I wonder.
The very first thing I'd like to see would be a road bike usable link across the A31 at Stoney Cross. The existing underpass is only accessible by MTB. A good link here would open the Forest up to the North-West. Just one personal idea.
Secure bike stands, in good visible positions, at the heart of the towns and villages would also help to encourage all forms of cycling.
As a society, we need to reduce the dependence on "cars" to reduce vehicle congestion, and to increase general levels of exercise.
What a criminal shame that the NFNPA don't represent the huge number of local cyclists. At the next local elections, we must start asking the right questions.... Remember, in a Democracy the people get the rulers they deserve. Lets all try harder.http://road.cc/sites/all/modules/smileys/packs/Yahoo!/frustrated.gif

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KiwiMike [1286 posts] 2 years ago
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This money could be spent sorting out the huge mess that is the 'missing mile' in the middle of the Burley-Brockenhurst rail trail. Currently families are dumped onto a mile of the worst-possible forest rat-run road, acknowledged by HCC as the most-sped-on in the forest. Sort that out first, as thousands use it every weekend in the summer.

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usedtobefaster [197 posts] 2 years ago
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herohirst wrote:

Serious Question:
Can anyone explain exactly WHY so many people who live in the New Forest seem so aggressively (and disproportionately) opposed to an idea as simple as encouraging people to get around by bike?

1) It's not most people but a very vocal small population of local officials in positions of responsibility and power who don't want the status quo changed. Unfortunately these peoples views are spilling over into the wider community of Daily Mail and Telegraph reading types how prefer to be told how to think rather than making up their own minds, creating a bigger problem. Oh and the local "Big news - cat gets stuck in tree" press likes to jump in and stir the situation also.

2) The current dislike of cyclists is primarily due to the increase in the frequency and size of sportives being held on New Forest roads and the anecdotal negative impact these events have on certain places in the Forest such as Brockenhurst.

Riding round the Forest you can pretty much guaranteed to be honked, shouted out, sworn at, or driven off the road at least once on a ride.

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climber [80 posts] 2 years ago
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usedtobefaster wrote:

Riding round the Forest you can pretty much guaranteed to be honked, shouted out, sworn at, or driven off the road at least once on a ride.

Time for a few mass rides then.

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DrJDog [407 posts] 2 years ago
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Are those horses in the photo dead?

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Leviathan [2551 posts] 2 years ago
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DrJDog wrote:

Are those horses in the photo dead?

No it is John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, they saw a cyclist and took a dive.

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martib [78 posts] 2 years ago
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DrJDog wrote:

Are those horses in the photo dead?

Probably knocked over by a cyclist, if you listen to the locals!

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gazza_d [469 posts] 2 years ago
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Absolutely shocking, total waste of money if they do spend it on repairing crumbling road edges.

How this encourages cycling beggars belief, as all official advice tells cyclists NOT to be gutter bunnies, but of course this is about the tiny parochial minds of tinpot politicians driving 4x4s the size of delivery vans.

Being perfectly honest, I'm not convinced by bike hire UNLESS there was a concerted effort to reduce cars off the forest roads, and to make cycling the default.

£3.5M could buy a lot of links and joining up of existing paths, trails and ways as well as closing down smaller roads to cars completely, and prioritising crossing points in favour of cyclists. All of which would go to making a coherent and subjectively safe cycling experience within the forest.

If that did happen then the existing bike hire and tourist companies could launch bike hire themselves, perhaps under a forest wide "brand".

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JeevesBath [183 posts] 2 years ago
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deblemund wrote:

What's the deal with the gravel roads - are they for horses and bikes, or are cars allowed on them? More compacted gravel means a fast surface for cars but still impassable for any road biker who doesn't want to spend all day falling off and mending punctures.

Obviously a cunning marketing plan by all the bicycle manufacturers that have recently launched their 'gravel grinders'  21

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Bez [608 posts] 2 years ago
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KiwiMike wrote:

This money could be spent sorting out the huge mess that is the 'missing mile' in the middle of the Burley-Brockenhurst rail trail. Currently families are dumped onto a mile of the worst-possible forest rat-run road, acknowledged by HCC as the most-sped-on in the forest. Sort that out first, as thousands use it every weekend in the summer.

**HAMMERS ON "LIKE" BUTTON UNTIL COMPUTER CATCHES FIRE**

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