This year, Save Newlands Corner has exposed the fact that Surrey County Council (SCC) and Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) have been allowing commercial activities and events to take place at Newlands Corner without receiving the necessary, and legally required, consent of the Planning Inspectorate. This has included very large activities and events, in return for large financial payments. Their actions have not only been illegal, they have deprived the public and other groups, such as parish councils and environmental bodies, of their legal right to make representations against these activities.
This exposure is, of course, an inconvenience to SCC and SWT. To try to find a way around their problem, Councillor Goodman, SCC Cabinet Member for the Environment, wrote to Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for the Environment asking him to relax the Planning Inspectorate guidance in a way which would allow greater commercialisation of all common land in England and Wales.
As soon as we heard about this, we wrote to Mr Gove asking him to not only reject any such relaxation, but also to strengthen the legislation to allow greater protection of the commons. Mr Gove’s officials have now written back to Sally Blake, Save Newlands Corner Coordinator, saying that there is no intention to make any changes to the legislation or guidance as it is considered that the current situation strikes a fair balance.
We are delighted that Cllr Goodman has been thwarted in his attempt to circumvent the law, although we would have liked to see increased security for common land. We have yet to see the Minister’s reply direct to Cllr Goodman, but we are seeking a copy. Please see the links below to Councillor Goodman’s letter, to our letter, and to the response we have had from DEFRA officials (Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs).