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Save Newlands Corner

Join us in our Campaign to Keep Newlands Natural!

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Countryside Car Park Charges – SUCCESS !!

We are so very pleased to confirm that, at the Surrey County Council Cabinet meeting this afternoon, approval was given to the removal of the parking charges in the Surrey Countryside Estate from 1 April 2020.

It was accepted that the scheme had not been a financial success, it had also deterred residents, and that times have changed with a new emphasis on health and well being.

The Council will remove parking charges at Newlands Corner, and it is hoped the landowner, Albury Estate, will then keep the site free to access.  The Council will also remove charges at the sites it owns – Norbury Park, and Chobham, Ockham, Rodborough Commons, and Whitmoor Common where the charges had not yet started.

The Council said it wants to ensure the countryside is accessible to all, and there is a genuine desire to promote the health and well being of residents. It wants people to come back and enjoy the countryside.

The Council also agreed to develop proposals for the introduction of a voluntary payment scheme to help towards the costs of managing the countryside and public access.

Thank you so much to all the people who have helped to achieve this result. 

Thank you also to Surrey County Council for a forward-looking decision.

 

Click here to read the policy paper agreed by the Cabinet.

 

 

Good News! – Review of Charges for Parking in Countryside Estate Car Parks – 26th November 2019

The Surrey County Council policy proposal for the Cabinet meeting on 26th November 2019 is recommending that parking charges in the Countryside Estate, including Newlands Corner, cease on 1 April. This is excellent news.  We hope the Cabinet accepts the recommendation.

Please write to your SCC councillor before the 26th and ask them to bring pressure to bear on the Cabinet.

The document does contain a comment about the Albury Estate having the right to charge but we would be hugely surprised if they did.  We feel certain that this is just about ensuring that the Estate’s rights are not undermined by the SCC decision.

We will be certain to let you all know of the outcome from the meeting on 26th November.

Click here to read the proposal:  Review of Charges for Parking in Countryside Estate Car Parks

 

 

Councillor’s “sick and tired” rant at residents built on fiction not fact.

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.

https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/councillor-rants-residents-opposed-surrey-15885193

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:-

Speech by Cllr Witham – Environment Select Committee 22.02.19

Email to the Chair of the SCC Environment Select Committee 01.04.19

The last three emails – SNC

 

Apparent Manipulation of Vehicle Data in Car Park Charging Plans

A concerned member of the public has researched the vehicle data used by Surrey County Council (SCC) in its car park charging plans and that research appears to show a pattern in how vehicle parking numbers prior to charging were reported and used by the Countryside Estate.

When the case for car park charges at Newlands Corner was first presented to SCC cabinet in Oct 2015 it was stated that there were 122,000 vehicles each year parking there. Following a Freedom of Information request, SCC eventually admitted that the actual figure, based on vehicle counters, was 255,000 in the year to January 2016.

Similarly, when the case for car park charges was presented to SCC cabinet in Jan 2018 for the other commons, at Chobham, Whitmoor, Rodborough, and Ockham & Wisley and Norbury Park, it was stated “..monitoring figures suggest that there are 446,000 cars visiting the sites annually”.  However, analysis of the raw data from parking counters provided in an FOI request indicates the actual numbers parking at the 5 commons was likely to have been closer to 900,000.

The results of the analysis were sent to SCC along with a covering e-mail on 7 December 2018 raising concerns. So far, there has been no response to that e-mail. 

Why would low numbers be used?  Was it to make the car park charging scheme look better in the event of a catastrophic drop in the number of people using the commons after charging was introduced?  You can make your own mind up after reading the analysis of the parking counter data and accompanying e-mail.  Links to these documents are below:-

Car park charging letter to SCC

Analysis of data from parking counters installed

Document with Links contained in the above documents

The Countryside Estate has resisted all requests for vehicle figures and income from parking charges since the scheme was introduced.

 

 

The Fight to have Parking Charges Scrapped at Countryside Car Parks Continues

The fight against parking charges at countryside car parks continues with Surrey Live wading in to support the scrapping of the charges.  Click below to read the article.

https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/petition-surrey-council-parking-charges-15241937

 

Please lend your support to the petition, which is on the Surrey County Council web site:

https://petitions.surreycc.gov.uk/Charges

and also to the other petition mentioned in the article:

https://www.change.org/p/surrey-county-council-restore-public-access-to-surrey-commons

 

 

 

Be Aware!

Be aware – penalty notices are now being issued at Newlands Corner. Remember – you must still take a ticket if you are going to be there less than 20 minutes, otherwise you risk being issued with a penalty notice. All you have to do is go to the machine, press the green button for a ticket and put the ticket on your dashboard. Please don’t get caught – for your sake and to stop these people getting a profit from the site.

 

 

A Black Day – Parking Charges Start at Newlands Corner

We are very sad to say that cashless parking charges have today, 9 July 2018, started at Newlands Corner despite our best efforts to stop them.

These charges are not democratic, economic or efficient. They also discriminate against people on lower incomes and those who cannot pay by card or smart phone.

The document linked below sets out our reasoning against parking charges at Newlands Corner. We believe our case is unarguable. Surrey County Council (SCC) thinks it can make a big profit. Time will show it is wrong.

We are pleased, however, that, to date, we have managed to curb the worst excesses of SCC’s ambitions. We have stopped SCC developing a huge restaurant, shops and coach park across the view and a series of large artificial play structures through “one of the four most important ancient woodlands in Western Europe”. This ancient woodland is home to 3 out of the 12 most threatened mammals in Britain. SCC has not dropped these ambitions.

We will continue to challenge the legal and financial issues. Parking charges have been imposed against the wishes of the vast majority of local people and with a complete lack of common sense.

Our vision remains the same – Newlands Corner should be free to access, with its countryside left unspoilt and in a natural state.  We will stay on the case.

 

Sally Blake

Coordinator of the Save Newlands Corner Campaign Group

Click here to read: Reasoning against parking charges at Newlands Corner

Protect Common Land in England and Wales Block the Legal Loopholes

Please Support our Petition

Protect Common Land in England and Wales Block the Legal Loopholes

We are writing to ask for your help to strengthen the legal protection given by the Commons Act 2006 to registered common land in England and Wales.

Common land is under growing threat from urbanisation and development. Moreover, land owners and managers are ignoring the requirements of the Commons Act and the Planning Inspectorate is powerless to do anything about it. The results are being seen at Newlands Corner, and other commons in Surrey, which are being exploited by Surrey County Council.

Please support our petition to highlight the deficiencies of the legislation and to call for change. 

Our petition is at: 

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/protect-common-land-in-england-and-wales-block-the-legal-loopholes

The background note linked here and below, sets out where we consider the Commons Act 2006 needs to change.  We want to draw this to the attention of politicians and government departments

We ask you to forward this link and the background note to colleagues, friends and family.

We want the commons, and the flora and fauna that exist there, to have the full protection of the law.  We believe the vast majority of people want the same.  Our petition seeks to achieve the necessary changes which will protect all registered common land in England and Wales.  We need your help to do this. 

Please sign the petition

Click here to read the Background Notes.

 

 

Parking Charge Payment Method.

The group received confirmation from SCC yesterday that, despite what they said to the Planning Inspectorate in their application to erect parking charge infrastructure at Newlands Corner, there will not now be cash payment facilities. Given that in SCC’s own consultation about the other five sites that are being affected, most people wanted cash payment, this is a significant change to the application. There might have been a lot more objections (than the huge 1,400 anyway) to the Newlands Corner proposal as this will effectively prevent some people from using the site. And do you remember SCC promised to refurbish the toilets and the all-ability trail before charges were introduced. Do they ever keep a public promise? (I suppose they did promise to introduce charges…..)

Update on Wooden Bollards – “Dragons’ Teeth”

A previous post showed SCC’s contractors starting work on the introduction of parking charge infrastructure.  The contractors were inserting wooden bollards – informally called “dragons’ teeth” into the Newlands Corner common roadside verge. 

At the end of it all, SCC has ‘planted’ 400 dragons’ teeth into the common (see photos).  It has also planted bollards at Whitmoor common on Saltbox Road and at Chobham common.  If anyone knows what has happened at Ockham common or Rodborough common, we would love to hear from you – pictures welcomed. 

There are three issues related to this:

  • The approx. 275 bollards by the roadside at Newlands Corner are dangerous. SCC has not complied with its own guidance, which says that wooden bollards should have reflectors on them.  There are no reflectors at Whitmoor and we are not aware of any at Chobham.  Newlands Corner does, as at last week, have 13 posts with reflectors on them.  12 of those are on a line of 48 posts.  The other 227 have to share 1 reflector.   In addition, SCC has failed to follow good practice by embedding the posts in granular or similar material which has ‘give’ in the event of an accident.  The posts at Newlands Corner have just been hammered into the earth. So, no reflectors, no ‘give’.  These posts are a fatal accident waiting to happen, particularly for motorbike riders.
  • The posts are an eyesore. Chobham has fought long and hard over the years to keep its common looking natural.  Now it is blighted by these dragons’ teeth.  Whitmoor has had a little parking area, which has existed for many years, blocked off for the sole purpose of pushing visitors into the pay-to-park areas (see photo).  This is illegal as bollards are meant to be for the purposes of protecting the common.  SCC has done this to maximise income.  With 400 posts at Newlands Corner, there can only be one verdict – urrgh!  As the ‘letter of the week’ in the Surrey Advertiser said this week – what is the Surrey Hills Board doing about this?  They are supposed to conserve and enhance the natural beauty of Newlands Corner.  Not a whimper, not a word.  Could it be because SCC Cllr Goodman, who is the person introducing these bollards, is also on the Surrey Hills Board?  Cllr Wright, Chairman of the Board should be ashamed as he lives very close to Newlands Corner and has benefited from its beauty for many years.
  • The technical bit. The posts are illegal.  Section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 requires all “restricted works” to have consent from the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) in Bristol.  As ever, there are exceptions.  These are set out in the Works on Common Land (Exemptions) (England) Order 2007.  Paragraph 4 of Schedule 1 to the Order says that you can install one row of bollards of no more than 200 metres in length without seeking PINS’s consent.  However, if you want to install another row of bollards of no more than 200 metres you either have to get rid of the first row first or you have to apply for consent.  If you want to put in a row, or extend a row to, over 200 metres, you need consent.  If you have old rows which did not have, and should have had, consent (i.e. they were illegal to start with) and you replace them or extend them, they need consent.  SCC has failed on all accounts at Newlands Corner, Whitmoor common and Chobham common.  I’m sure it is likely to be the same at the other two registered commons.  We have written to SCC asking for an explanation of its behaviour and for it to pull out the dragons’ teeth (unlikely) or ask for retrospective consent from PINS (even more unlikely).  What is also very unlikely is that we will receive a reply.  SCC has officially closed the door to the majority of correspondence on the issue of parking charges.  Failure to apply for consent means you are robbed of your democratic right to make representations about an application.  Even if you were to write to PINS anyway, it has no power to make SCC submit an application.  As Charles Dickens wrote “the law is a ass”, at times.

If you are as outraged as we are about these bollards, please write to your SCC councillor (https://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1 ). 

Once again, SCC is showing that it cares not one jot about the environment, the law or what Surrey residents want.

 

Get Surrey Article – Posts Installed at Newlands Corner

Read the latest Get Surrey article about Newlands Corner.

Get Surrey 18th April 2018 – Posts Installed at Newlands Corner.

 

 

Update – Parking Charges – Work has started

Representatives from Save Newlands Corner (SNC) went to the Surrey Countryside Access Forum meeting yesterday (16th April). Surrey County Council (SCC) was giving an update on rural parking charges. Lisa Creaye-Griffin, Head of the SCC Countryside Group, said that parking charges will be introduced on a phased basis at Newlands Corner and the other five sites involved (Ockham, Rodborough, Norbury Park, Chobham and Whitmoor) by mid-July.  SCC said work would begin at Newlands Corner today.  The sad news is that we can confirm that it has indeed started – posts along the roadside to stop parking on the verges when charges are introduced. 

SNC asked again what we have been asking since October (eight times) and that is “What is the legal basis for introducing charges at Newlands Corner?”. For the second time, we were told that it has been referred to the SCC legal department and that we would receive an answer in due course.  Considering that they intended to introduce charges two years ago, you would think that they would know the legal position by now. We are staying on the case with this!

The good news is that the Albury Estate is undertaking work to help protect the ancient yews on the site.  The woodland has been neglected for many years and the yews have been suffering damage from a variety of causes.  One ancient tree has died and some others have signs of stress.  So, it is good to see this work happening, with the likelihood of further measures being taken to conserve these venerable and ecologically-valuable trees.

 

Interview with That’s Surrey TV

Sally Blake, Coordinator of the Save Newlands Corner Campaign Group recently gave an interview to That’s Surrey TV.

Democracy and common sense were left behind when Surrey County Council made its recent decision to put parking charges of £1.30 an hour (up to £5) to access natural countryside in 16 Surrey car parks at Newlands Corner, Chobham Common, Rodborough Common, Whitmoor Common, Wisley and Ockham Commons, and Norbury Park. This completely ignored the results of its own consultation.

Click on the link below to view the interview on You Tube.

Campaigners Oppose Parking Charges At Newlands Corner

A group of campaigners say that introducing non-cash…

YOUTUBE.COM

 

SCC has answered our questions about annual parking permits

  • The £60 permit will apply to all the car parks on the five sites on the Countryside Estate owned by the County Council. Newlands Corner is owned by the Albury Estate, and therefore the £60 permit will only apply to that car park
  • The annual parking permit will be provided by a third party, this is likely to be the enforcement provider and all the information held electronically – this means that if the permit holder buys a new car, the registration can easily be changed on the system.
  • The annual permit is a one off charge for the year rather than an accumulated charge and therefore refunds are not available.
  • Annual permit holders will receive an annual parking permit to display in the car. The vehicle registration number will also be held electronically and available to the enforcement team.
  • The permit will be valid for 12months from the date of purchase.
  • SWT members will pay the same [as everybody else].
  • The permit is a one off payment and therefore no consideration has been given to payment by instalments.

This is the exact wording of the SCC response other than the one square-bracketed wording.  The last bullet point was in response to our question: “To help those who are on low incomes, and for whom a single payment of £60 is a large blow, has any consideration been given to part-year payments, say, quarterly permits at £15 a quarter?”.

Why can’t people who buy a permit at Newlands Corner not use it at other SCC Countryside Estate sites?  What has private ownership got to do with it?  Answers on a postcard, please…..

 

Litter Pick at Newlands Corner

We thought that you might all like to hear of a Newlands Corner Litter Pick that is being organised by some local residents.  The details are shown below along with a link to the Facebook event page.


“Let’s give Newlands Corner a spring clean!  Join us for a community litter picking session at Newlands Corner to help clear up the rubbish that inconsiderate people leave there.

Let’s help make Newlands Corner beautiful for the spring.

Meet up outside the visitor centre at 10am on Sunday 25th February.

Litter picking equipment and rubbish bags will be provided but please bring your wellies!”

https://www.facebook.com/events/857027651089087/?__mref=mb

 

 

SCC approves charges at 15 countryside car parks

On Tuesday, 30 January, the SCC Cabinet approved the introduction of parking charges at the five ‘Pay and Conserve’ sites (Chobham, Ockham, Rodborough, and Whitmoor commons and Norbury Park).   This was in the face of bitter opposition from residents, community groups and, of course, Save Newlands Corner.  This move is inextricably linked to the equally-opposed introduction of charges at Newlands Corner, rumoured to be implemented by the end of March.

Following an obviously well-orchestrated performance, Cabinet members voted unanimously to introduce charges at 15 of the most-used car parks.  Payment will be by phone-only at some car parks and by card and phone at others.  This is despite the fact that 75% of people responding to the ‘Pay and Conserve’ consultation said they did not want charges at all and 59% said they wanted cash-payment facilities.

It paves the way for the elderly (who often don’t have or want to use phones or cards), low income groups and other vulnerable groups to be effectively barred from using these sites.  Despite our numerous questions, SCC has remained silent about the negative effects on health and wellbeing of these groups and the long term adverse impact on the adult social care budget, which is already under huge strain, and which could well dwarf any income received from parking charges.  This is short-term gain for long-term loss.

These parking charges are also too high, inefficient, self-defeating, and legally debatable:  too high because £1.30 an hour for a natural countryside car park is unreasonable; inefficient because, using the Council’s own figures, only £201,000 a year on average, out of £448,000 a year raised, will be used to help maintain the countryside; self-defeating because, from the Council’s own consultation, up to 70% of people said they would avoid coming to these sites, or come less often, if charges were applied; legally debatable because the Council says it will not be applying to the Planning Inspectorate for consent to install the parking meters – we firmly believe it should, as it did for Newlands Corner.

Other, more efficient, options should be used to maintain the countryside. Democracy and common sense were left behind when this decision was made.

 

Newlands Corner Goes National

On Thursday 18 January, Melvyn Bragg wrote a full-page article in the Daily Mail condemning proposals to put zip wires across Thirlmere in the Lake District.  The article said everything about Thirlmere that we have all been saying about Newlands Corner.  It said that it should be kept in its natural state, that is what people want and that is why they visit there. 

One of our team wrote to the paper to congratulate him on the article, highlight the onslaught that is happening to open spaces around the country and in particular publicise the SCC and SWT proposals for Newlands Corner.  Click here to read the letter.

 

Surrey County Council Fails in its Attempt to Weaken the Protection of Common Land.

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).

Click here to read Councillor Goodman’s letter

Click here to see Save Newlands Corner Letter

Click here for the DEFRA Response Letter

 

Newlands Corner play structure plans cost Surrey County Council £34,000

Please click on the link below to read a Get Surrey article.  It details how, via a Freedom of Information request, they now know that Surrey County Council spent nearly £35,000 on plans for play structures at Newlands Corner before the authority decided “not to pursue this proposal” for the moment.

Click here to read: Get Surrey 13th October 2017 – Play structures cost SCC £34,000

 

 

Play Structures Application Pulled

Surrey County Council has withdrawn its application to the Planning Inspectorate for a series of artificial play structures through the woodland at Newlands Corner. This followed the decision of the Planning Inspectorate to hold a Public Inquiry after receiving 1,100 objections against the proposals, which it described as unprecedented.

We made the Planning Inspectorate aware, with expert evidence, that this is vitally important ancient woodland, the habitat of a number of protected species and that the proposals would cause irreversible damage to the woodland and its habitat. The application did not mention any of these facts. We also made the Planning Inspectorate aware of the many commercial events that have taken place at Newlands Corner for financial return without its permission. The Planning Inspectorate is responsible for protecting common land and considering any works or development. This is common land, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its environment should be protected.

We also made all 82 councillors at Surrey County Council, the 13 trustees of Surrey Wildlife Trust, local parish councils and residents associations and many others, aware of these facts.

The statement made by Cllr Goodman of Surrey County Council, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport and project leader, can be seen by clicking the link at the end of this article.

We welcome this statement but have concerns that Surrey County Council has threatened to revisit this damaging, unwanted, unnecessary and expensive proposal. We will stay on the case to try to stop any inappropriate developments taking place at Newlands Corner.

Also, although Surrey County Council did receive permission from the Planning Inspectorate for car park charging meters and signs, we are revisiting this, to see if car park charges can still be stopped.

A huge Thank You goes to everyone who has backed the campaign so far, and to everyone who made objections against the artificial play structures. This was a massive result against a professional team at Surrey County Council, determined to commercialise and develop our iconic beauty spot for the money it could generate, regardless of the wishes of the people that love it, and regardless of its unique environment and species.

https://news.surreycc.gov.uk/2017/09/07/statement-regarding-proposed-play-trail-at-newlands-corner-following-decision-by-the-planning-inspectorate/

 

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