ANIMAL accidents in the New Forest have jumped by almost 40 per cent - despite the launch of new campaigns that aim to cut the carnage.

A total of 36 animals were killed or injured on Forest roads during the first six months of this year, compared with 26 in the same period last year.

The New Forest Verderers have described the 38 per cent rise as "disappointing".

Last autumn the Verderers and other key organisations in the area launched a campaign aimed at encouraging drivers to slow down, especially at night.

They said a small reduction in motorists' speed would make the roads safer while adding just three minutes to the average journey.

Animal accidents were among the issues raised at the monthly Court of Verderers in Lyndhurst.

Members of the public attending the meeting included Mary Gray, who called for a blanket 30mph speed limit to be imposed on all unfenced roads in the Forest.

She said the 40mph limit introduced in the 1990s had resulted in a sharp fall in the number of animal accidents.

Other campaigners also say the 30mph speed restriction in towns and villages should be extended to include roads between built-up areas.

But Hampshire County Council is said to regard a further reduction as unfeasible and unenforceable.

Explaining the council's stance the Official Verderer, Lord Manners, said: "The would be no clear distinction between the village environment and rural routes.

"Many drivers are unlikely to appreciate the need for the lower limit and therefore compliance levels would be likely to drop, causing an unmanageable enforcement task."

But he added that the council had agreed to study data held by the Verderers to see if a rethink was warranted.

Members of the New Forest Roads Campaign have praised attempts to enforce the 40mph limit.

A spokesman said: "We were invited to observe a police Countrywatch speed operation focusing on the B3078 Roger Penny Way and Turf Hill.

"Six tickets were issued to drivers including a motorcyclist travelling at 51mph and a man from the London area who was doing 52mph.

"The latter had two children in the back of his car and was driving into low sunlight, which would have made it harder to see animals in the road.

"It was good to see the police taking the issue of speeding on the Forest this seriously."


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