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Save Newlands Corner

Join us in our Campaign to Keep Newlands Natural!

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/

 

Breaking News!!

We have just learned that Surrey Council Council has ‘pulled’ its application for a play trail.

It threatens to come back to it but it is wonderful news in the meantime. It’s on Eagle Radio at:
http://www.964eagle.co.uk/news/local-news/2374005/controversial-newlands-corner-development-scrapped

Deadline Midnight today, 7th July

Midnight today (7th July) is the deadline to submit your objections and comments!. Every voice counts so please do email:

commonlandcasework@pins.gsi.gov.uk

Our post ‘Deadline Object and Comment’ gives you more information and contains some thoughts on what you could say in your email. Thank you!

https://savenewlandscorner.com/2017/06/30/deadline-object-and-comment-by-midnight-on-7th-july-2017-on-the-scc-application-for-play-structures/

Deadline – Object and Comment by Midnight on 7th July 2017 on the SCC Application for Play Structures

Our active members, and those of you who have been keeping up with our website, will know that Surrey County Council (SCC) has applied to the Planning Inspectorate for consent to put six large artificial play structures at Newlands Corner – five in areas in the woodland along the easy access trail, requiring clearance of natural habitat, and one at the back of the café. The aim of SCC is to turn the site into a visitor attraction, to attract 110,000 more cars each year on top of the 255,000 that go there at the moment, to produce more income from parking charges when they are put in. The deadline for objections and comments to the application is 7th July.  Details of how to do this are shown below.

We have been distributing a flyer at Newlands Corner and through letterboxes.  It is a useful summary and you can click here to read it.

The application including the play structure designs is linked here and more information on why our group will be objecting, here. The designs are (A) tree top rope swing between two trees set in concrete 6.5m wide by 5m high in a large area of cleared brambles and bracken (B) hanging log on chains between 4 large posts set in concrete (C) half hollow log set in concrete on a slope with steps up to the top (D) ready-made den structures (E) large bouncy acorns on springs set in concrete (F) hollow log on ground behind café. The structures may be made from wood but they are still artificial and Newlands Corner is an inappropriate and highly damaging place to put them.

Last week we had valuable statements from the Tree Register and the Ancient Yew Group. We quote from parts of these “The ancient yew trees at Newlands Corner and the area known as Merrow Downs are of international importance” and “Here we have one of the most important ancient woodlands in Britain, containing standing heritage trees which approach 1,000 years in age”.  “The Tree Register of the British Isles has records of 94 notable trees at Newlands Corner but a more complete survey by the Ancient Yew Group lists 133 notable yew” and “the biggest threat to these trees is increased footfall and compaction through people pressure” and “The proposed plans by Surrey County Council will have a direct impact on the health and survival of many ancient yew at Newlands Corner”.

Please give your views on the play structures to the Planning Inspectorate by midnight on Friday 7 July 2017 and forward this message/post to friends and family asking them to do the same.

State your views, for example

  • Do you object to this application?
  • Do you want artificial play structures there?
  • Is a natural environment better for children to play in?
  • What will the effect be of a 40% increase in cars and people on the site itself and on local roads?
  • What will the effect be on wildlife including protected species in the woods? [Protected species there include dormice (already extinct in 17 counties), 6 species of bat and Roman snails]
  • What will the effect be on the ancient yews which are up to 1,000 years old? [The Ancient Yew Group and Tree Registry say this is ‘one of the most important ancient woodlands in Britain’ and ‘The proposed plans by Surrey County Council will have a direct impact on the health and survival of many ancient yew at Newlands Corner’]
  • Will your enjoyment of the easy access trail be affected? [The easy access trail is currently used for quiet walks through the woodland]
  • Is this a good use of public money? [Budgeted cost for design and installation of play structures £210,000]
  • Will it change the nature of Newlands Corner? Or its environment?
  • Is it appropriate in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Green Belt?

Thank you,

The Save Newlands Corner Group

Save Newlands Corner Campaign Group makes a statement about, and states its objections to, SCC’s proposals for artificial play structures

As promised in the post of 2nd June 2017, the Save Newlands Corner Campaign Group has produced detailed thoughts on the issues raised by the Surrey County Council Planning Application.

There are three documents (see the links below), which provide:

  • A statement of Save Newlands Corner Campaign Group’s views on Surrey County Council’s proposal for large, artificial play structures in the woodland at Newlands Corner;

Save Newlands Corner Statement

  • The reasons why the Campaign Group will be objecting to these, advice to others about how they can object and what needs to be taken into account.

Please note the 7th July 2017 deadline.

Objections Information PDF Version       Objections Information Word Version

  • A copy of the flyer, which the Campaign Group will be distributing in the Guildford borough area.

Flyer PDF Version        Flyer Word version

Please let family and friends know about them.  If you wish to print copies out, you can also print on both sides of your paper and you end up with two A5 leaflets.

Please don’t let the fact that SCC received approval to place parking charge equipment on the Newlands Corner site deter you from objecting to this proposal.

Every single comment/objection made to The Planning Inspectorate in Bristol is vital for Newlands Corner!

 

 

 

 

A Planning Application for Six Large, Artificial Play Structures at Newlands Corner Has Been Put in by Surrey County Council !

Surrey County Council has applied to the Planning Inspectorate in Bristol for permission to place six large, artificial play structures on common land at Newlands Corner.  Details of the application are in the attached documents.  Our detailed thoughts on the issues will be on website in the next few days.

There is a deadline of 7 July for comment/objections on the proposals.

If you need to make representations urgently (e.g. going on holiday), before you do so, read part 4 of the additional attached document “Common Land Consents Policy”.  This indicates what should be taken into account by the inspector and so any representations should be based on these factors  – basically what benefits will these structures give to the neighbourhood, the population in general and for the Newlands Corner site. (We can’t think of any.)  And remember to include your name and address.

Final Notice

Play and Educational Features plan

Signed Application Form 30-05-17

Common Land Consents Policy

CL344 – Commons Map

CL344 – Commons Register

CS3352 – Newlands Exhibition A5 Leaflet final

Newlands Corner Nature Play Trail Design Details

Additional Sheet to accompany SCC Application for Consent

 

 

 

Enterprise M3 Application

We have recently received evidence of Surrey County Council’s aspirations for Newlands Corner.  SCC applied to the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in 2014 for funding to develop Newlands Corner.  LEPs are government-sponsored organisations which give grants for business-orientated projects.  Even we have been shocked by the scale of what SCC wants to do.  It plans the “redevelopment and extension” of this iconic site for economic reasons, and says it will serve as a “trailblazer” for work on other iconic sites in Surrey and neighbouring counties.  We have stated many times that the proposals would have implications for the rest of the SCC Countryside Estate, but this is much more than we anticipated.  Fortunately, the application was refused.  However, SCC’s intentions do not seem to have changed as it is ploughing ahead with the same proposals.

 

Click here to see the unabridged text from SCC’s application.

Surrey Countryside Under Threat

On 29 March 2017, we sent a letter to all 81 Surrey County Councillors asking them to think upon what sort of legacy they want to leave for future generations, and to take action to prevent this pending disaster. It updates them about the parking charges and proposed play structures at Newlands Corner, and illegal activities taking place there.

Click here to see our letter.

 

Parking Charges agreed. 1,400 Objections Ignored!

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.

What next?

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.

Decision Letter – Click Here

Application Decision detail – Click Here

Customer survey – Click Here

 

 

 

Letter from Save Newlands Corner in Response to the Surrey County Council Response

We sent a letter to the Planning Inspectorate on 22 January 2017 in response to Surrey County Council’s lacklustre, inadequate, incomplete and in some places incorrect response to the 1400 representations to the car park charging infrastructure and the project it is designed to fund.

Click here to see our letter.

Surrey County Council’s response to the 1400 representations was dated surprisingly vaguely as “January 2017” and we have since learned that it was received by the Planning Inspectorate on 16 January 2017, 10 days after the deadline the Planning Inspectorate told us it had set, and 21 days after the deadline specified in the Regulations. The validity of the Surrey County Council response has been taken up with the Planning Inspectorate.

Our Concerns Over the Surrey County Council (SCC) Response Letter

Further to our post of yesterday, we have now documented our concerns over the SCC response to the almost 1400 objections received by the Planning Inspectorate.

To read our document click here.

Click here to read our original post from 18th January 2016 regarding the Surrey County Council (SCC) response to Objections

The Inspectorate has not asked for responses, which it normally does.  It considers it has enough information.  However, if you wish to challenge the letter, the Inspectorate has confirmed that it would accept those letters.   However, it will not accept objections, evidence or comments from anyone who did not object by the original 21 October 2016 deadline.

If you wish to challenge the SCC letter, please send it to:

The Planning Inspectorate, 3F Hawk Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6PN.  Mr Rob Davis – rob.davis@pins.gsi.gov.uk

APPLICATION REFERENCE COM/3158795 – Commons Act 2006: Section 38.  Application to Construct Restricted Works on Common Land at Albury Downs (known as Newlands Corner), Surrey.

 

Surrey County Council (SCC) Responds to Objectors Letters

Nearly 1,400 people objected to SCC’s proposed parking charge infrastructure at Newlands Corner.  The Planning Inspectorate has now sent out a copy of SCC’s response to those who objected.  To those of you who have received it, please read it carefully.  It is what SCC does not say that is just as important as what it does say.  (Read a copy of the SCC letter and Planning Inspectorate covering letter by clicking the links below.).  Save Newlands Corner concerns are listed on the document linked below.

Save Newlands Corner Concerns Document

SCC’s response letter – Click here

Planning Inspectorate Letter – Click here

The Inspectorate has not asked for responses, which it normally does.  It considers it has enough information.  However, if you wish to challenge the letter, the Inspectorate has confirmed that it would accept those letters.   However, it will not accept objections, evidence or comments from anyone who did not object by the original 21 October 2016 deadline.


If you wish to challenge the SCC letter, please send it to:

The Planning Inspectorate, 3F Hawk Wing, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Bristol, BS1 6PN.  Mr Rob Davis – rob.davis@pins.gsi.gov.uk

APPLICATION REFERENCE COM/3158795 – Commons Act 2006: Section 38.  Application to Construct Restricted Works on Common Land at Albury Downs (known as Newlands Corner), Surrey

 

Dormouse and Bat Survey Summaries Released

Surrey County Council has released the executive summary of a recent dormouse survey completed by Danial Winchester of Surrey Wildlife Trust and the conclusions of a bat survey carried out by Wychwood Environmental.  These can be seen by cicking the link below.  We have been assured that the surveys have been properly completed and that they represent a professional view.  We have no evidence to doubt this.  SCC has withheld the full surveys as they pinpoint locations of animals found. SCC does not want to compromise the animals’ safety.  This is entirely reasonable, but we are pursuing obtaining copies of the surveys with the precise locations deleted.

Click here to read the full executive summary.

GUILDFORD RESIDENTS TO SUBSIDISE THE REST OF SURREY

For some time, we have been seeking clarification about how parking charge and parking penalty income will be collected and what will happen to it, if these measures are imposed at Newlands Corner.

 

Surrey County Council (SCC) has, at last, confirmed that:

 

  • income from car park charges at Newlands Corner would be collected by Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) and would become part of the total income for the SCC Countryside Estate.  SWT already collects all income generated from the Estate;
  • the money would be collected by a cash collection service provider;
  • money collected from Newlands Corner would be used to fund future management of the SCC Countryside Estate, priority being given to managing Newlands Corner.  Any excess funds over and above the running costs would be used to invest in maintaining and improving visitor facilities and enhancing habitats across the Estate;
  • SCC has agreed with SWT that the money raised from the whole of the SCC Countryside Estate will be spent on the SCC Countryside Estate. However, if there was a substantial additional windfall, how this would be used would be dealt with on an individual basis;
  • an enforcement company would collect money from parking penalties and would use the income to cover the costs of its services;
  • the level of penalties has yet to be agreed. It would be finalised when SCC knew what date car park charging might be introduced;
  • on accountability, SWT’s accounts are audited and Surrey County Council has access to the SWT’s detailed accounts;
  • SCC will not be providing an annual contribution to Surrey Wildlife Trust from 2021.  SWT has provided a draft Business Plan that shows it would be possible to reach this position in 2021;
  • SCC may invest money in the future for specific projects.

 

This confirms, yet again, that SCC is seeking income well above the needs of Newlands Corner and is, therefore, imposing a tax on mainly Guildford residents to pay for areas across the whole of Surrey.  The last bullet point is ominous – the words “visitor centre” and “retail space” spring to mind.

 

 

Planning Inspectorate Expected to Make a Decision in March

There were about 1400 objections to the Planning Inspectorate against the proposed car park charging infrastructure at Newlands Corner – massive in terms of both quantity and quality, according to the Inspectorate. The objectors included at least 10 parish councils and 4 residents associations. The Open Spaces Society and Natural England also raised objections. The Surrey Hills AONB agreed to the proposals but it does have Cllr Mike Goodman (the project leader at Surrey County Council) on its Board and Nigel Davenport (the chief executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust) as one of its Advisers.

The Planning Inspectorate sent copies of the objections to Surrey County Council (SCC) on 2 December. SCC has been given until 6 January to respond with its comments on the objections. Extra time, beyond the normal 21 days, was given due to the festive period. After this, the Planning Inspectorate will copy SCC’s response to all who objected, including those who sent objections by post (unacknowledged by them, they acknowledged emails only). The Planning Inspectorate will not be inviting comments back on SCC’s response, but said that does not stop objectors commenting if they want to.

After that, the Planning Inspectorate are planning a Site Visit, probably in February, and say they are likely to make a final decision in March. They have decided not to have a Hearing or a Public Inquiry as they say they already have enough evidence to make their decision.

Once the application has been determined, the Planning Inspectorate (which has inspectors appointed by the Secretary of State) has no further role in the case. There is no right to appeal against the decision, but it may be challenged in the Courts within 3 months of the date of the decision by applying to the High Court for permission to seek judicial review.

 

 

Recent Communication from Surrey County Council

A recent communication from SCC continues to confirm its intention to generate an income stream at Newlands Corner from parking charges.  The e-mail also says that charges will increase over time.  However, it has not said whether these increases will be limited to inflation.

Additionally, it is unclear whether funds raised at Newlands Corner will be used to manage Newlands Corner alone, or will be used to fund the wider Countryside Estate.

 

 

 

 

SWT Chief Executive Claims that Parking Charges will go ahead at Newlands Corner next year

We attended the Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) AGM at the University of Surrey on 12 November.

We asked what SWT’s plans are for generating more income or cutting costs, if parking charges do not go ahead at Newlands Corner due to the Planning Inspectorate?
Roger Wild, Finance Director, said that SWT would have to go back to Surrey County Council (SCC) about how things will be managed in the future.

Later Nigel Davenport, Chief Executive, said that there will be parking charges at Newlands Corner next year, and some improvement to the facilities.  [Save Newlands Corner: Interestingly that is what SWT and SCC said would happen this year but clearly they had not considered the level of public opposition to their plans.]

His explanation for supporting the proposals to commercialise Newlands Corner was that SCC had to reduce payments due to financial constraints and SWT could have walked away or had a fight with SCC or worked with them.  They chose the last, and said he is absolutely sure it was the right decision. [Save Newlands Corner: However, this financial argument is not supported by SWT’s own annual accounts (Click link here). These show that, despite a reduction in the SCC grant, SWT still made a surplus of over £1M last year and currently have reserves in excess of £5M.]

Planning Inspectorate inundated with objections to council plans for Newlands Corner

Following last Fridays deadline for objections to the Surrey County Council planning application for Newlands Corner, our campaign group has issued the following press notice to the local media, a copy of which is included below.

This news has now ‘broken’ and, this morning, was headlines in the ‘Get Surrey’ online newspaper – Link to article

We are confident that there will be an article in this week’s Surrey Advertiser.

Further updates to follow on the website.


Planning Inspectorate inundated with objections to council plans for Newlands Corner

A few weeks ago, Surrey County Council applied to the Planning Inspectorate for consent to put parking charge machines at Newlands Corner. This was the Council’s first step to try to gain approval for their highly unpopular plans to commercialise and develop the site.

The deadline for objections was 21 October and the Planning Inspectorate has been inundated with around 1,500 objections – an extraordinarily large number by Planning Inspectorate standards.

These objections have come not only from the people who go to Newlands Corner and love it as it is, but also from parish councils, residents associations and specialist groups.

Sally Blake, coordinator of the Save Newlands Corner campaign group, said:
“I’m delighted at the scale of the objections. People don’t want their favourite beauty spot turned into a ‘visitor attraction’ that they won’t be able to afford. They don’t want this natural site spoiled with parking charge machines, pay-and-display signs in front of the view, or artificial play structures. They want it to be properly maintained and the essential character of Newlands Corner to stay as it is.

We call on Surrey County Council to drop its proposals for Newlands Corner in the face of overwhelming opposition, and to accept that those plans are ill conceived and unwanted.
In the meantime we hope that Surrey County Council will carry out basic maintenance of the site, which is long overdue.”

It will take the Planning Inspectorate a few months to consider all the objections and to reach a decision, and it could go to a Public Inquiry.

-ends-

Click here to read the press release.


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