The government agency was branded ‘disgusting’ by campaigners after its controversial decision to turf off Bolly Saffova-Said and her husband Zed from the pitch at Hundred Acre Wood, West Walk, at the Forest of Bere in Wickham.
But the Forestry Commission has some good news for the departed Zed and Bolly after announcing it is keen to work with the community-spirited couple again.
The much-loved duo, whose Great Big Food trailer was seen off by around 1,000 well-wishers on their final day at the end of last month, have been replaced by Seahorse Coffee Bar.
This was despite a vigorous campaign to keep Zed and Bolly at the site that saw a petition of around 1,500 signatures.
Bitter tensions have since boiled over with Seahorse owner Sam White telling The News last week she had been subjected to ‘nasty comments’ and a campaign to ‘discredit’ her business after winning the tender.
In response, campaigners for Zed and Bolly have angrily reacted by rejecting the claims – but the gloves are off in a brutal social media war between supporters of each side.
Amid the furore, the Forestry Commission – initially public enemy number one – has revealed it is sticking to its guns over Seahorse with it announcing the tender process is firmly closed.
A spokeswoman for Forestry England, part of the Forestry Commission, said: ‘We are very excited to be able to bring something new to the site. We want things to be better.
‘I know people will be disappointed not to see Zed and Bolly. But the decision has been made. It has come to an end.
‘We are hopeful people will understand we have done things in the right way with a fair and open process.
‘We are totally committed to the new licensee.’
The spokeswoman, responding to questions over the tender process, said there were three people involved in the decision-making process.
She also said the decision was ‘nothing to do with profit’ with the Forestry Commission a not-for-profit agency.
Offering a glimmer of light to Zed and Bolly over a future pitch elsewhere, the spokeswoman said: ‘We would like to work with them again.’
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Seahorse is set to replace Zed and Bolly at the hotspot later this month after Sam decided it would be ‘kinder for everyone involved’ to let matters calm down while also getting her new van set up.
Sam, speaking to The News last week, said: ‘There have been lots of unfounded, unproven allegations, all of which are spurious.
‘No one, at or connected to Seahorse Coffee Bar knows or is connected to anyone at Forestry England.
‘Nasty comments on social media about our company ethics and how we won the concession are just spiteful and to be honest have been stressful and hurtful to myself and staff.’
Sam said she was ‘very surprised and thrilled to win’ the pitch.