Car park use 2013/14

March 2014

The MOD has taken no further action to close the car park. During 2013 and early 2014 it has been used by the Army for buses bringing trainees whose units do not have keys for the gate on Bridleway 101, also by civilian visitors. Most military vehicles park at the DZ Huts. The central car aprk was closed for a few weeks during filming of "The Man from Uncle" and the Houndown Lane car park was opened for public use at that time. During January, February and March 2014 the Houndown car park was opened during the filming of "The Scottish Play" but was little used as the central car park was still open. As always during filming on the Common there was a considerable increase in visitor numbers. The Pitch Place car park has often been full and the surface has suffered during wet weather. 


Following objections to the installation of a gate on Bridleway 101 leading to the central car park on Hankley Common work has been suspended, pending discussions with Surrey CC Highways Dept.

Landmarc dug deep ditches and banks along Bridleway 99 on Houndown Lane, to prevent parking on the verges near the new car park. There were no passing places and it would not be easy to access the car park, nor for pedestrians and horse riders to move to one side to avoid cars. Following action by Surrey CC Rights of Way Dept the ditches have now been filled in again.

Houndown Lane is an ancient highway, allotted land of 30ft width in the 1857 Elstead Inclosures. In 2012 the MoD registered boundaries for Houndown that included the verge of Houndown Lane and this is where Landmarc dug the ditches, obstructing the highway. Some highway land was also taken from the land allotted for the old Farnham to Thursley road near the crossroads with Houndown & Woolfords Lanes.

Waverley and local Parish Councillors are having discussions with the MoD about the legal and practical issues involved. Surrey CC Highways Dept has also been informed.


The horse stile at Pitch Place has been removed and work on a gate at the Houndown/Woolfords Lane crossroads has been stopped.

H New Car Park


Official message from the MOD Defence Infrastructure Organisation about the central car park on Hankley Common: "We would like to inform you that we will be closing the DZ Hut harbouring area to the public with effect from the middle to end of January 2013. The new area at Houndown will be available for the public to use." 

The MOD will close the central DZ car park on Hankley Common to the public permanently from mid/late January and will open the new Houndown Lane car park at the same time. From now until mid-January will be the last chance for visitors to use the central car park off Truxford Lane (Bridleway 101) to get to the viewpoint above the car park and the ridge east of the Drop Zone on Hankley Common.


A campaign earlier this year to persuade the MOD to keep the car park open raised 680 signatures on a petition, from all over the area.  In spite of strong  lobbying and negotiations by Elstead and Waverley Councillors, the MOD decided that Army training must take precedence over public use of this car park, partly for safety reasons. The public still has access to Hankley Common for recreation as before, subject to the Military Byelaws posted at access points to the Common.


The new car park is not as big as the old one and will not give much room for horse boxes. Access to the viewpoints on the Common from the new car park is not so convenient, especially for elderly and less mobile people.


The car park on the Thursley Road near Pitch Place has been improved but it has a height restriction of 2.3 m. Access to the viewpoints on the southern part of the Common is fairly easy and two bridleways lead north to the Drop Zone and Kettlebury Hill. Bridleway 108 runs through this car park but there is no access for cycles, wheelchairs or mobility vehicles at this point. Pedestrians have to step over a "horse friendly" opening, partly obstructed by low timber beams and this could be difficult for people who are elderly or partly disabled. 


Horse riders and cyclists on Hankley Common are allowed by law to use marked bridleways but should watch out for unexpected military activity, including firing of blank rounds and fireworks. Horse riders who have bought licences can use other tracks and paths, unless restricted by the terms of their licence. Riders and pedestrians should try to avoid areas where training activities are taking place. Landmarc wardens and Army personnel can request users of the Common to change their route if necessary and in some circumstances can insist on this. The MOD has given assurances that civilians will be warned if possible and training operations may be suspended if they are likely to be affected but this should not be relied on.

Pitch Place


There are many reasons as to why so many people are upset about the plan to restrict public access to Hankley Common. Listed below are a number of points that have already been brought up. 

 1.      Large area allows co-existence between military and public use

The military and the public have shared use of Hankley Common for 40 years or more.  The level of use for military training activities such as parachute drops and cadet training has varied considerably. Hankley Common is a very large area of 230 hectares with multiple tracks, so it is easy for members of the public to avoid areas of military training. Despite regular military training taking place, the area is so large it is easy to go to Hankley Common every day and not even come close to such activities.

2.      Proposed replacement car park less convenient

Elderley and disabled people and parents with small children will find it much more difficult to access the Common.

3.      Contradictory motives for car park closure
Despite 40 years of peaceful coexistence, Landmarc has suggested that having a car park in the middle of a military training area raises concerns about health and safety. (Such concerns have apparently been disregarded, however, in the siting of the proposed new car park.) At the same time they have said there is no intention to restrict public access. This is disingenuous. Cars parked in a visitors' car park do not present a threat to health and safety. Despite Landmarc's denials, we believe the real motive is to restrict public access.

4.      Preserve disabled and family access
One of the benefits of the existing car park at Hankley Common is that it allows all members of the public to get onto the heart of the Common. From there they can enjoy good, firm trails at the top of a ridge providing views across Surrey, as well as easy access to wider parts of the common that remain dry and walkable even in the worst weathers. This enables families with children - together with less able-bodied people, including those in wheelchairs to enjoy the open space. There are a number of disabled people, including paralympic athletes, who use Hankley Common to relax and enjoy themselves. Hampering access to the car park will have a severe impact on their access to the Common.

5.      MoD guidance on public access
The MoD states emphatically on their Hankley Common website that "we will seek to increase the overall amount, quality and certainty of access to the estate." Their actions, however, are in direct contradiction to this public commitment.

6.      Paid access to Hankley Common
There have been claims that the public access to Hankley prevents the military from training. However there has been longstanding use of Hankley Common for activities such as cross-country races, bike races and filming. The latest James Bond movie is currently filming in front of the MOD huts, while military training continues unaffected. It seems that local residents are no longer welcome for fear of disrupting training, but high paying film crews with large encampments are permitted without disruption. It is unclear whether this revenue is received by the MoD or their estate management company Landmarc.

7.      Government encouragement to exercise and enjoy open space
The British public is encouraged to take more exercise. Hankley Common represents a massive area to get out and exercise, at no cost and without impacting other people, and to take daily exercise in an unspoiled environment. Public use of Hankley Common should be encouraged, rather than restricted.

8.      Enouraging local tourism
In the year of the Olympics we have seen there are campaigns to encourage people to "Visit Surrey". Hankley Common represents a beautiful natural area in Surrey that provides magnificent views, clean air and wildlife to enjoy. It is illogical to restrict public access while seeking to promote Surrey using just such areas.

9.      Military Byelaws provide public access to enjoy the whole common
MoD and Landmarc personnel have been harassing and intimidating members of the public using the Common. Their manner has been so arrogant and aggressive that some people have been reduced to tears. Users have been told they are only allowed on a couple of paths on the Common and they are acting illegally if they move elsewhere. However, the Surrey Commons Military Byelaws say "Subject to provisions of these byelaws, the Public are permitted to use all parts of the Military Lands not specifically enclosed or the entry to which is not shown by notice as restricted, for the purposes of open-air recreation at all times providing such access does not inhibit military use of such lands for which they are appropriated."

10.     Damaging good feeling towards the military
For many local people, having soldiers training on Hankley Common is one of the few opportunities to actually see and engage with our armed forces, whether school age cadets, Territorials or regulars. This helps to put a positive, human face on the sometimes remote image of the Army. Having the military exclude the public from Hankley will not only remove this opportunity for closer relations but also have a very negative impact on public perceptions.

11.     Lack of communication and goodwill
At no time over the last few months has the MoD or Landmarc offered any straightforward communication about their intentions and reasons. There have been misdirections and lies, together with unpredictable behaviour leading to unnecessary bad feelings. Open communication, respectful dialogue and reasoned, honest behaviour is necessary to rebuild the goodwill and support felt toward the MoD.

12.     Lying about reasons for restricting access
Over the last few months there has been an orchestrated campaign of disinformation spread by the MoD/Landmarc to state that dog fouling was the reason the car park might be closed. Yet when asked about this, they have acknowledged that this was false. They concede it is nothing to do with the real reasons for plans to close the car park.

13.     Worrying pattern of behaviour in reducing public access
There has never been any open communication on the aims or motives, but instead a long-running campaign of reducing access to Hankley Common as well as other sites. There used to be other car parks at the bottom of Westbrook Hill and near Pitch Place which have been either completely removed or drastically reduced in size over the past wo years. There appears to be a long term plan to restrict public access to Hankley Common for no good reason and in direct contravention to the MOD's own guide on public access and the Surrey Commons military Byelaws. Signs giving the same warning of possible car park closure if dog mess is not drastically reduced have now been posted in other nearby areas such as the northern access to Thursley Common.