Fringe Box



SCC Says Crowd Dangers Forced It To Close All Countryside Car Parks 

Published on: 31 Mar, 2020
Updated on: 1 Apr, 2020

Closed car park at Wisley and Ockham Common. Photo Chris Dick

By Rebecca Curley

local democracy reporter

Surrey County Council has defended its decision to close car parks to its commons and heaths, including Norbury Park and Newlands Corner.

The council closed all its Countryside Estate car parks on Tuesday, March 24, but walkers hit back on social media.

One dog walker posted on Twitter: “Closing the car parks for Surrey countryside parks will force people into closer contact in the places that remain open or accessible and this will not help our fight against Covid-19 and reduce the number of infections and deaths.

“I believe it would be a much better decision to post signs around your car parks reminding walkers to observe social distancing and keep 2m from other individuals they may meet during their walk.”

An SCC spokesman said: “After the countryside was extremely busy over the weekend [of March 21 and 22], the council decided it needs to close its car parks to discourage people from gathering.

“This is in line with government advice, and consistent with other major countryside landowners as we all try to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“People can still visit the countryside, but we would advise residents who are going out for their daily exercise to visit quiet locations close to their homes and not travel.”

The government has advised people to stay local where possible. Some police forces have also warned against driving to places for exercise.

Barriers have been installed at the entrances to the parks and people are asked not to park on the roadside verges.

Charges bought in at the car parks end on April 1 after a backlash from residents and walkers.

See also: Letter: Driving to Less Crowded Spaces for Exercise Should Be Permitted

Car parks are closed locally at:
Chinthurst Hill
Newlands Corner
Puttenham Common
Rodborough Common
Shere Woodlands
St Martha’s Hill
Whitmoor Common
Wisley and Ockham Common
Wotton Estate

And elsewhere in Surrey at:
Chobham Common
Crooksbury Hill
Norbury Park
Staffhurst Wood
Tilburstow Hill
White Downs

Share This Post

Responses to SCC Says Crowd Dangers Forced It To Close All Countryside Car Parks 

  1. Felicity Colman Reply

    March 31, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    Walking daily in my local woods I have seen more people about, but they are all being very careful to maintain a good safe distance.

    The knee-jerk reaction to close car parks after the large numbers of people seen out on that first, novel, sunny, weekend has had the effect of pushing them into unnecessary closer contact.

    I understand some “honey pot” places are always going to attract larger numbers but many smaller local car parks could surely be reopened to improve the ease of social distancing. Maybe there could be signs reminding visitors to allow space and to try to visit at less busy times.

    I would ask that this decision is reconsidered.

    • Keith Reeves Reply

      April 2, 2020 at 3:33 pm

      The issue isn’t just one of social distancing. Presumably the intention is also to prevent people travelling some distance for what are after all non essential journeys. It’s not just locals who use these car parks and even they should be avoiding doing so.

  2. Sarah Jane Reply

    April 3, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Closing car parks in the Surrey countryside is a disappointing officious knee jerk reaction. Surely better to drive once a day, five minutes from the house, to the countryside where it is much easier to maintain social distancing than in an urban environment.

    Also good for mental health in these difficult times. Elstead has even taped off the goal posts on the Thursley Road Recreation Ground. For what reason? To stop Dads playing a bit of football with their children?

    We need to be careful that we are not descending into a police state.

  3. Colin Cross Reply

    April 3, 2020 at 10:04 am

    This decision is illogical and ultimately counter-productive.

    Take the thousands of Surrey dog walkers; they still require to exercise their pets twice daily and now they have to travel further to do so and mix in ever greater numbers in Surrey’s remaining open spaces.

    As a Ripley resident, I see many more people parking up on and around our village green than is the norm. So all SCC have done is to transfer the problem and the inherent danger of spreading the infection to innocent and unsuspecting villages like ours, where is the logic in that?

    Colin Cross is the R4GV borough councillor for Lovelace (Ripley, Wisley and Ockham).

  4. Jan Todd Reply

    April 3, 2020 at 11:48 am

    I live in a densely populated urban environment in the centre of Guildford. It is perfectly possible to maintain social distancing here on our brief walks because there are so few people outside at any one time.

    We have been asked to stay at home, not get into our cars to make unnecessary journeys to the countryside. The government has advised people to stay local. If some of us can’t do what we have been asked to do we may have to be told to do it and this small freedom could be withdrawn from all of us.

  5. Peter Mills Reply

    April 3, 2020 at 9:45 pm

    Closing countryside car parks is idiotic. Even small car parks are now been closed. In the last two weeks, I have walked from the two car parks I have found open (now closed). I have passed no more than two people on a 40-minute walk in the middle of the afternoon and we have easily managed to keep at least 20 feet apart.

    But I have counted 28 people within half a mile in the streets around my home where everyone is now forced to exercise. It is often not possible to keep six feet apart on a pavement.

    Even when Puttenham Common car park was full, once people had dispersed into the countryside it was not necessary to pass within six feet of anyone.

    This is a typical politician overreaction to newspaper reports of Snowden, people having picnics, and so on.

    I agree we don’t want people driving many miles to beauty spots and spreading the virus but stopping locals using the countryside just increases the risk and frustration.

  6. C Evans Reply

    April 4, 2020 at 10:33 am

    So many people just don’t seem to get it! The words are, “Yes, it can happen to you”. So I urge please to follow the government instruction, not advice, and stay at home.

    Do this and help our wonderful services who are working so hard to protect us.

  7. John Perkins Reply

    April 4, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Maybe the words should be: “It will happen to you! Whether or not you obey all the instructions.”

    If the virus is as infectious as claimed and there’s no vaccine, it’s only a matter of time.

    In a couple of weeks, it should be obvious from the example of Sweden if lockdown is necessary.

    Swedish experts don’t believe the research from Imperial College is correct. Not surprising, given it’s from the same source that claimed 150,000 lives could be lost to BSE and advised 6 million healthy animals had to be destroyed in the 2001 FMD epidemic.

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *