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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Executive held on 08/01/2008
Common Standards


Common Standards
A leaflet to explain what makes Cranleigh Common special and guidelines to protect it

How To Use This Leaflet

This leaflet explains the features that make Cranleigh Common special and gives guidelines to steer the site’s long-term conservation, management and enhancement. Local people have helped with its preparation and it is intended to guide the actions of everybody involved with the common.

The Common’s Importance

The common is a defining feature of Cranleigh. Historically the dwellings around the edge of the common formed one of the two settlements that joined up to make the village of Cranley (later named Cranleigh). The common has remained largely undeveloped and has retained the typical pattern of a common with its funnel ends and periphery dwellings.

Once the common was larger and more open, with few trees and used by commoners to graze their stock. It was still being grazed by cattle in 1918, but there are no longer any commoners with grazing rights. The windmill on the common milled corn from the surrounding agricultural land until 1917. Cricket has been played on the common since 1843.

The main changes to the common came from the opening of the turnpike road in 1794 (Guildford Road & High Street) which cut straight across the middle. The construction of the railway in 1865, which isolated the corner (now Lashmere recreation area) and development between the railway line and the High Street. The planting of the main avenue of Maple trees around 1889 (a donation by Mr Rowcliffe of Hall Place) and later tree plantings around the cricket green and along the Elmbridge Road.

The Cranleigh Healthcheck, Village Design Statement and Common Standards Questionnaire show that local people put a high value on the common and its trees. The way the common brings the open countryside into the centre of the village and the colour of the Maple trees defines the character of Cranleigh.

Cranleigh common is registered common land (No. CL 221) of around 16 hectares. It was acquired by Hambledon Rural District Council in 1910 as a public open space under the Public Health Act 1875. Byelaws for its management were put in place in 1951. It is currently managed by Waverley Borough Council’s Countryside Section. The cricket green is leased to Cranleigh Cricket Club.

What Makes it Special?

A landscape assessment was carried out by the Cranleigh Healthcheck Environment Group and Waverley Countryside staff to help understand what makes the common special. Five areas with distinctive characters were identified:-

1) War Memorial Common – An intimate, formal, park-like area dominated by the War Memorial with smaller memorials (horse trough 1889, Diana plaque 1997) and flag pole. The mature trees give it an enclosed and grand feel and link it with the avenue of Maples. The shrub beds and daffodils provide colour at times of the year. The area is heavily used as a pedestrian thoroughfare, it is busy and noisy due to the traffic, but it has a generally pleasant feel with light and shade and places to sit. The most important view is the vista along the tree lined common towards the cricket green, with secondary views to Fountain Square, Stockland Square and Bank Buildings and shops.
Key Features to Protect: View along the common; Memorials; Place to walk/sit.

2) Avenue Common – A large-scale, formal area of grass and open space enclosed by the mature Maple trees that come right into the centre of the village. Dominated by straight lines and long views in both directions to the war memorial and cricket green, with glimpses of the surrounding houses and shops through the trees. It is full of colour in the Spring and Autumn from the reds and oranges of the Maple trees and the Spring wild flowers. The area is well used for walking/cycling to/from the village and community events, but most people view it from the road or paths alongside. The trees provide shade and help to screen the traffic on the High Street. Vehicles parking on access tracks detracts from the rural feel and disrupts the principle views.
Key Features to Protect: Avenue of Maple; Views along the common; Open countryside feel.

3) Cricket Common – A large-scale, typical “village green” landscape surrounded by trees, with glimpses of the attractive cottages and houses around the cricket green. There are views out through the trees to the open common by the Guildford Road and distant views of Hascombe Hill. The recreational use, with close mown grass, cricket pavilion, cricket screens and nets, and benches gives it a formal, manicured feel. It is a busy area, but relatively peaceful. The surrounding trees define the boundaries of the cricket green and help to screen the cars and noise from the main road. The pond, stream, ditches, rough grass verges, and heritage water fountain around the cricket green are the smaller details that are mainly noticed by those on foot. Car parking and intrusive highway signs detract from the rural village green feel.
Key Features to Protect: Cricket green; Surrounding trees, pond and ditches.

4) Open Common – A large-scale open, natural, un-mown grassland with wild flowers, providing an informal, open countryside entrance to the village. Roads cross the common from where there are open views towards attractive cottages and houses that edge the common, glimpses of the cricket green and tree lined high street and distant views to Winterfold. Whilst there are some trees alongside the road and close to houses, the dominant feel is of the original open, rural common. Highway signs, street lighting, traffic noise and cars parked on the access road to Parkgate Cottages disrupt the rural feel. The open common provides the location for the two village fairs (allowed by charter) and the annual bonfire and firework display.
Key Features to Protect: Open views; Un-mown grassland & wild flowers.

5) Woodland Common – A block of oak woodland, edged by scrub that forms a dense, dark backdrop to the open common. A network of informal paths through the woodland gives access to the Downs Link and Lashmere recreation ground. Inside the woodland there is an enclosed feel, with the rather sparse understory giving it a pleasant airy feel with dappled shade in the Summer. The traffic noise from Elmbridge and Guildlford Roads is quite noticeable. The woodland close to Lashmere is well used by local children and the woodland floor is bare of vegetation, however bramble and scrub increases towards Notcutts Garden Centre.
Key Features to Protect: Oak woodland block with glades and paths.

Guiding Principles

These principles and policies have been developed to protect and conserve Cranleigh Common. They should be used to guide any future work and management decisions.

1) Protect the common land and its historic common pattern
2) Protect the common as a rural setting for Cranleigh and a green open space into the centre of the village

The common is registered common land. Development and enclosure is therefore not permitted and would require Secretary of State approval and a land swap. However there is a risk of small-scale encroachment and erosion of the common boundaries. The boundary should be inspected regularly; householders adjoining the common should be made aware of the common land boundary and action taken if encroachment occurs. Part of the common is within the Cranleigh Conservation Area, which provides further protection.

3) Conserve and enhance the landscape character of the distinct areas

There are five distinct character areas that are described in the Landscape Assessment. Their key features and views should be protected and taken account of in any planned works.

4) Protect and conserve key views

There are some critical views that must be maintained in order to conserve the distinctive character and integrity of the common. These are:-
An unobstructed, linear view along the Avenue Common between the War Memorial and the Cricket Common and between the War Memorial and Fountain Square.
Glimpses across the Cricket Common, Avenue Common and War Memorial Common through the trees lining the High Street and from the path alongside the avenue common.
Unobstructed views across the Open Common from the access roads into and out of Cranleigh
Distant views to Hascombe Hill and Winterfold

5) Retain the avenue of Maples along the High Street

The avenue of Maple trees and its Spring and Autumn colours are very important to the people of Cranleigh. From time to time trees will be lost through disease and natural decline. Trees should be replaced to maintain continuity and planted on the existing lines. Any pressure to move the line of trees further into the common, away from the High Street, should be resisted as this could allow for road or pavement widening which would threaten the conservation of the common. To get better tree establishment it may be best to wait until 2 or 3 trees need replacement in one area or to remove a tree prematurely to allow light and space for replacements – this will need to be judged on a case by case basis. This will result in uneven age structure, which is less noticeable as the principle views are along the line of trees, and less risky than the wholesale removal of the avenue & replanting at one time which would have a great a landscape impact and may fail if poor weather conditions affects tree establishment. Replacement should be with a red leaved Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) using the original cultivar; schwedleri or deborah. An exception to this are the four Limes in the avenue which have a heritage value as an entrance to an earlier house named Stonelands (now White Oaks) which should be replaced with Lime.

Preventing damage to newly planted trees from mowing equipment and vandalism and correct aftercare such as watering is essential to ensure healthy tree establishment.

6) Retain trees around cricket common

The trees around the cricket ground are important in defining the area, providing a rural setting and shade for those watching and as a screen to cars and traffic noise.
A mix of tree species is appropriate away from the avenue. In general, replace like with like, however it would strengthen the avenue effect approaching Cranleigh if over time the Limes and London Plane opposite the Cranleigh Hotel were replaced by red leaved Noway Maple.

7) Retain an unenclosed natural feel to the open common area

Maintain open views from the roads across the common. Do not replace the trees along the Elmbridge Road when they decline or allow tree planting along the Guildford Road. Retain or install roadside wooden bollards only where there is a high risk of access problems, or consider ditching with pedestrian crossing points provided this does not create a hazard. The only tree planting should only be occasional trees around the periphery of the common to enhance or screen development and to replace feature trees such as the Horse Chestnuts along the Guildford Road.

8) Prevent car parking on the common
9) Prevent proliferation of access tracks across the common

Parking on the common is against the site byelaws, the provisions of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and constitutes trespass on Waverley owned land. Parking causes erosion to the common and vehicles detract from the rural nature of the common and may obscure key views. To allow residents to park within the boundary of their own properties a limited number of vehicle access tracks across the common have been permitted and regularised through easement agreements with Waverley Borough Council. To maintain a rural character, access tracks should be single vehicle width and of an unbound gravel surface or be topped with tar & gravel chips. The residents do not own these tracks and they have no rights to park on them, however they are responsible for their maintenance. There is a policy of not allowing new access tracks and where development occurs it has to share the existing access tracks. Where vehicles have eroded the verges consider reinstatement by establishing earth kerbs/mounds, ditching or installing bollards.

The increase in car ownership, new developments, restrictions on street parking and people’s desire to park near to their destination means there is an increasing problem with car parking on the common. Parking on access tracks and the edge of the common is a particular problem on the Avenue common, near to the shops. The importance of Cranleigh Common requires robust and regular action to prevent parking. Physical restriction on car parking through narrowing of access tracks, ditching and installation of bollards is the most effective method. Informing new residents of the restrictions and leaving notices on parked cars is also helpful. Bollards to prevent parking should be to a standard design – 100mm x100mm x 1.2m (4in x 4in x 4ft) oak posts with 4 way top, 0.6m (2ft) height above ground level.

10) Prevent & reduce sign clutter

Clutter from highway signs and advertising urbanises the common and detracts from its rural character. In recent years highway signs have proliferated. Surrey County Council, the Highway Authority does not have to seek approval for highway signs and they rarely remove redundant ones. New highway signs should only be located on the common as a last resort and alternative locations should be considered first of all, eg markings on the road instead of signs on posts, combining signs to minimise the impact, careful location to avoid obscuring key views.

It has been local practice to advertise local community events on the common, close to the Guildford Road/Elmbridge Road roundabout. Advertising is controlled by planning regulations and common byelaws. Sign guidelines incorporating current legislation have been developed (see Further Information) and will be enforced by Waverley countryside staff. Signs without Waverley Borough Council approval or outside the size limit will be removed.

11) Protect and provide walking & cycling routes

The common is popular for walking. The whole of the common is available to the public, however there are number of regularly used routes and two definitive public footpaths. These routes should at all times be clearly identifiable on the ground. There is also a desire to provide a village cycle route that would link the Downs Link and local services. The pavement on the High Street side of the Avenue and continuing along the Guildford Road has been identified as a potential cycle route as it rarely used by pedestrians. This could provide a mixed-use cycle & pedestrian route, but further consultation is required. The footpath along the Guildford Road is currently quite narrow and would require mowing to improve its width for users.

12) Provide for formal & informal public recreation & community events

The common is valued for sitting, enjoying the view and community events. There are 30 benches for the public’s use on the common, the majority are memorial benches located around the cricket green. There is pressure for more seating, but this would have the effect of the common becoming an urban park, also benches tend to attract litter. There are very limited opportunities for more benches on the war memorial common and within the tree line of the avenue common.

There is a tradition of local events on the common. These are the May Fair, Summer Fete, two commercial funfairs (charter fairs) and Bonfire Night. From time to time there are requests for one off events. The requirement to mow grass to accommodate these events can conflict with the public’s desire to see the wild flowers. Events can also be troublesome to residents adjoining the common. Events should be limited to the four traditional village events listed above.

The cricket club provides the opportunity for formal sport.

13) Protect & enhance wildlife diversity

Cranleigh common is an important green space for wildlife. It contains a range of habitats:- trees, woodland, scrub, wet & dry grassland, 3 ponds, a stream and numerous ditches. Botanical surveys carried out in 1996 and 2005 recorded more than 150 species of plants including Ox-eye Daisy, Black Knapweed and Fleabane. The ponds on the common are particularly important for Great Crested Newt, which is a protected species. The ponds also support populations of Smooth Newt, Palmate Newt as well as Frogs and Toads. All pond management must be undertaken in accordance with recommended guidelines for Great Crested Newts from Natural England.

The different grass cutting regimes has increased the range of habitats and species present. The aim is to allow the common areas furthest from the village to be left to flower and set seed. The common alongside the Guildford Road contains the widest range of wild flowers and is managed as a hay meadow. Whilst the areas close to the village are managed for their amenity value and are cut more frequently. There is public support to let the spring flowers to come out on the Avenue common before cutting – this will require better coordination of timing between grass cutting and events. Local people value the common as countryside coming into the village and so with the exception of the war memorial common the common should be preserved as an informal and natural countryside area and not allowed to develop into a formal park or open space. Planting of non-native bulbs and garden plants should not be permitted.

The oak woodland that forms a backdrop to the open common is subject at times to vandalism and has a weak under-storey. A biological survey should be undertaken and a management plan developed. The scrub layer on its edge provides an additional habitat and widening openings at the points where informal paths pass through will improve the links into the woodland and through to the Downs Link and Lashmere recreation area.

14) Protect & enhance heritage features

Heritage features provide a record of the common’s past and should be recognised and protected. These include:- site of the windmill, disused railway line, water fountain on the cricket green, old post box close to Mill House, toll house ditch, war memorial, horse trough, Diana memorial, house names around the common, ponds. The local history society would like to develop a heritage walk, which would link raise awareness of these features. The local names for the heritage features should be researched and recognised.

15) Control Lighting

Lighting detracts from the rural character and disturbs wildlife. However there is a balance that is needed so that people feel safe whilst walking through the area at night. Where ever possible lighting columns should be located off the common and lighting columns should be of a traditional heritage design, such as those located in Fountain Square.

Christmas lights put into the trees by the Chamber of Commerce can cause damage to the trees and pose a risk when tree surgery work is carried out. Their installation also requires a junction box on the common and trenching which damages the roots of the important mature trees. No more lights should be installed and the ties on the existing ones must be to be loosened/re-installed every two years.

Further Information - Contact Waverley Borough Council Countryside, 01483 523392, or website www.waverley,gov.uk/countryside

Also available are the following:-
Cranleigh Common Events Guidelines
Guidelines for Temporary Signs on Waverley Owned Land
Guidelines on Access Tracks across Common Land
Cranleigh Common Management Plan