PLANS to make Surrey’s countryside self-financing in the next six years have been labelled “abhorrent” by Britain’s oldest national conservation body.
The Open Spaces Society has criticised the proposals by Surrey County Council to reduce its share of the funding for countryside sites year on year, eventually reducing it to zero by 2021.
After that Surrey Wildlife Trust, which already manages the vast estates, would become solely responsible for generating income to maintain the land, which includes areas like Norbury Park between Leatherhead and Dorking opposite Box Hill.
But at the AGM of the Surrey branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, keynote speaker Kate Ashbrook, the society’s general secretary, said the countryside was now being put at risk.
“The idea that we must make money out of countryside is abhorrent,” she told the meeting on Friday, July 3.
“The risk is that we shall destroy the unique beauty and tranquillity that it offers. Surrey Wildlife Trust is appointing a commercial development officer which is a far cry from protecting and managing nature.
“We congratulate Surrey CPRE on its crusade to save our countryside from developers and destroyers, and we stand alongside ready to protect our rights to enjoy Surrey’s beautiful land.”
Surrey Wildlife Trust spokesman Sophie Mariner previously told the Advertiser that the trust was already selling wood and Christmas trees to generate income and would be examining the possibility of generating money from filming, sponsorship, catering and holidays in the next few months.