Surrey County Council’s threat to withdraw funding for Surrey Wildlife Trust- we ask why now

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Why would Surrey County Council withdraw charity funding on something that they are ultimately responsible for themselves?

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On Saturday 18th July readers of Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser will have seen Alexander Robertson’s article about Surrey County Council entitled “Backlash over council plans to pull funding from Surrey’s countryside estates” Alex comments that “CONTROVERSIAL plans to make Surrey’s countryside self-financing in the next six years have been slammed by conservationists.  Surrey County Council has come under fire after proposing to decrease its share of funding for more than 6,000 acres of countryside sites year on year, eventually reducing it to zero by 2021.”

In Effingham we have noted that this move by SCC comes hot on the trail of Surrey Wildlife Trust sending a letter of objection into Guildford Borough council planners over the plans to build 2100 new homes on the former Wisley airfield. There is a massive body of objections surrounding this planning application and of course huge pressure on Guildford Borough council to meet housing number targets.  So we ask if the threat to withdraw funding from a charity like SWT is more political than economic in direction.  Is this an attempt to silence SWT’s objections to the housing plans at Wisley?  Why has this threat come about now rather than a year ago or in a year’s time?

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We asked Surrey County Council Chief Executive David Hodges to comment on these concerns and received back:

A council spokesman said: “This is about improving visitor facilities while also making savings for local residents. Our aim is to generate enough money by 2021 to fund our contribution to the trust so everyone can enjoy Surrey’s countryside but the cost is eventually taken off the local taxpayer. Together we are exploring commercial opportunities such as filming, catering and sponsorship which we started developing more than seven months ago. These initiatives are essential to manage the countryside we all enjoy at a time when rising demand for school places and adult social care are also putting a heavy strain on our budgets.”

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