A campsite operator in the New Forest has been offered a rent referral in a bid to get its sites reopened.

However, Camping in the Forest, which runs ten sites in the New Forest, has confirmed its 15 sites will remain closed for the remainder of the 2020 season as it believes it would not be "viable".

A spokesperson for Forestry England said: “The decision not to open this year was taken by Camping in the Forest in late June.

"We’ve asked Camping in the Forest to reconsider their decision and offered them financial support by deferring their rent for sites in England and that offer still stands. However, the ultimate decision to remain closed still rests with Camping in the Forest.

"Camping in the Forest is an independent campsite operator in Great Britain. The Forestry Commission is represented on the board, but it is majority owned by the Camping and Caravanning Club who have overall control.

"Forestry England is aware of the concerns raised by politicians and others about Camping in the Forest closing sites, including those in the New Forest. We share those concerns and are acutely aware of the potential impacts of the continued closure.”

Last week, Conservative politician and New Forest West representative Sir Desmond Swayne bemoaned Camping in the Forest’s (CITF) decision to keep its sites closed for the rest of 2020, including 10 in the New Forest.

Speaking in the Commons, Sir Desmond told Chancellor Rishi Sunak: “It would be a great shame if the effectiveness of his measures were to be undermined in the New Forest with the loss of £16 million at least to local traders by the company to whom the Forestry Commission handed a monopoly refusing to open its camp sites.

“Will he summon Forestry England and threaten them with the rough end of a pineapple and instruct them to use their position on the board and their substantial shareholding to get those campsites open?”

A statement from Camping in the Forest said: "It is with disappointment that Camping in The Forest has confirmed that its 15 campsites will remain closed for the remainder of the 2020 season.

"It has been an extremely difficult decision to make and followed a careful review that considered many different factors but concluded that it is not viable to re-open the campsites from a safety, operational and financial perspective for the remainder of this year. We fully understand the disappointment this will cause campers, staff and our partnering businesses within the local area of the campsites.

"Safety and wellbeing will always be our primary concern and from an operational position, Camping in the Forest sites pose unique challenges in the current circumstances, which has meant we would be unable to meet our high hygiene standards and adhere to government guidance on social distancing and gatherings, together with new measures for the running of campsites.

"We do not believe it is viable for CITF to operate any of its sites for what remains of the 2020 season, even if new financial support was now to arrive, as we’d be reliant on a large volume of customers over a very short period of time. The additional costs that would be incurred in order to operate the sites safely, in line with government guidelines, and the necessary reduced occupancy levels means that the financial risk to the organisation is significant. This would have a big impact on the ability of Camping in the Forest to operate successfully next year and beyond and have a longer-term impact on holidaymaker experiences.”

This story first appeared in the Salisbury Journal.

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