Much has been written in the press about changes to the countryside of Surrey and its management, particularly about alterations and charges at Newlands Corner but there seems to be a wilful ignorance on behalf of SCC of the history of areas like Newlands which are outside SCC ownership.
SCC completed agreements with two large estates during the early 60s to secure public access over some 350 acres of Newlands Corner, Silent Pool and St Martha’s Hill together with, approaching 500 acres of Puttenham Common. After a more protracted negotiation an access agreement was also made during the early 70s over some 1300 acres of Wotton and Abinger Commons together with White Downs.
When these agreements were made they were important as they secured legal public access over several areas that had a long history of use by the public whilst helping the landowners with the practicalities (and costs!) of managing access particularly where uncontrolled car parking was causing damage.
All perfectly laudable………then!
The reality now is that the land subject to these access agreements is now only small part of the operations of 3 major estates namely Albury Estates (the Duke of Northumberland), the Wotton Estate (the Evelyns), and the Hampton Estate (Thornton/Biddell). It is also a fact that much of the land is registered common and therefore if the Agreements were terminated the publics rights of access would be secured under the Countryside and Rights of way Act (CROW). So why, in view of the recent attitude of SCC towards their own estate, do the 3 estate owners still seem to wish to continue a superfluous agreement with SCC? Surely it would be far simpler and frankly more honest for the estates to work direct with Surrey Wildlife Trust as regards Rangering and ecological advice? There is no merit that I can see for the estates to continue an outdated and unnecessary agreement with SCC.
As ever I am more than happy to correct any errors in the above post.