A CONTROVERSIAL blueprint for the future of the New Forest National Park includes proposals to introduce road tolls.

There are no limits on how much drivers would have to pay, and the charges could be rolled out in just over a year's time.

If approved, it would be the first time a national park in the country would charge motorists to enter its grounds.

The idea is included in the plan which has caused protests from horse riders and dog walkers. Riders would have to go through a procedure before being allowed to keep an animal for recreational use. And some car parks would also be designated "dog-free zones", barring parts of the forest to owners.

New Forest MP Julian Lewis slammed the idea an "erosion of liberties".

He said: "We all want to see the forest protected, but this is getting out of hand.

"I think it is almost an erosion of our liberties - the New Forest is here for everybody to enjoy. To try to make people pay to get in or stop them walking dogs and riding ponies is an attack on the New Forest way of life.

"It is unelected people telling us what we can and can't do in a place that has been the same for thousands of years."

A storm of protest is gathering over the driver "pricing" scheme.

Few details have been released, but it has been revealed there would be experimental closures of selected minor routes during peak periods between Easter and September, and possibly at weekends throughout the year.

The National Park Authority document states: "Various tools may be used, such as quiet road surfaces, reduced speed limits, road user pricing, weight and width restrictions, single track roads, selected road closures (including temporary and seasonal closures), revised road hierarchy, traffic routing, car park location and size, control of verge parking, car-free zones (only accessed by non-car transport) and landscaping for noise and visual screening."

The ideas have caused outrage among some of the New Forest's most prominent businesses.

Lawrie Jenman, of New Forest Ice Cream, fears the restrictions could drive up prices, cause more traffic disruption and hit companies in the pocket.

He said: "It's an abso- lutely crazy idea. There are far better ways to improve things.

"If this comes in, are shops in the New Forest going to survive? It may also make visitors go elsewhere. You wouldn't have to pay to visit Exmoor or Dartmoor."

Paul Watters, of the Hampshire-based AA, said reducing access to the New Forest was unfair and could have a knock-on effect on tourism.

He said: "It could end up killing the golden goose. Do we really want to drive all the tourists away? I don't think introducing charges would work."