Agenda item


Purpose of the report:  This report updates the Board on the review of the Agreement between Surrey County Council (SCC) and Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) to manage the County Council’s Countryside Estate.  A decision report is going to the County Council’s Cabinet in February 2016.  This will set out the changes to the way the Agreement in managed, the commitment by SWT to reach a zero contribution from SCC by 2021 and the monitoring process put in place to ensure the service is delivered to the agreed standards.



Declarations of interest:






Lisa Creaye-Griffin, Countryside Group Manager

Ian Boast, Assistant Director for Environment

Nigel Davenport, Chief Executive, Surrey Wildlife Trust

Roger Wild, Director of Finance, Surrey Wildlife Trust

Mark Pearson, Director of Countryside Management, Surrey Wildlife Trust

Mike Goodman, Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning.


Key points raised during the discussion:


1.    The Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning commented that Surrey Wildlife Trust were willing to engage and make amendments to their contract with Surrey County Council. He also commented that both parties had been on a long and difficult journey to reach an agreement but believed that both parties agreed on the same direction of travel.

2.    Officers reported that a number of plans had been drawn up, with the key to success being the main business plan, monitoring progress via agreed key performance indicators, and applying the correct investment opportunities. It was also reported that Surrey Wildlife Trust were looking to create efficiencies from their own resources.

3.    The Chief Executive of Surrey Wildlife Trust commented that the Trust and Surrey County Council had been working well together and that the relationship between them had improved, and that there was an understanding of the importance of making the countryside estate self-financing.


4.    It was reported that the risks to the Trust, should the plans fail, were significant and that therefore it was in the Trust’s interest to succeed.
It was reported that the Trustees would be discussing the Memorandum of Understanding, their formal commitment to the Council, at a meeting on 8 February 2016.

5.    Members queried some of the figures around the woodland plan citing; 1,150 hectares generating £116,500 net income. The Director of Countryside Management explained that the Trust had commissioned an assessment of all nineteen woodlands on the countryside estate, and that they had been surveyed; however, at the time of writing the business plan they focussed on the four most productive woodlands, though assessments were still coming in for woodlands across the rest of the estate. The assessments have been completed, DWT are now working on the management plans for each woodland.

6.    Members commented that a 0.1% per annum return was not a good prospect, however the Director of Countryside Management explained that the figures were based on wood prices and that opportunities would increase year on year, and that the low return on woodlands would be investigated.

7.    Members commented that there were many income generating ventures that could be achieved in woodlands that did not require cutting down the wood. Officers agreed that recreational and amenity based activities were potentially viable in Surrey’s woodland estate. The Director of Countryside Management explained that discussions were taking place with contacts in the wood fuel industry around income generating opportunities. Some members raised concerns around levels of return.

8.    The Chairman of the board agreed for the item to be taken into Part 2, by virtue of paragraph(s) 3, Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person including the authority holding that information). The Chairman invited the Director of Finance from Surrey Wildlife Trust to stay for the first part of this section of the meeting to which he agreed.

9.    Members further discussed the agreement between Surrey County Council and Surrey Wildlife Trust and outlined their concerns regarding the agreement. The Cabinet Member for Environment and Planning assured members of the Board their comments would be taken on board.




a)    For the Board to send a recommendation to Cabinet outlining concerns around the agreement between Surrey County Council and Surrey Wildlife Trust to manage the Countryside Estate.




For a recommendation outlining the Boards concerns to be sent to Cabinet for consideration.


Supporting documents: