Fringe Box



Campaign Group Calls For Surrey Hills To Be Made A National Park

Published on: 7 Dec, 2014
Updated on: 7 Dec, 2014

Campaigners, the Guildford Greenbelt Group (GGG), is calling for the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) to be re-designated as a national park.

View from Newlands Corner. GG is calling for the Surrey Hills to be made a National Park.

View from Newlands Corner. GGG is calling for the Surrey Hills to be made a national park.

In its latest statement GGG says: “The constitution of the AONB has recently changed. It is now directly controlled by the same councils that have aggressively viewed the green belt as an area for development.

“GGG considers that this area is too important and too precious to be left to local councillors. Our view is that some have already demonstrated in their local boroughs that they cannot be trusted. We need a board that runs this area in order to protect it.”

The Surrey Hills ANOB runs across the North Downs from Oxted to Haslemere – where it becomes adjacent to England’s newest National Park – the South Downs National Park.

It includes areas such as Box Hill, the Hog’s Back and the Devil’s Punchbowl.

GGG points out that the Surrey Hills is internationally famous because of the Olympic cycle routes which have triggered more frequent cycling events along the same or similar routes. It is also a “playground for Londoners – cyclists, walkers, campers, and so on. Many teenagers have their first experience of serious walking by completing Duke of Edinburgh excursions along the Surrey Hills”.

The Surrey HIlls have seen cycle races such as the Tour of Britain as pictured here in 2012.

The Surrey HIlls have seen cycle races such as the Tour of Britain as pictured here in 2012.

GGG adds: “However, “AONB” is a designation that is not universally familiar; we have been told that some councillors were not aware of the designation before becoming councillors. But everyone understands what a national park does.

“Our AONB is perhaps the most threatened such area in the country. It skirts the M25, in an area with high housing values, between Heathrow and Gatwick and en route to the south coast at Portsmouth and Southampton. It is an hour from London or less; and property values are high. It is besieged by developers. Our local councils have not been robust in defending our countryside.

“The Surrey Hills AONB is run by the Surrey Hills AONB board. This has representatives from local councils and from other notable entities such as the National Trust, Surrey Wildlife Trust, National Farmers’ Union and CPRE. However, in the past few months the constitution of the Surrey Hills AONB has been changed.

“DEFRA gives guidelines about the proper constitution of AONBs, to comprise 40% or more local councillor, 20% or more parish councillors, up to 40% other specialist groups (e.g. National Trust).

“In breach of these guidelines the Surrey Hills AONB board is made up of 75% local councillors who have voting rights and 25% non-council representatives.

“Councils do and should have concerns about economic management, economic growth, planning for homes, etc. GGG is concerned that councillors may regard their primary responsibility as being on behalf of their constituent councils, rather than acting in the interest of the AONB itself.

“This is a change which has taken place very quietly over the last few months. Previously there was no differentiation between voting and non-voting members on the board, so that – theoretically – borough council board positions were in a minority. However, the structural change which has now been approved and which GGG understands has been ratified by all borough councils, means that the board is now controlled entirely by those councils. Should these councillors decide to approve substantial building projects, this could be voted through. GGG considers that this is unacceptable and in contravention of the purposes of the AONB.

“We think that it is vital that the AONB is run in order to protect and preserve the landscape. It is currently run by councillors who have divided loyalties and responsibilities. Without criticising the individuals concerned, the AONB should be self-standing. A National Park structure would be a clearer, cleaner and more straightforward organisational structure.”

The Guildford Greenbelt Group and Save The Hog’s Back campaign are hosting a free public meeting on Tuesday, December 9, at 7.30pm, at St Alban’s Church Hall, Wood Street Village GU3 3ES. 

What are your views on the Surrey Hills becoming a national park? Please leave a reply in the box below.

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Responses to Campaign Group Calls For Surrey Hills To Be Made A National Park

  1. Ngaire Wadman Reply

    December 11, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Absolutely spot-on – until and unless we can achieve democratic, responsible local government with not even the slightest whiff of Eau de Brown Envelope about their dealings with property developers, we must be on our guard and ready to fight vigorously to protect our beautiful countryside.

    The Hog’s Back and the valleys both to the south and to the north of the ridge should be designated a national park, to preserve this iconic area for future generations against the greed and depredations of developers who are concerned only for their profits, not for providing the housing that is actually needed in the vicinity.

  2. Stuart Barnes Reply

    December 12, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I think that it is a great idea.

  3. Neville Bryan Reply

    December 17, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    What a tremendous idea. Removing council and landowner temptation in this way will ensure that many local people are not put through years of relentless fighting developers and misguided councils.

    Most important one of the best and most beautiful places in England will be protected for many years for the benefit of all.

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