Natural England is a public body which advises the government on protecting and restoring our natural world. They have launched a statutory and public consultation on extending the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The objective is to preserve more of the county’s iconic landscape and improve access. Apart from offering an opportunity for exercise, a well preserved environment helps to boost economic growth and local tourism.
The consultation remains open until the middle of June 2023 and interested groups, or individuals can comment on the proposed extensions.
The Core Plan
Current proposals increase the land to be protected by about 25%, more than 100 sq km. Alongside smaller candidate areas, the Mole Valley would become part of the Surrey Conservation Area and have additional protection.
Preserving our chalk based grassland and ancient woodlands are key factors, together with a few unique environments. Above all, maintaining the natural beauty we all enjoy when passing through, or spending time in our countryside.
Along with the Chilterns, Cheshire’s Sandstone Ridge and the Yorkshire Wolds, the Surrey proposal is one of four currently being considered. A sign of how fortunate we are, with the potential for a protected zone stretching from Farnham to Oxted.
Not A Passing Thought
Redesignating land in the way the Surrey plan intends is a long task. Initial consideration began 20 years ago and the practical process was finally launched 2 years ago, through a ministerial statement on the boundary review.
Progress has been made, with the local community helping to provide evidence on need. There are further stages, such as the current request for further views and analysis of the detail this provides.
The feedback process will not stop there, a further opportunity does exist to comment during a statutory notice period and amendment is possible.
We are however drawing closer to the point where a ministerial designation order will conclude the process. Now would be a good time to look at the proposal and pass on any opinions you, or your family hold.
Giving Your Views
Drop in sessions are being organised locally but the best place to start may be this DEFRA page. Apart from drop in dates and access to a response form, there is more information on the proposals.
This includes the main consultation report, with sections on how each local area might be affected. There are a range of maps showing suggested changes and technical reports covering the reasons behind them.
Public views do matter in this process and spending time to take a look is worthwhile. This is a once in a lifetime change, which will help to shape the landscape for us and for generations to come.