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Protesters gathered at Newlands Corner on Sunday (January 24) to voice their anger at Surrey County Council’s proposals for improvements at the beauty spot.
The noisy protest called for the county council to rethink its plans. The campaign group Save Newlands Corner has set up a website (savenewlandscorner.com) and has been actively lobbying the council to reconsider.
Its petition with 7,545 signatures was presented to the council and as a result, it will be discussed at the next council cabinet meeting on February 2.
The campaign group’s spokesperson, Sally Blake, is to put the case for opposition to the proposals at the meeting.
Sally said: “The support was overwhelming. The next stop is the cabinet meeting. We hope to persuade the council to drop its proposals.”
Surrey County Council has already approved funding for the improvements it wants to carry out (click here to see the proposals). The agreed £400,000 of funding will include a family play trail, resurfacing of the ‘all ability’ trail and improvements to the toilets.
Phase I of the work is planned to start soon and car parking charges will come into force once complete.
Phase II of the council’s plans are at an early stage and aim to look at ways of improving the visitor centre and café. Surrey County Council has commissioned architects to draw up possible ideas.
People will have a chance to give feedback on outline design options. There will be a display of the options being put forward at Newlands Corner. The consultation is likely to start in mid March and will last for four weeks.
The protesters believe the development will completely block the spectacular view. They also object to the car parking charges. They have accused Surrey County Council of imposing the charges without consultation.
The car parking charges are intended to enable Surrey County Council to end the subsidy that it makes to the Surrey Wildlife Trust, who manages the site, and to make the site self-funding.
Newlands Corner is much loved in Surrey but has changed over the years with visitor numbers increasing. In a recent book by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England, local rock music superstar Eric Clapton cited Newlands Corner as his favourite emblem of the English countryside.
He fondly remembers family trips to the chalky grasslands and woods of Newlands Corner and says in rhe book: “It’s a sad thing, then, for me to consider that in my lifetime I will have watched this amazing place evolve into a massive rubbish dump. For the last decade a mountain of waste has been quietly growing out of the landscape.”