PLANS to fine people up to £1,000 for feeding or petting ponies in the New Forest have been given the go-ahead.

The district council's ruling cabinet has approved proposals to introduce two Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) that aim to deter "inappropriate behaviour".

One of the PSPOs seeks to prevent people from interacting with ponies and other animals that graze the landscape.

The other prohibits the lighting of fires and barbecues, mainly on land managed by Forestry England.

Anyone breaching a PSPO can be handed a £100 Fixed Penalty Notice or fined up to £1,000 if the case goes to Southampton Magistrates' Court.

A public consultation was done by the council in December 2022 and January this year. Both the proposed orders were backed by more than 90 per cent of respondents.

The PSPOs are due to come into force on July 1, just in time for the height of the summer tourist season.

Councillors reviewed the evidence presented to a previous meeting of the cabinet in November last year and the outcome of the subsequent consultation.

Having satisfied themselves that the relevant legal tests had been met they agreed that the authority should make the PSPOs.

It follows a series of incidents in which barbecues have started wildfires and people have been injured as a result of getting too close to the area's iconic ponies and donkeys.

Feeding animals can encourage them to approach busy roads and car parks, increasing the likelihood of accidents.

They also run the risk of becoming dependent on human food, which can seriously harm their health.

A council spokesperson said the vast majority of residents and visitors complied with the New Forest Code.

But they cited the problems often caused by people engaging in anti-social behaviour, either by lighting barbecues or feeding and petting the animals.

The spokesperson added: "Formal enforcement will be used proportionately, and there will be information issued about these new restrictions and clear signage will be in place.

"Anyone breaching the PSPOs without reasonable excuse will be committing a criminal offence punishable by prosecution, with a maximum fine of £1,000, or by the issue of a Fixed Penalty Notice with a maximum penalty of £100.

"NFDC and its partners will continue to work together, both in readiness for the PSPOs to come into force and afterward, to raise awareness and support the enforcement."