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Letter: Newlands Corner – What’s the deal?

Newlands Corner

Newlands Corner on the Albury Estate

From John Oliver

People are allowed to roam freely at Newlands Corner because of an access agreement between the Albury Estate (the Duke of Northumberland’s estate which owns the land) and Surrey County Council (SCC). The latest agreement was signed in 1994 and was amended in 2007.

Under the terms of the agreement SCC agreed to pay an annual lump sum to the Albury Estate of £800, a sum which would be reviewed annually.

Albury Estate has failed to answer my question as to how much it is receiving now from SCC. However, and more importantly, the agreement says that 25% of any net income that SCC receives from Newlands Corner should be paid to the estate.

So, as it stands, if SCC’s proposals go ahead, every time you pay £1 an hour to park at Newlands Corner, around 25p of that will go to the estate.

When challenged about this, both Albury Estate and SCC have said that this is subject to negotiation. Cllr Mike Goodman, the lead SCC councillor trying to introduce the charges and perhaps much more besides, has said that “it will not be 25 per cent”. He presumably means less.

All well and good one might say. However, if one thinks logically, would the estate turn up its nose at 25% of the parking charges and agree to a lower amount for no return? They are a business after all.

So, for negotiations to be taking place, and for Cllr Goodman to be so confident that the percentage will be less, some form of concession to the estate must be on the table. But what the issues are in the negotiations is being closely guarded by both sides.

Is the estate going to be public-spirited and just reduce their take? I don’t think so.

So what is there about Newlands Corner that might persuade the estate to reduce it’s take? I have been told that the Albury Estate was at one time considering applying to have a farm shop at Newlands Corner. If correct, this shows that the estate has had commercial ambitions for the site. Are those ambitions still current?

Given that SCC wants Phase 2 of this project to result in a large cafe/shop/visitor centre and a coach park, this is an ideal opportunity for further commercial exploitation of Newlands Corner to piggy-back those arrangements. So, I wonder if SCC is doing a commercial deal with the estate that would allow the 25% take from parking charges to be reduced, without the estate losing out as a consequence.

I further wonder if this is why the dispute between SCC and Guildford Borough Council, as to who can approve planning applications, was so important to SCC. SCC, it is understood, has won the planning authority battle in terms of Phase 1 (play structures), but GBC believes they have the planning authority for Phase 2 (new cafe/shop/visitor centre/coach park). Will this affect their negotiations with the Estate?

Food for thought.

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One Response to Letter: Newlands Corner – What’s the deal?

  1. Allen Johnson Reply

    March 23, 2016 at 9:00 am

    The Surrey County Council (SCC) actions have been kept so secret, and there has been such a lack of transparency, that it encourages speculation. Whenever SCC is forced to take an action, e.g. managing the planning applications so its position prevails when challenged by Guildford Borough Council, SCC’s covert activities become exposed.

    Long shadows of doubt cast over SCC and the proper use of taxpayers money. If SCC has any published standards relating to Corporate Governance then they should be adhered to by all concerned.

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