Parish Council Emergency Meeting Meeting May 3rd 2023

The meeting was held in the Elstead Youth Hall and was attended by over 50 Elstead residents.

(Note: This report has been amended as it lacked clarity on some items discussed and to distinguish between the informal public discussion and the formal Parish Council meeting.)


Parish Council Chair Pat Murphy opened the meeting for informal public discussion at 8:30 p.m.

The three fields called Bonfire Hill in the centre of Elstead at the western end of the Spring hill ridge are for sale with a guide price of £250,000. They are currently owned by speculative developers who have made two unsuccessful applications for planning permission for housing. The fields are rented by two graziers for horse breeding on short term contracts with 3 month’s notice. 

The Neighbourhood Plan Public Opinion Survey showed a majority of residents in Elstead want these fields preserved as a public open space and it has been designated as such in the Neighbourhood Plan. This is not yet fully signed off by Waverley. 

Topics discussed at the meeting:

  1. Future use of the land. It was clear from the discussion that for most people present the objective is to secure the land for public use and to prevent development for housing. The present sale gives Elstead the opportunity to obtain it and decide how best to use it.
  2. The Parish Council could purchase the land with a loan but the cost of this and maintenance would result in an average increase in the Council Tax of about £20 per year for each household. 
  3. Community funding. This was supported by a majority of the people present at the meeting but would take several months to organise. Probably not enough for purchase but could be suitable for improvement and maintenance.
  4. Letting the land for grazing could contribute to maintenance costs. Other possible uses for the land were suggested, such as re-wilding, leisure or wildlife conservation, (e.g. the badger setts on the north western edge of the field and the local bat population). 
  5. Other funding could come from a range of charities or public bodies, This would likely require matching funding from the Parish Council
  6. A Sponsor. A potential sponsor has previously wanted to fund improvements in Elstead and he has made a bid for the land. If successful he could hand  the land over to the Parish Council under a Deed of Trust 
  7. Improvement and Maintenance. The fields would have to be cleared and properly fenced and secured. This would need to be funded by the Parish Council. Public contribution to a maintenance fund was also suggested. Much of the ongoing maintenance work could be done by volunteers like those who work on the Thursley Nature Reserve. 

Conclusion. Pat Murphy closed the public discussion and opened the formal Parish Council meeting.  Councillors discussed the earlier topics and answered some further questions from the public. They then voted on a decision to maintain the land if it comes under Council control. This was agreed and supported by the majority of the public at the meeting. The Minutes of the meeting will be published in due course.