A developer has categorically denied spreading a rumour that housing will be built on a historic estate if its plans for an exclusive golf course are blocked.
Andy Smith, Surrey branch director for Campaign to Protect Rural England had described the rumour relating to the Cherkley Court estate near Leatherhead as "baseless" and said Longshot or its agents should issue a full retraction if they were the source.
A digger at work on the estate last year
Last week the future of the estate was the subject of an expensive two day legal battle at the Court of Appeal in front of three Law Lords as Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) and Longshot lawyers tried to overturn a High Court ruling quashing the council's decision to grant planning permission to Longshot.
Responding to an email on Friday from Rodney Shaw, principal conservation officer at MVDC, Mr Smith said: "Baseless rumours are currently circulating that, if the golf course development does not go ahead, the entire estate will be used for housing.
"I hope that you will point out to the developers and their public relations firm that this allegation is completely false, and if Longshot or their agents are responsible for spreading these rumours they should be asked to issue a full retraction."
A Longshot spokesman denied today that it had anything to do with the rumour.
Although the rumour was not about Longshot selling the land to house builders but about what might happen to the land if Longshot's plans failed, the spokesman said it had not been approached by any developers about building housing on the historic estate.
He said: "The owners of the estate have made very clear their desire to build a world class golf course and hotel that will further enhance the natural beauty of the estate and Cherkley Court.
"We find it shocking that it would be suggested that we would be looking for house builders to build on Cherkley Court and it is a story we are disappointed to hear is even being remotely shared."
Mr Shaw had asked Mr Smith to correct a statement in this newspaper that the development would involve "transforming wildflower meadows and ancient woodland into a golf course for the super-rich"
Mr Shaw said: "In the interests of putting the record straight, not in seeking to influence the conclusions of anyone, could I point out that whilst grazing land for cattle could arguably be referred to as 'wildflower meadows' even though the grazing and cutting regime at Cherkley was not particularly conducive to this, no part of the Cherkley development transformed ancient woodland into a golf course.
Indeed, the Landscape and Ecology Management Plan associated with the development brings the ancient woodland into sensitive management after years of neglect. So far as the ancient woodland is concerned, the development would be beneficial."
But Mr Smith hit back saying: "I agree that we all need to 'get the facts right'. The wildflower meadows at Cherkley were not mown but grazed.
"The Countryside Stewardship Scheme ran from 2004 to 2010 on the Northern Parkland - 140 acres planted with wildflower mix and turned from occasional arable/hay/silage to zero chemical input meadows that were grazed by a small herd of cattle under the strict terms of the scheme.
"The 40-acre field has always been uncultivated chalk grassland and so did not need the grant scheme as it was never ploughed. It is now part of the SNCI proposals map (Surrey Wildlife Trust) and is a priority Biodiversity Action Plan habitat.
"I accept that the Cherkley woodland does not form part of the golf course itself but it is clearly affected by the adjacent development and I fail to see how the golf course could be 'beneficial' to it."