Surrey MPs, led by Jonathan Lord MP, are urging Natural England to begin the long-awaited review of the proposed extension to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Natural England agreed in 2014 to conduct a boundary review and assured the AONB Board that the Surrey Hills review would be started as soon as a review of Suffolk Coast and Heaths had been completed. It has now been completed, but Natural England has not yet confirmed when it will start the Surrey Hills review. And while large areas around the boundary of Surrey Hills AONB have been protected as ‘Areas of Great Landscape Value’ (AGLV) – a local designation which has given a helpful ‘buffer zone’ around the AONB – if Natural England pulls out of the boundary review, all of the AGLVs are in danger of being encroached upon by inappropriate intensification of use or, ultimately, even by development.
The MPs have also written today to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to urge the Secretary of State to give timely approval to the review, which Natural England agreed to over five years ago.
Jonathan Lord, MP for Woking, said: “The Surrey Hills offer some of England’s most beautiful and accessible countryside. Yet the area with full AONB protection, designated in 1958, is actually small and vulnerable. The Surrey Hills AONB and the important surrounding areas desperately need further protections in order to safeguard them for future generations. We look forward to Natural England conducting a boundary review and, hopefully, expanding the AONB boundaries in a sensible and sustainable way.”
Angela Richardson, MP for Guildford, commented: “All six councils involved support this review to extend and protect this beautiful area. Local people and communities have also been pinning their hopes on it for some years, and there will be great disappointment if the review does not start soon.”
Sir Paul Beresford, MP for Mole Valley, added: “Since 1958, it has been recognised that nature needs wide areas and linked corridors; it can’t flourish in mile-wide and fragmented landscapes. Indeed, the recent planning white paper reinforces the importance of coherent AONBs, which will need to have robust and sensible boundaries. The current Surrey Hills boundary is fragile and fragmented, and this review would surely increase its sustainability. I urge Natural England to get on with it.”
Heather Kerswell, Chair of the Surrey Hills AONB Board comments: “The Surrey Hills AONB Board is delighted that Jonathan Lord MP and Claire Coutinho MP and fellow Surrey MPs are writing to Defra in support of extending the Surrey Hills AONB boundary. The Surrey Hills were designated in 1958 but the boundary drawn was incredibly tight and difficult to understand, excluding many beautiful
areas. We want to see the boundaries redrawn to include these beautiful areas and to give them the
protection they deserve. This is very timely as it follows the Prime Minister’s ‘Pledge for Nature’
commitment to increase protected countryside by 400,000 hectares from the present 26% to 30% by
2030 to support the recovery of nature. The extension of the Surrey Hills AONB boundary is an
excellent opportunity to help meet this target”.