Support the role of village and town centres as a focus for the community, serving the needs of both local people and visitors
Village and town centres are the focus of the social and economic life of the rural community. They provide essential services and facilities on which local people rely for health, education, shopping and leisure. I mportantly they also bring the community together, give it an identity and provide many
opportunities for social interaction.
The market towns of Ringwood and Lymington have populations of about 13,600 and 14,500 respectively, while the larger villages of Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Ashurst, Bransgore and Sway vary in size from 2,200 to 4,300 people. Together these settlements house almost 75% of the Forest’s population and are its main centres of employment. They offer a variety of facilities for residents, visitors and the large rural community which they serve, including shops and restaurants, schools, healthcare, libraries, community centres, leisure and tourist attractions. Other villages, such as Beaulieu and Burley, also provide a range of shops, pubs and restaurants catering primarily for visitors. A number of towns just outside the Forest have strong historical connections to it and are important in serving the local area. These include Fordingbridge, Christchurch, Totton, Hythe and New Milton.
The majority of Forest communities are centred on smaller villages. They may have post offices, village shops and local garages and pubs, and most have village halls. Village facilities are extremely important in supplying basic services at a very local level and allowing local people to meet, talk and work together.
Both towns and villages are facing many challenges which threaten their traditional role in the social life and prosperity of the Forest.There has been a decline in services at a local level, while poor public transport in most areas means an increasing reliance on private cars. In the towns there is a lack of inward investment as more money is focused on the major urban centres, and patterns of shopping have changed towards the use of large stores and centres outside the Forest. Many of these problems are due to wider changes in social and economic patterns, but it is essential that solutions are found at a local level which help to maintain the vitality of the Forest.