The Planning Inspectorate (PINS) has published its decision which allows Surrey County Council (SCC) to introduce parking charge equipment onto the Newlands Corner site (see attachments). Whilst disappointing, the result is not unexpected. There have been a number of indicators:
- lack of public inquiry when there really should have been one according to PINS’s own criteria;
- rigid enforcement of the public’s deadline to make representations;
- PINS allowing three extensions to SCC’s deadline to respond to representations, doubling the length of time given in law – even though it does not have the power to do so;
- two significant changes to the application – one which the public was not told about, the second revealed but not properly notified to the public (see next);
- the public being sent a copy of SCC’s response “for information” rather than with the usual invitation to make further representations;
- a dormouse survey and bat survey, completed for the next application (for large artificial play structures) withheld by SCC until 24 hours before the decision. These indicate that licences to work in or near habitats (“mitigation licences”) might be needed for the installation of the parking charge equipment.
The greatest disappointment is the quality of the decision itself. It lacks intellectual rigour, fails to address properly the impacts that the machines will have on the neighbourhood and simply accepts SCC’s vague promises about future monitoring. The main consideration has been sympathy with SCC’s financial situation, rather than with the registered common and natural countryside PINS is there to protect. SCC’s refusal to even provide a financial/business plan has been ignored. There is no consideration of a Friends of Newlands Corner alternative.
Most disturbing is the way the inspector fails to acknowledge that 10 local Councils objected and dismisses the 1,400 objections because of the existence of a Save Newlands Corner campaign. All our campaign has ever done is to try to keep people informed of the facts, set out the issues and counter the misleading information that has flowed out of SCC. It has always been your decision as to what you do with that. The inspector implies that neither you nor elected Councils have any independent thought and that your concerns are not worthy of consideration. That is indefensible.
Natural England has been told about the surveys. We shall see what that brings.
SCC has to apply to itself (unfortunately) for planning permission and to the Planning Inspectorate again for ‘commons consent’ for the play structures. Notices must be placed in the Surrey Advertiser (in ‘Planning applications’ and ‘Public notices’). This may well happen very quickly, within 2-4 weeks, now that the parking charge equipment has been approved.
Save Newlands Corner will oppose the applications.