The Run Common Road saga continues!
This key route in and out of Cranleigh initially closed last year after cracks appeared in the road surface.
The cracks in Run Common Road were caused by subsidence west of the bridge, which takes the road over the Downs Link (the old railway line).
When investigated, the cause of the subsidence was identified as a badger sett, undermining the embankment supporting the road.
In August 2020, Surrey County Council applied to Natural England to interfere with the badger sett. This licence to relocate the badger sett was granted in October, with a deadline of 30th November 2020 for demonstrating that the badgers are no longer returning to the sett.
Surrey County Council worked with Surrey Wildlife Trust to create an alternative home for the badgers, using an innovative one-way gate system to allow them to leave their existing home but not return.
At the start of December, this work to relocate the badgers was deemed a success. Surrey County Council completed its investigations in January, with works scheduled to start in March and then delayed until May.
A significant problem was discovered shortly before the works were due to start, identifying DNA from Great crested newts within 65 metres of the planned works.
Great crested newts are a European protected species. The animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.
It is a criminal offence to damage or destroy a breeding or resting place, with each offence punishable by an unlimited fine and up to 6 months in prison.
As a result, Surrey County Council decided in June to apply to Natural England to determine if a mitigation licence was required, based on survey results.
Surrey County Council applied for this mitigation licence in July, initially expecting it to be granted in a couple of weeks.
In a new update, Surrey County Council says:
Natural England has advised that their response time to our proposals have significantly extended from their first expectation. Unfortunately we are unable to start the site works without a response from them, to do so would risk exposing the County and our supply chain to risk of prosecution.
We are doing what we can to expedite the process, however are unable to reopen the road as it is not safe to do so.
So, when will Run Common Road finally reopen?
With increasingly frustrated residents, we will continue chasing Surrey County Council and Natural England for updates.
It seems very unlikely that Surrey County Council will meet the original target completion date of October 2021, and those living in Cranleigh will have to put up with the continued closure of this key route for many months to come.
Update: A Natural England spokesperson has provided Destination Cranleigh with a statement:
We have received an application from Surrey County Council for our Discretionary Advice Service. This is under review for our approval or rejection. We aim to notify the applicant of the outcome of their application by the end of August.
Natural England Wildlife Licensing cannot confirm to applicants whether a wildlife licence is required or not. It is the responsibility of the ecologist, developers or applicants to decide, based on their own investigations of the protected species presence.
If any work could disturb a protected species such as great crested newts, those carrying out the work must establish whether a licence is needed before proceeding, and make the appropriate application to Natural England.