Ranmore Common in the spotlight: Residents concern of over-used byways and anti-social behaviour causing damage to Surrey Hills

29th July 2021

Tension is mounting between residents and off-road motorists on the Byways across the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Since lockdown the area has seen an increase in off-road motorised vehicles, with new tracks being illegally carved out on private land causing damage to nesting sites and historic landscape features. Residents have also noted a spike in anti-social behaviour such as fly-tipping, trespassing and setting fire to vehicles.

The Surrey Hills AONB Board Chair, Heather Kerswell, members of the Surrey Hills Board and local councillors met with Sarah Billingham and other residents on Monday 26 July to discuss the issues and see the damage being caused first hand at a site visit to Ranmore Common.

Heather Kerswell, Chair of the Surrey Hills AONB Board, says,

“I was shocked and saddened to see the damage being done to these byways and the surrounding habitats and historic landscape features. The Surrey Hills AONB Board sympathises with the impact that it has on residents and other recreational users in this beautiful and popular part of the Surrey Hills.  I am also aware of evidence that similar problems are now shared across large areas of the Surrey Hills. We need to work in partnership with our rural communities, Surrey County Council and Surrey Police to minimise this damage.”

The unique area of Ranmore Common just off the North Downs Way National Trail is a Site of Special Scientific interest and home to Lovelace bridges, WW11 monuments and old drovers roads with their ancient banks and woodlands. The grassy downland slopes offer a rare habitat to a myriad of species. The area is managed by a variety of landowners and regularly frequented by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. Due to the popularity of the byways in this area large rutted, muddy tracks have formed leaving them in a shocking state of repair impassable to all vehicles except robust 4x4s.

Local resident Sarah Billingham comments,

“We were delighted that members of the Surrey Hills Board came out to view the problems we are having across Ranmore Common. We have seen a huge increase in convoys of trail bikes and 4×4 vehicles accessing our byways in recent months, some of whom destroy habitats by regular trespassing onto private land. These convoys also displace walkers and horse riders from the BOATs which should be open to ALL traffic and not just vehicles. Protective action needs to be taken to combat this problem, possibly through closing some sections of our byways but we are concerned that this may push the problem to other areas of the Surrey Hills. I feel it is imperative that an overview approach is taken which amalgamates information as well as connecting communities that are all trying to contain these issues in isolation. A joined-up approach or possibly an area-wide Traffic Regulation Order for the Surrey Hills needs to be considered.”

Surrey County Councillor Hazel Watson, comments,

“There is mounting concern about the damage being caused to the protected Surrey Hills landscape by an irresponsible minority of off-road drivers. This site visit has highlighted how great the problem is in Mole Valley.”

“Today we saw deep rutted tracks caused by vehicles that, when filled with water, hide brick and rubble that can cause serious damage to walkers, cyclists and horse riders. We need to highlight the seriousness of this problem and work together to solve it.”

Reports of antisocial crime can be made to Surrey Police via their online reporting tool; https://www.surrey.police.uk/ro/report/asb/asb/report-antisocial-behaviour/

For further information on the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) visit www.surreyhills.org.