Boundary reviews of our nationally protected landscapes do not come around very often; in fact, this is the first time the public has had a chance to influence the boundary of the Surrey Hills since it was first designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1958.
This week on Tuesday 7 March, Natural England opened their public consultation period of 14 weeks to gather comments from individuals and organisations on a proposed extension to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Surrey Hills Board met on Wednesday and discussed this fantastic opportunity with thanks to the hard work undertaken by Natural England so far.
Kathy Atkinson, Chair of the Surrey Hills Board said:
“Whether you are a resident or a visitor to the Surrey Hills, you will know just what an incredible landscape this is; we are so close to London yet you can feel a million miles away from urban life when you stand on one of the many viewpoints in the Surrey Hills, take a deep breath and look southwards to the outline of the South Downs, with gorgeous undulating countryside and woodland in between.
By extending the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty we will be protecting it by law for the future, and it could unlock additional resources to help the Surrey Hills thrive, in a way that is good for nature and for people. This is – literally – a once in a lifetime opportunity to tell the government how important this area is for all of us, and to ensure as much of it as possible is protected for future generations. I would encourage anyone who cares about this precious natural environment to get involved in the consultation and make their voice count.”
The proposed new boundary has been developed following an initial public engagement phase which ran from January – February 2022, during which Natural England received over 2,000 pieces of evidence from residents and community groups to help inform which areas should be considered as an extension to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. In the last year Natural England has been evaluating the evidence, as well as undertaking field and desk-based research to create a proposed new boundary and a bigger Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The proposed extension to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty looks to increase the size of the area by 25%, over 100 square kilometres. Already a quarter of the county of Surrey is nationally protected as the Surrey Hills and the proposed extension would take this figure to over 30% of the total area.
This is a fantastic opportunity to improve the conservation of our natural and cultural heritage, to enhance people’s access to the landscapes they love for mental and physical wellbeing, to nurture sustainable economic growth and to protect the unique habitat and species that call this area home.
To get involved in the consultation, click here.