Frensham Ponds’ existing visitor centre will be demolished and replaced, while the car park will be reconfigured for the installation of pay and display machines and to fit 15 more spaces on the site.
The decision, which was made by the planning inspectorate on Friday (March 15), comes after Waverley Borough Council’s (WBC’s) planning committee approved the plans on November 22 last year. However, extra permission was still needed.
The Commons Act 2006 states that any developer wanting to carry out works on common land must get the consent of the “appropriate national authority”, which in this case is the planning inspectorate.
In his report outlining the decision, planning inspector Richard Holland wrote he was “satisfied” the works would improve the site for visitors and would do so in a way that does not harm local wildlife.
In its original planning application WBC, which is redeveloping the National Trust-owned land, said the changes to the car park would reduce congestion and prevent queues tailing back to Bacon Lane.
Speaking in July last year before a consultation event on the plans, Councillor Julia Potts, leader of WBC, said the redevelopment would allow better management of the site and give visitors a more pleasant experience.
“The existing building is unable to cope with the current and future demands of visitors and is uneconomical to run,” she said.
A new café is coming
The larger replacement visitor centre will contain a café, toilets, a ranger office and a classroom. A security fence would also be installed around the ranger’s work yard.
Two new ponds will be created for the conservation of the Natterjack Toad, a species which has been in decline in recent years, by providing more areas for it to live.
In his report, Mr Holland said he believes the works to be “in the interests of nature conservation” at the site, which sits within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
“I consider that the two new wildlife ponds will be interesting and attractive features in the landscape,” he wrote. “I am satisfied that the works will conserve the natural beauty of the AONB.”
He also states the reconfigured car park and new visitor centre would take up less space than the existing ones with new features at the visitor centre.
These, he writes, will benefit the area by “enriching visitor experience”.