At the meeting of the Environment Select Committee of Surrey County Council held on February 22nd this year, Cllr Keith Witham, Surrey County Councillor for the Worplesdon division of Guildford, castigated residents and particularly the Save Newlands Corner group for having “rose tinted spectacles” and not facing up to reality when they criticised the Council’s attempts to commercialise activities on its Countryside Estate.
He particularly disliked the proposal that the Council should have “a strategy not focussed on money but on our environment” as though somehow that was a bad goal. A copy of his full transcribed statement can be found in the links given on this web page.
His ire was aimed particularly at those who sent e-mails, as members of the Save Newlands Corner group did prior to the committee meeting. He concluded by saying
“That’s what I get sick and tired of Chairman; emails from people who just oppose stuff and they never put forward any constructive alternative suggestion at all. Rant finished.”
However, the Save Newlands Corner Group actually did so, and put forward a proposal for management of Newlands Corner based on principles that had worked successfully for a decade at the Hurtwood Estate, which is run by a small charity “Friends of the Hurtwood”. The principle of the plan was that it would not require parking charges or commercial development of the site and would substantially reduce costs to the Council, if not removing them altogether. However, our attempts failed due to Council demands that parking charges be implemented no matter what.
A somewhat different story was told by Cllr Witham. He stated that
“Some while ago, the Newlands Corner Group did propose to look at a Friends Group, but would only consider setting it up if Surrey County Council dropped the idea of car parking charges. They prepared a plan that had not considered a number of legal issues and Surrey asked them how they were proposing to cover those. Then, of course they backed off and stopped talking about that.”
While the first part was completely true, the second part was completely false as can be seen from the last three e-mails, of an otherwise lengthy correspondence between the Council and the Save Newlands Group, also shown on this web page
An e-mail was sent by a friend of Save Newlands Corner to the Chair of the Environment Select committee, along with that correspondence, requesting that the false statement be corrected and formally minuted at a future committee meeting. Further, that Cllr Witham should apologise to those of the Save Newlands Corner Group who were involved. A copy of that e-mail is also shown here.
As of the date of this publication we are not aware of any action that will be taken to correct the false statement given to the committee and Cllr Witham has point blank refused to apologise for making his false statement.
Click on the links below for the details:-