TRIBUTES have been paid to one of the key figures in the campaign to secure national park status for the New Forest.

Ted Johnson, who has died aged 85, was a council planning officer who went on to become the first chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA).

Mr Johnson and his wife Mary moved to Pennington in the late 1960s.

He joined the planning department at the New Forest Rural District and was appointed director of planning at New Forest District Council after the authority was created in 1974.

Less than 20 years later he was instrumental in the creation of the New Forest Heritage Area.

During decades of public service Mr Johnson was also president of the New Forest group of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and chairman of the New Forest Committee, which gathered views and opinions on the Forest's future

The area finally became a national park in March 2005, with the Lymington-based NPA taking on its full role just over a year later.

Mr Johnson was awarded an OBE in the 2005 New Year Honours and was made an honorary docdtor of science by Southampton Solent University the following year.

The current chairman of the NPA, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, paid tribute to Mr Johnson at a meeting of the authority.

He said: "Ted was a founding member of the authority and also its first chairman, earning himself a place in Forest history.

"He was active in the district for many years and was one of the creative people who tried to persuade the government of the day to confer special status on the Forest."

Mr Crosthwaite-Eyre said the creation the New Forest Heritage Area in 1992 led to the formation of the New Forest Committee.

He added: "Ted was awarded an OBE and was rightly proud as it was a reflection of the importance of the Forest and its people."

The leader of New Forest District Council, Cllr Barry Rickman, added: "I knew Ted very well and had a lot of respect for him.

"He was what I'd describe as an old-fashioned civil servant, with deep-rooted principles and a sense of what was right. He was also a very nice person to work with and worked so hard getting the New Forest respected."

Mr Johnson developed dementia about five years ago and moved to Linden House, a specialist care home in New Street, Lymington.