Surrey County Council’s (SCC) introduction of parking charges at five registered commons (Newlands Corner, Chobham, Whitmoor, Rodborough and Wisley and Ockham) and at Norbury Park appears to be resulting in a significant reduction in the number of visitors to the sites. Some of the people who are staying away will undoubtedly be those who simply cannot afford the charges. Given that there is little in the way of public transport to the sites, the effect of this policy is to prevent people from exercising their rights of access to them.
The cost of the parking charge scheme, together with the reduction in cars using the car parks, also makes it increasingly unlikely that the scheme will ever produce a profit.
There was never any consultation about introducing charges at Newlands Corner, despite Councillor Goodman’s 2015 policy paper saying that there should be. There was a consultation exercise about introducing charges at the other sites. It is abundantly clear that very few members of the public knew about the consultation. Even so, over 1,200 people responded and nearly 1,000 said “No” to charges.
Within a matter days of the consultation closing, SCC’s Cabinet considered Cllr Goodman’s 2017 policy paper recommending the introduction of charging and setting out how this would be done. This was almost unseemly haste, was obviously pre-planned and totally ignored the outcome of the consultation.
From a position of “we have consulted”, Cllr Goodman has turned this around to say that, because less than a thousand people said “No” to charges, the consultation was not representative of the views of the people of Surrey. So, SCC has held a virtually-unpublicised consultation, received a result it didn’t want, ignored the result and is now belittling its own consultation.
A member of the public (unknown to us) is trying to put this right and show that the consultation was not unrepresentative of the Surrey public’s views on this matter. He has started a petition which you will find here: https://www.change.org/p/surrey-county-council-restore-public-access-to-surrey-commons
As the sun continues to beat down on the scorched grass I seem to be continually asked “so if the grass isn’t growing do you just get to put your feet up?” Well actually this summer
feels just as busy as any other, even without the mowing to keep on top of! Somehow the
plants that we’re less keen on still seem to be able to thrive in these desert-like temperatures, so I’ve still been out pulling Himalayan Balsam before it goes to seed and snipping off those pesky long brambles that threaten to jump out and scratch you as you navigate the towpath. The trees along the towpath have also been growing heavy with leaf and even fruit (I’m thinking of the Walnut Trees that give Walnut Tree Close its name) so these need some careful pruning to keep everywhere clear and open.
One of my biggest tasks recently has been to help organise our annual steam boating event Puffing-A-Wey, which sees the Steam Boat Association of Great Britain visiting Dapdune Wharf to show off their stunning array of craft. It was a great day, even if our visitor numbers were down slightly on previous years (presumably because people didn’t fancy climbing on board next to a hot boiler when it was already 30 o C outside). The day was finished off with a treat for our volunteers as we had arranged a boat ride and BBQ for them as a way of saying thank you for all their help throughout the year.
We did have a brief respite from the heatwave in the form of a weekend of wet and windy
weather. The rain did mean we had to tweak the weirs slightly to maintain correct levels,
although it doesn’t seem to have made much of a difference long term as the weirs are all
closed back in again. The wind however did seem to have more of an impact with a number of trees and branches being brought down by the strong gusts which get caught by the leaves at this time of year. Luckily I got a (mechanical) helping hand with some of the trees on my length in the form of our floating excavator “Hoe”. Operated by our maintenance team, they were due to come and give me a hand removing a very large rotten log from the river that had soaked up so much water that it was extremely heavy. However due to their good timing they not only removed the original log but also two fallen Alder trees and a pile of cuttings I’d left piled on the towpath. With very limited access on the property for vehicles or machinery I’m used to doing everything by hand, so this was a welcome treat that saved a lot of time and effort.
If you also take into account the litter picking, hedge cutting, and strimming fishing swims
and moorings it’s been a busy month, even without the mowing!
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