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. “
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.
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.”
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."