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Defending Nonsuch Park

March 11, 2007 4:40 PM
Colin Taylor, Hazel Watson & Paul Burstow

Colin Taylor (Epsom & Ewell), Hazel Watson (Surrey) and Paul Burstow MP (Sutton) at County Hall

Epsom & Ewell, Sutton and Surrey Lib Dems all played key roles in the recent defence of Nonsuch Park, threatened by Surrey County Council (SCC) Tories' plans to "dispose" of Nonsuch Mansion, amidst local concerns that Tory plans would spoil this quiet haven of peace.

For 70 years SCC had left Epsom & Ewell to care for Nonsuch Park on its behalf along with neighbouring Sutton, through a Joint Management Committee (JMC). Last year SCC intervened and prejudiced the park's financial viability, in moves the Tories kept secret by claiming commercial sensitivity, right up to 18th January. Then at the JMC meeting Cllr Nigel Pavey and the two Lib Dem councillors from Sutton won a vote that enabled the threat to Nonsuch to be discussed in public for the first time.

County Cllr Colin Taylor promptly tabled a question for answer at the SCC meeting on 23rd January, causing the Tories to announce that their plans would be discussed in public at an Executive Committee meeting on 27th February.

Sutton Lib Dems, led by Paul Burstow MP, then set to work with the "Friends of Nonsuch" on a petition with over 6000 signatures - and local Residents Associations also joined the fray.

Over 200 protesters packed County Hall on 27th February and heard Sutton's Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow and David Smith, who is Clerk to the JMC as well as being Epsom & Ewell's chief executive, describe the damage the Tories are causing to this precious asset - before being rewarded by an apology and apparent climb-down by SCC's Tory leader Nick Skellett.

However it is still far from clear how much notice will be taken of public concerns, how much power will be restored to local councillors and who will shoulder the park's financial problems.

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