Difference of Opinion – Who is the Determining Authority?  SCC or GBC?

There is a very interesting situation developing.  We hear that Surrey County Council (SCC) believe that they have planning permission for the proposed changes at Newlands Corner, this includes changes put forward in both Phase 1 and 2.  This does not sound right to us!

Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has been approached, at a high level, for their opinion and for clarification of who should be the determining authority.  

In summary, GBC is of the very strong opinion that SCC do not have a legal basis for giving their own approval for these changes.  We expect that the two councils will now be having some intense discussions to resolve this major and important difference of opinion.  

Below is a bullet point summary of GBC’s comments. We are sure you will find them of great interest! 

  • The GBC officers (both in the legal and planning departments), Leader of the Council and interested members of the Executive do not agree with Surrey County Council’s reasoning as to why SCC should deal with either phase of the proposals.
  • In relation to the first phase, (play equipment, play trail and associated elements); Having taken advice, GBC are firmly of the opinion that this element and the visitor centre fall to GBC to determine at District level.  The reasoning for this is set out below: 
  • Firstly, Newlands Corner is not owned by Surrey County Council and is owned by Albury Estate. GBC accept there is an access agreement and there is responsibility for SCC with regard to maintenance, litter picking etc. but believe the County Council would need to have a significant interest in the proposal to be able to claim jurisdiction.  Whilst GBC appreciate SCC advise about Regulation 3 of the Town and Country Planning General Regulations, this is normally associated with educational use or unitary functions and usually presents itself as the overreaching educational authority, which is clearly not the case here.
  • It is GBC’s opinion in this particular case that it is unusual for the County Council to try and maintain jurisdiction over this proposal. GBC officers don’t believe that the County Council’s interest is sufficiently significant to ensure jurisdiction. SCC is not the landowner meaning that the interest is insignificant, ergo the strongly held view from the GBC perspective is that the power to determine both phases (I and 2) should remain with GBC.
  • The issue of transparency also concerns GBC. It would be unusual for SCC to fund/develop and determine phase I of the proposal, when the proposal is a discretionary function that would normally be determined at District level.  As everyone knows, there is a lot of heat and interest around this proposal.  Members of the public, Parish Councils and Councillors simply do not understand why SCC should fund/develop this proposal and not surprisingly some have reacted badly.
  • Further, it would be seen, by many, as a potential conflict of interest, given SCC’s involvement in promoting, funding and delivering the project. This opinion is strongly held at the highest level at Guildford Borough Council and by the ‘Save Newlands Corner’ team.

We will be following this with interest.