NATIONAL Park chiefs have done a U-turn and ruled out controversial plans to introduce road tolls in the New Forest.

Barrie Foley, new chief executive of National Park Authority (NPA), conceded that the idea had resulted in massive opposition.

The move has raised hopes that other contentious parts of the NPA’s blueprint for the Forest will also be scrapped.

Plans to impose restrictions on horse owners and dog walkers, including dog-free car parks, were published last year and sparked some of the biggest protests ever seen in the area.

A new version of the 180-page document is due to be produced at the end of October.

Mr Foley was appointed earlier this month following the resignation of his predecessor, Lindsay Cornish, and immediately signalled his opposition to road tolls.

Last night he confirmed that the pay-as-you-drive idea was “coming off the agenda”.

Forest Uprising, one of the protest groups set up to fight the NPA’s plans, welcomed the move.

Mr Foley stressed that the plan published last summer was only a draft document.

He added: “They put in a number of issues that needed to be addressed and discussed. Road tolls was one of the options but there was a massive rejection of the idea.

“People wanted to know why locals should be charged to use roads in the region.

“We don’t consider tolls to be an answer. However, we will have to work with Hampshire County Council and devise other ways of managing traffic in the Forest.”

Mr Foley’s rejection of tolls was welcomed by Britain's motoring organisations, including the Hampshire-based AA.

A spokesman said: “Roads in the New Forest are often busy but why price people out of a National Park? Traffic engineering rather than the sledgehammer of pricing should be used to deal with pressures on the road network.”

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