MP backs call to extend Surrey Hills beauty area into Croydon

A Croydon MP says that residents have a “fantastic opportunity” to take part in a public consultation which could see parts of his constituency, such as Farthing Downs and Happy Valley, Coulsdon Common and Rddlesdown, added to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Viewing point: Happy Valley could get added protections if included in the Surrey Hills AONB

Chris Philp, Conservative MP for Croydon South, says that he is “delighted” that some of Croydon’s best-loved natural open spaces are being considered under Natural England’s consultation to expand the boundaries of four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including the long-established Surrey Hill AONB.

“These proposals have the potential to deliver more than 1,600 additional square kilometres of protected land,” Philp said.

“This comes as part of the government’s commitment to protect 30 per cent of our land by 2030 for nature. The boundaries of the Surrey Hills AONB are included in this review and I am delighted that potential candidates for areas of outstanding natural beauty include Farthing Downs, Happy Valley, Coulsdon Common and Riddlesdown,” Philp told Inside Croydon.

More than 1,000 acres of Croydon open spaces, mostly managed on behalf of owners the City of London Corporation, were granted National Nature Reserve status in 2019, bringing together Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), including the rare flower-rich chalk downs, and other sites of value to wildlife, while offering additional planning protection from rapacious development.

AONB status ups those protections considerably.

AONBs represent some of England’s most outstanding and treasured landscapes, whose special qualities are so precious that it is safeguarded in the national interest. AONBs are equivalent to National Parks in terms of the national importance of their natural beauty.

The Surrey Hills AONB boundary has not been reviewed since it was originally designated in 1958.

“I know that there have been repeated calls by local campaigners to reconsider the boundary,” Philp said. “Including parts of our local area in the Surrey Hills AONB could help preserve the natural environment and heritage while providing an opportunity to support people’s health and wellbeing through access to nature.

Growth area: recognition as an AONB would provide additional protections for Croydon’s Green Belt

“The consultation is considering areas of high scenic quality including chalk grassland, parkland and historic features.”

The first stage of the consultation runs until January 31. After this, further fieldwork and evaluation will take place, followed by the identification of candidate areas by June this year.

The call for evidence is asking for locations accompanied by a photograph and description of the special qualities of the location, such as the landscape quality and tranquillity, as well as any additional supporting comments.

You can read more about the consultation and how to respond by post by clicking here.

If you would like to fill in the consultation online, click here.

Philp said, “This is a fantastic opportunity for our area, and I hope that you take part in the consultation.”

Read more: How Coulsdon’s downland oasis is helping to save the planet
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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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4 Responses to MP backs call to extend Surrey Hills beauty area into Croydon

  1. Lewis White says:

    I have been waiting for this importnat consultation for around 2 years. Perhaps it is good that it was delayed, whether intentionally or not, into less covid-fraught 2022.

    The thing about the landscape is that it flows across the …er…landscape, not always respecting current human boundaries such as Surrey and Croydon (of course, the Saxon sub-Kingdom and later county of Surrey used to flow right up London Bridge) albeit that the landscape has been much affected by such boundaries. There is a clear change in the landscape and pattern of hedges and woodlands on each side of the Welsh border, and even between Surrey and Kent in places.

    It is entirely logical that the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty (SHaonb) should be extended across areas in the modern Croydon. Farthing Downs and Happy Valley are in fact some of the highest qulaity landscape in the whole of Britain, as good as anything within the current limits of the SHaonb.

    It is important too, that they are linked with the rest of the aonb so that they are not isolated “islands”. An area of fine landscape depends partly on its setting as well. Jewels benefit from being set into a crown ! There is a huge and beautiful tract of land between them and Chipstead which forms the landscape setting of Farthing Downs. It is therefore vital that this area is also protected by the aonb designation.

    For the same reason, but applied to other areas of the existing or proposed aonb extension, I think that there could be a justification for having “aonb gateway or aonb threshold” areas which act as a moat around a castle, protecting the core area. In Coulsdon, we are blessed with having a very beautiful remaining section of the Chipstead valley hill slopes in the area of Cane Hill, behind the two Smitham Schools in Portnalls Road. This is of great visual importance to a huge area of West Coulsdon. In addition, it is seen as a green and beautiful surprise, the first area of countryside and downland landscape experienced by the traveller coming out from London on the main road from Wallington. This area needs more than just “Green belt” protective status. The human eye and brain viewing the landscape makes visual links between areas of green hilly landscape even if there are bricks and mortar in the valleys between. Thus, a good case can be made to include such areas as the Caned Hill Western slopes to the aonb, maybe as a “threshold area” .

    If any IC readers who know and love the local landscape could consider asking Natural England for this area (and the landscape setting of Farthing Downs mentioned above) to be added to the SH aonb, this is the golden and maybe ONLY opportunity. There might well be areas in Kenley and Sanderstead that should be added too.

    So, big thanks again to Chris Philp for mentioning this. It is very important for interested residents to respond to Natural England. The consultation should have a zoomable map to show the areas proposed for designation. As I mention above, it might be sensible to ask for other areas to be added. They do actually listen to reasoned argument. This is a once in half a lifetime’s chance to make suggestions. As always, the time window for comments is not long enough, so we need to get comments in quickly !

  2. Helen Toomey says:

    Would be a credible plug for rare chalk grasslands in Croydon if cretin Philp hadn’t stuck up for Bodger’s boozey No. 10 parties. Even Ottaway occasionally had a moral backbone about that sort of thing.

  3. Pingback: Surrey Hills AONB Boundary Review – Hadra

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