Ashtead residents appear to have been slow in coming forward to present their views on the extension of the Surrey Hill’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
With less than a week to go to put views forward to Natural England, Ashtead Independent Councillor David Harper raised concerns saying, “I know that many in Ashtead are passionate about the countryside, so I’m concerned that so few appear to have submitted their views and photographs to Natural England to support the possible extension of the Surrey Hill’s AONB to Ashtead.
“On the face of it there appears to be not much enthusiasm in Ashtead to protect the countryside, but I and my fellow Ashtead Independent Councillors know that the exact opposite is true with many being passionate about preserving our rural heritage.”
Given that the consultation ends on the 29th January Cllr Harper decided to alert resident’s as many have previously expressed interest to the Independent Councillors in preserving the country side while many have also raised concern about building new homes in the Green Belt.
The Ashtead Independents pointed out that extending the Surrey Hills AONB would put a higher level of protection on the countryside additional to that from Green Belt designation as it takes into account the ecology, dark skies, and landscape. The boundary can only be moved by a AONB boundary review (last one 60 years ago); not through a Local Plan.
There has been an AONB in Surrey for over 60 years, and the last boundary review was 1956. Last year Natural England started work with Surrey Hills to review the boundaries. As part of that review there is engagement with residents to hear their views of the area – and that means all of us!
This is especially important as the review is actively considering areas to the north of the existing ANOB – including Ashtead and Leatherhead. Review Area EA7 (see map below): Downland landscape between Leatherhead and Chipstead – is looking at the rolling Surrey hills, much of which is on chalkland which has extremely rare, unique, and diverse features and is also visited and enjoyed by thousands of residents.
Cllr Harper said, “If you feel this area is precious and needs to be preserved then this is your chance to share your pictures and feelings! But don’t delay! Closing date is Jan 31st this year”.