Countryside campaigners at CPRE Surrey have welcomed the decision by the Government not to proceed with sales of Forestry Commission land. The Government’s climbdown was signalled recently by the Prime Minister’s comment in the House of Commons that he was not happy with the proposal, and then the subsequent statement by the Farming and Rural Affairs Minister that the sell-off scheme had been a mistake and would be withdrawn. CPRE Surrey branch director Andy Smith said: “The Government’s decision is a massive relief to everyone. This was a fight that none of us wanted and I’m so pleased the Prime Minister saw sense in the end and realised what a catastrophic error the proposal had been.”
Conservationists at CPRE Surrey are fearful about the future of an important corner of the Surrey Hills which could be at risk from damaging commercial development. The Branch is worried about the threat to historic Cherkley Court, its gardens and surrounding countryside on the outskirts of Leatherhead, if the property is sold to developers. A scheme for a luxury hotel and golf course, by property developer Longshot, would in CPRE’s view spoil the landscape and lead to a loss of chalk downland with wild orchids and other native flora.
Local countryside campaigners are calling on the Government to “think again” on its proposed sale of Forestry Commission land. CPRE Surrey says that the planned sell-off is “ill-conceived” and that it could rob the county of several of its most precious countryside assets. At risk are many areas of woodland in Surrey and throughout England that are vital for public recreation and for nature conservation and biodiversity.