Pay and Conserve Consultation

Closes 6 Nov 2017

Opened 25 Sep 2017

Overview

Surrey County Council owns 6,500 acres of countryside estate, all of which is open for the public to visit. It is our responsibility to ensure the countryside is cared for and managed so Surrey residents can access and enjoy it, and we know it is highly valued by our residents.

However continued cuts to our funding, rising costs and increasing demand for key services means that our need to find savings has reached unprecedented levels. This year alone we need to make savings of more than £100m and some of this needs to come from the countryside budget. So we are exploring how to protect our countryside by making it financially self-sufficient in a way that will enhance biodiversity and the landscape and ensure continued access to support recreation, health and wellbeing, both now and in the future.

We work with Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) which looks after the countryside estate on our behalf.  This ranges from the heathland of Ockham and Wisley Commons to the downland and woodland of Norbury Park. SWT makes sure that paths can be safely used, dangerous trees and branches are made safe, sensitive habitats and species are protected and fly-tipping is removed. They also make sure residents can get to the countryside, which normally means providing somewhere for them to park.

But none of this is free. A proportion of the costs are already funded by income generated by the countryside estate, however there is a gap. Without funding, parts of the countryside could become inaccessible, overgrown and littered. A car park on the countryside estate needs regular collection of rubbish, cutting back of the trees and bushes round the edges, and making dangerous trees safe. There are additional costs when repairs are needed after vandalism, when barriers need replacing, or when re-surfacing and other infrastructure work is needed.

With reduced funding available we are now looking at ways that our countryside estate can be self-funding so it is more resilient to changes in public sector finance.  That way, we can ensure the care and management that the countryside needs can be guaranteed for the future.

One way to do this is charging visitors for the use of facilities on sites such as countryside car parks. This has been done by many other landowners including the National Trust, the Forestry Commission and other county councils.

We are developing a proposal for the council’s Cabinet to consider and would like to learn more about how Surrey residents use the countryside and their views on car park charging.  These will be taken into account in shaping the proposal and when it is considered by the Cabinet in winter 2017.

Give Us Your Views

Areas

  • Guildford
  • Mole Valley
  • Surrey Heath

Audiences

  • All Surrey residents

Interests

  • Health and wellbeing