Widespread Dismay at decision to close Norbury sawmill by end of March

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Residents have reacted with dismay to the announcement that the Norbury Park sawmill is to close in less than six weeks time.

Surrey Wildlife Trust, which has owned the business since 2002, claims it is not considered to be ‘independently sustainable’.

The decision was made jointly with Surrey County Council, which owns the freehold on the site. The decision documents make clear that neither SWT nor SCC see the running and responsibility of the sawmill as a 'core' function.

Natalie Bramhall, County Council Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, said: “The sawmill has not been profitable for a number of years, despite everyone’s best efforts, and we believe that taxpayers’ money would be better spent providing tenancies to a range of small crafts organisations and supporting them through our LoCASE grant fund for green businesses. “

Petition

But within hours of the closure plan being made public a petition opposing it was started on the Surrey County Council website.

In just five days the petition has attracted more than 3,000 signatures. The petition demands that the county council 'preserves and protects' the sawmill and its workshop.

The jobs of the eight-strong team working for Norbury Park Wood Products are now at risk, unless SWT can offer alternative employment.

The sawmill has a large workshop producing specialist outdoor wood products.

A statement from SWT has been posted on the Norbury Park sawmill website.

The sawmill faced a similar threat to its future 10 years ago, but after a public outcry a solution was found.

Despite the council appearing to have plans for alternative uses of the site, it has agreed that it would be open to receiving proposals from another sawmill operator, volunteers, or a community-based business.

Tim Hall, County Councillor for Leatherhead and Fetcham East, has been having discussions about the closure plan with the council's countryside officers.

He said:  “I am pressing for further information about this.  I would like to be assured that the financial figures produced by Surrey Wildlife Trust are accurate.”

FRA viewpoint

The FRA believes Surrey County Council and the Surrey Wildlife Trust should be constructively working together to openly explore all alternatives to closure, and the subsequent loss of craft skills and experience.

FRA Chairman Tim Waller said: "At the very least the business should be kept running beyond the end of March to give interested parties a chance to evaluate its viability." 

2 comments

  1. As an owner of two Local Small Businesses this at face value appears to be a very short sighted decision regarding the Closure of Norbury Park Sawmill.

    The Sawmill has helped my company Sustainable Builds develop it’s Prototype Sustainable Building. This Hybrid Prototype is Eco Friendly/Sustainable from its concrete free footings to it’s CO2 Absorbing Paint. We have been working with the Sawmill for the past 4 to 5 months on this project. We are also engaging as many small businesses as possible in this prototype structure. If more were to be produced it would have a positive impact on the Local Economy.

    The Sawmill would have been engaged in supplying 90% of the Sustainable Timber including the Hybrid Modules for any future structures. We are currently in the process of building the first prototype.

    Due to it’s potentially imminent closure the Sawmill can’t now supply the main doors. I am unsure as to why a phased shutdown was not considered giving Businesses who rely on the Sawmill adequate time to source alternative suppliers?

    Please find below a link to this Prototype Builds Plans and 3D Renders plus a link to Sustainable Builds Facebook Page which is being used to show people each stage of the build as it progresses.

    Plans
    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1WM5K6giRChReRMd1QEFdpWekcPr2uSGW?usp=sharing

    3D Renders
    https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1xuCk6jVFF4S93dHpxh3M5wzShynio2LR?usp=sharing

    Facebook Page
    https://www.facebook.com/Sustainable-Builds-100303868761314

    After viewing the above information above and my https://www.sustainablebuilds.co.uk/
    temp. landing page I hope you you would agree that my business would have a positive impact locally both economically and in promoting sustainable living.

    I think that the Sawmill can be made into a viable business.
    The team there wants to move it forward to operate as an Independent, Full Time Sustainable Operation. Since taking on the Directorship Phil Bailey’s successful business background has improved the productivity of the Sawmill greatly. This all being achieved on a part time basis.

    As a Taxpayer even on a loss making £13,000 to £15,000 a year I consider this good value for money regarding the operation of an educational establishment. This closure is likely to cost the Taxpayer more long term.

    This decision seems to be a backward step regarding Mental Health Awareness. Furthermore it would place a bigger strain on our already overstretched N.H.S. Services. I’d be interested to hear what study/evaluation the Council has undertaken to measure the negative impact it’s closure would have on people’s wellbeing and mental health?

    My Sustainable Builds Business Model is based largely on locally sourced sustainable timber. I would be interested to see details on what study/evaluation the Council has undertaken to measure the negative impact it’s closure would have on the Local Economy including Businesses such as myself who use this facility plus associated suppliers of the Sawmill.

    Even if there is no viable way forward (Which I find hard to believe) this would probably be the worst time to shut the business down. In the current economic climate the sale of the equipment/business at this time appears to be foolish.

    Sustainable Builds is also working with Planet Woking on promoting Sustainable Building. They will be featuring this build on their Website as a Case Study. This decision seems to be at odds to the Sustainable Future this worthwhile Council body is promoting.

    I will of course be fighting the Sawmills corner on all available platforms including Local Politics, National Politics, Conventional Media and Social Media.
    I feel that with in-depth and professional engagement/study of the Sawmill there is an outcome achievable where all parties can benefit both politically, morally and economically.

    Ross Clode
    Founder of Sustainable Builds

  2. Is Surrey Wildlife Trust embarrassed by this forced on it by Surrey County Council that it hasn’t put a News item on it’s website nor I as a Member received it in an email? Also, it was a great shame that details of the meeting on the 12 February 2021 took a week before it was made public and as a direct consequence for the SCC Mole Valley Local Committee meeting on the 24 February 2021 it was under the rules applied too late for a member of the public to submit a question. I only hope that Tim Hall as the Chairman can make a Statement and allow Councillor attendees to ask questions.

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