Decision details

Returning the Countryside to Residents

Decision Maker: Cabinet, Executive Director Resources, Executive Director Environment, Transport & Infrastructure

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes


Please note this report is provided in two parts and all commercial in confidence information is contained in Part 2.

SCC’s Cabinet approved a new delivery model for Surrey County Council’s (SCC) Countryside Estate (CE) dated 2002, as attached on the 31st March 2020. It returned the responsibility for visitor services and access to the Council. Conservation and habitat management continues to be managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT). A new deed of variation and lease was signed with SWT on 14th August 2020 to formalise this new delivery model.

The sawmill was part of the CE when transferred to SWT in 2002 and has been managed by SWT throughout the contract. Aside from two financial years in this 18-year period, it required funding from the estate budget to support its operation.

The sawmill does not fit within the responsibilities for either party in the new operating model. SWT have confirmed they do not want to continue with responsibility for its operation, returning their focus to core biodiversity activity, and the running of a commercial sawmill is not a core function of the Council and.

SCC committed to undertaking an options appraisal, as part of the transitional arrangements for estate property and, pending completion of the variation, to explore whether the operation could continue. The Options Appraisal concluded closure was the best option.




1.    That the variation of the agreement with Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) for the management of the Countryside Estate in accordance with the proposals detailed in the report, noting the cost implications outline in paragraphs 34-38 of the submitted report be agreed.


2.    That authority be delegated to the Executive Director for Environment, Transport and Infrastructure and the Executive Director for Resources in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Fire & Resilience and the Cabinet Member for Finance to:


            a.        enter into final negotiations with Surrey Wildlife Trust and complete the variation to the agreement, including the surrender of Phase 1 and 2 leases and re-grant of lease.

            b.        agree the implementation of transitional arrangements with Surrey Wildlife Trust for the management of Countryside Visitor Services and property management responsibilities pending completion of the variation.

            c.        transfer the responsibilities for visitor services to Surrey County Council on the 1 April 2020 subject to ‘call-in’ arrangements.


Reason for decision:


Approval of the recommendations to implement changes to the agreement with SWT, improves its effectiveness and efficiency. SWT are fully supportive of the proposed changes as set out in this report. The countryside is a natural resource offering significant opportunities to support and benefit the health and wellbeing of residents.


[The decisions on this item can be called in by the Communities, Environment & Highways Select Committee]


Report author: Alan Bowley

Publication date: 01/04/2020

Date of decision: 31/03/2020

Decided at meeting: 31/03/2020 - Cabinet

Effective from: 08/04/2020

Accompanying Documents: