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Letter: Newlands Corner Meeting – I Have Never Witnessed Anything Like It

From Pauline Surrey

Last night’s public meeting organised by Surrey County Council (SCC) at Holy Trinity Church, (March 9) was explosive stuff! I have attended many a public meeting in Guildford, but have never seen one like this.

Holy Trinity Church was packed for the meeting. Pictures by John Powell.

Holy Trinity Church was packed for the meeting. Pictures by John Powell.

The church was so packed, even the gallery had to be used. Latecomers had to stand. Feelings were running high right from the start, with a fair amount of heckling going on. The last time I experienced heckling like that was in the Sixties when I went to a Quentin Hogg hustings event.

We heard presentations from a SCC officer, then from the “play trail” designers. Mike Goodman, lead councillor for the project, spoke, as did Nigel Davenport, Chief Executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT).

The independent chair, somewhat unusually, allowed questions as we went along, which allowed the venting of some angry emotions. However, many excellent questions and points were raised, including one from Sally Blake of the Save Newlands Corner campaign (www.savenewlandscorner.com), asking why no other options for raising the money needed to run Newlands were being considered.

Ms Blake told us that the Friends of the Hurtwood manage 3,500 acres and 15 car parks for £73,000 a year, whereas SCC/SWT manage 255 acres and one car park at Newlands Corner for £157,000 a year.

Representatives from Surrey County Council and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

Representatives from Surrey County Council and Surrey Wildlife Trust.

She asked whether SCC would be prepared to sit down with stakeholders and other members of the public to consider various other options, e.g. setting up a “Friends” scheme for Newlands, on the Hurtwood model. A positive response was received from SCC, and noted.

A further question related to an excellent previous article in the Guildford Dragon concerning traffic arrangements at Newlands, and the need for adjustments if traffic were to increase as a result of the changes SCC are proposing.

A positive response to this was given by  County Cllr Mike Goodman, this was being discussed. No comments were received though about how this would increase the cost of the whole project!

Altogether there was time for 20-30 questions/points from members of the audience and very many excellent issues were raised, much love was expressed for Newlands.

We heard much about children and grandchildren who love scrambling through the trees, rolling down slopes, flying kites, discovering nature, running about, with no need of wooden play structures on a “trail”.

The interesting thing too was the age range of people present. Many of us older citizens kept quiet, as the younger members raised their points, asked their questions.  I would say that the demographic at his meeting was quite different from at others I have attended.

That will be a 'no' then to the plans!

That will be a ‘no’ then to the plans!

It was an exchange of views. When a show of hands was requested as to who was in favour of these plans, one hand went up. When asked who was against, everyone else’s did.

We heard that SCC have been listening to the public both at the two (arranged at very short notice, and very badly publicised) afternoon “drop in” sessions in Albury and Merrow last month, and by reading letters and emails that have been coming in.

So instead of ten pieces of play equipment, the trail will now only have five, although the audience reaction was a loud: “We don’t need any!”

One member of the audience commented that this meeting too had been very badly publicised by SCC, just something on the council website.

The publicity for the SCC hosted meeting came largely from the Save Newlands Corner campaign itself and The Guildford Dragon NEWS, which had been alerted by some very concerned citizens who had been notifying the press and the residents’ associations, using social media, and even posting leaflets through doors in the good old-fashioned way.

So I think the order of the day is: watch this space! I think we have made, and can continue to make, our voices heard. Please write to mike.goodman@surreycc.gov.uk.

Council officers have undertaken to read and take into account all such individual responses. Keep in touch with the latest developments via the Save Newlands Corner website and, of course, here on our wonderful Guildford Dragon.

It was a great evening. I didn’t know the citizens of Guildford could be so vocal.  Thanks to Mike Goodman and all who were there with him, and thanks to everyone who came out in the wet to put their point of view across.

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9 Responses to Letter: Newlands Corner Meeting – I Have Never Witnessed Anything Like It

  1. Martin Tiller Reply

    March 10, 2016 at 9:25 pm

    Fantastic. Well done all involved. Newlands Corner is a beautiful place, just as it is. Growing up in Chilworth, it was our playground – now it is my daughter’s.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    March 11, 2016 at 8:53 am

    Message to councils:

    Listen, ask, plan, listen again, then act.

    Don’t decide, tell, act – and then deal with objections.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    March 11, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

    When will they ever learn?

  4. Michael Atkinson Reply

    March 11, 2016 at 4:06 pm

    Please leave Newlands Corner as it is.

  5. Keith Childs Reply

    March 11, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    The point made about the cost of maintaining the Hurtwood compared that of maintaining Newlands Corner was an excellent one. The letter from Ms Surrey does not state how it was answered.

  6. John Oliver Reply

    March 11, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    I thought the lady who asked the last question said it all really.

    As a democracy we elect our councillors and they are supposed to listen to and represent our views. She wondered where democracy had gone given that a huge number of people are saying “We don’t want this”.

    Surrey County Council will no doubt claim they are trying to make concessions, but the words don’t seem to get through to them – “We don’t want this – at all”.

  7. Allen Johnson Reply

    March 12, 2016 at 8:11 am

    This gathering was poorly organised. It started ten minutes late. The PA systems had not been tested, the mouse-like mutter of the chairperson meant she could not be heard and those that could not hear her immediately said so. This unpreparedness was instrumental in setting the scene.

    Nigel Davenport was asked to justify the Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) £157,000 spend on maintaining Newlands and he stated it was in the public domain on the SWT website. It isn’t! And when telephoned and asked why not, the SWT financial director said it was confidential information and that Mr Davenport probably didn’t understand the question.

  8. John Phillipson Reply

    March 13, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Excellent. I would of loved to have been there. I tried to park in the Upper High Street, North Street but everywhere was jam packed. I hope it was all the people who attended the meeting.

    Surrey County Council should save the money wasted on their unwanted and ill conceived plans. That money could be better spent mending Surrey’s appallingly potholed roads.

    Surrey County Council and Davies-or Davies/White should just leave Newlands Corner alone.

  9. Shaun Claridge Reply

    March 13, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    I’d like to suggest this [the Surrey County Council (SCC) plan/proposals] may be illegal as no appropriate consultation has been undertaken. Until this is done and evidence of any options and proposals are made available then this is surely unlawful.

    Also the panel’s language and tone was dismissive of our views. I felt this was presented as the ‘plans’ for Newlands Corner and not ‘proposals’. Surely this is not a done deal without appropriate consultation?

    Where and when will the SCC minutes of this gathering be issued?

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