Is the Green Belt about to turn brown?

I read on page 5 of the current LRA Newsletter: "… the ecological value of Cherkley’s uncultivated chalk grassland remains in dispute between Mole Valley and Longshot. Until this is resolved, the application of total herbicide and construction of the golf course cannot commence."

Good, I thought. Then, on the same day, I receive a press release from Cherkley Campaign Ltd and read: "Local countryside campaigners were horrified to hear this week that Longshot Cherkley Court Ltd, the company that owns the Cherkley estate outside Leatherhead, is about to start applying a total herbicide to the wildflower meadows on Leatherhead Downs in preparation for the development of a golf course."

So what is going on?

From 2004 the Cherkley estate had the benefit of a Countryside Stewardship Scheme and around £200,000 of grant money was used to revert arable land to grassland free from artificial fertilisers and pesticides, so that opportunities for an increase in the diversity of flora and fauna could be created.

If Longshot applies total herbicide to the meadows, then make no mistake: that £200,000 will have been wasted, the area’s biodiversity will be irreparably damaged, and this year there will be no cows grazing the land, no no cowslips, no bees, no butterflies, no orchids, or any oxbow daisies. We shall be left with brown fields in place of this rich pastoral environment and, unless the judicial review quashes the MVDC grant of planning permission, it will be only a matter of time before heavy earth moving machinery moves in to re-sculpt 83 hectares of chalk grassland on the North Downs.

How those councillors who suggested that a golf course would enhance and protect this rural landscape and improve conditions for wildlife and biodiversity can square this with the application of total herbicide that will destroy the biodiversity is beyond me. Are these councillors really more knowledgeable about the countryside than the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England whose Surrey branch is supporting the judicial review?

What is happening to our Green Belt?

First our councillors overturn their own Local Plan to allow the development of an exclusive golf course and luxury hotel; then they invite developers to bid for other Green Belt land which will mean the replacement of allotments tended by local residents for 40 years or more.

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