Run the film "The Nature of Hurst Meadows" Tap to find out more Tap to find out more Queen Anne's Lace ©John Inglis Tufted Vetch ©John Inglis Knapweed ©John Inglis Hedge Brown on Hurst Meadows ©Mick Rock

Click photos to enlarge

DEVELOPMENT ON HURST PARK NATURE AREA
Proposed Water Activity Centre on Hurst Meadows

HURST MEADOWS AND RIVERSIDE - FOR EVERYONE, FOREVER

There is unlikely to be a determination of this planning application to develop a Water and Splash Activities Centre on natural riverside land at Hurst Meadows until after the New Year. Meanwhile, Elmbridge planning officers have said they will continue to accept comments.
There is a statement from the Case Officer here.

The applicants are Molesey Jaguar Sea Scouts, who plan a facility substantial enough to hire it out widely to many clients as a hub for the region.

The Friends of Hurst Park OPPOSE this and any development at all on Hurst Park and Meadows, as we see it as the beginning of the end for one of the few remaining natural wildlife areas on the London Thames, with a critical function as floodplain. The Friends fully support the scout movement - we have members with long experience of volunteering in local scout groups, members with children in the movement and members who are scouts themselves. This particular proposal, however, is in the wrong place and raises many issues of grave concern. Some of these are identified by the Environment Agency, which recommends refusal on three grounds: flood risk; risk to nature conservation and fisheries; inadequate buffer zone to the the Thames - tap to see report here.

You can see the application in full here, including comments from Surrey County Council Countryside Access team on the implications for the Thames Path National Trail and Public Right of Way: scores of boats emerging from boat house doors opening on to the path would have to cross the busy right of way at a narrow point to get to the river edge.

The planning notices which went up in the park on Friday 23 September 2016 pointed out that "The proposed development does not accord with the provision of the Development Plan in force in the area in which the land to which the application relates is situated".

This is the proposed location of the activity centre in designated Public Open Space. It is covenanted and held in trust for the local community by Elmbridge Borough Council through a Deed of Gift dated 1946.

Location of the Activity Centre

SOME OF THE ISSUES IDENTIFIED ARE:

  • The proposal lies within the undeveloped functional flood plain of Hurst Park and Meadows.
  • No case has been made for the need for a regional water activities hub of this size and scope, with unknown implications for traffic and parking. There is no business plan and no projections in the application about how much the centre will be used, nor by how many with ambitious targets to hire it out widely. We can expect major increases in traffic, including boat trailers, minibuses and cars. All visitors will use Sadlers Ride carpark and the Thames Path; disruption is likely to be frequent.
  • The proposal sets an industrial-style building (over 30m wide and some 8m high, with fenced boat storage enclosure at the rear) in a protected historic landscape.
  • The development will be built on land covenanted for public open space and gifted in 1946 to all local people for their enjoyment.
  • Meadowland and trees will be lost, and a mature riverside habitat stripped to make a boat launch area of over 30m - over 60 boats will be kept within the facility.

    The river's edge here will be stripped of trees and vegetation
    The river's edge here will be stripped of trees and vegetation

  • The proposal will require all boats from the boatshed to cross the Thames Path to the launch site, impeding and endangering other users; boatshed doors open directly to the towpath. The Thames Path is a national trail, used for charity/community walks, runs and cycles. Mooring pillars and buoys are proposed out in the river navigation, at a pinch point where channels merge for boats travelling to and from Molesey Lock.
  • The Thames, the river bank and Duck's Eyot (in the ownership of the Environment Agency) are all a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI). Noisy splash activities with scores of small boats at any time on any day will disrupt nesting and resident waterbirds - grebe, moorhen, coot, diving duck, mallard, mandarin duck, swans and geese raise young on this stretch.
  • The proposal site is on the edge of another SNCI covering Hurst Meadows, which is also a Local Nature Reserve, where there are rare and unusual species. These Thames flood meadows are widely recognised as particularly rare with an unusually rich and diverse habitat. The open land is natural flood plain, the first line in defence to protect our houses when the river floods, as happened most recently in 2013/14 when the flood plain worked extremely effectively.
  • The proposal will endanger scores of children in small craft, out in a busy navigation channel along the Surrey bank to Molesey Lock, used by Hampton Sailing Club for racing and the practice reach for Molesey Boat Club, as well as all navigation in passing.
Showing the restricted width of the channel and Duck's Eyot nature reserve.
The restricted width of the channel at the development site and Duck's Eyot nature reserve. This narrow width of river carries
all upstream and downstream navigation traffic

Local opinion and planning guidance informs us that building on public open space here is not accepted in principle. There are feasible alternative sites which have been rejected.

See our film "The Nature of Hurst Meadows"For the reasons above, the chosen location for this huge development is the worst one for local people who use and cherish Hurst Park and Meadows, and for the activities proposed.

Our film "The Nature of Hurst Meadows" shows some of the remarkable nature recently discovered in the meadows.

The Friends group, working with six other local associations on both sides of the river, will be submitting evidence-based objections to this proposal (Rivermead Residents, Hurst Park Residents, Hampton and Molesey Riverside Trust, Hampton Court Crescent, Hampton Society, Garrick's Temple to Shakespeare Trust).

All Friends of Hurst Park should continue to make their objections known to Elmbridge Council, perhaps based on issues identified here or on concerns of their own, and on the profound and irreversible impacts from this development.

The intangible benefits for every person - frequently overlooked - from a place that is universally accessible, educational, spiritual and inspiring must be taken into account. The riverside here provides a unique opportunity for families, athletes, ramblers, the elderly, the disabled, and ordinary people, to experience the natural world and enjoy its astonishing - vanishing - variety.

The development site is in on the Thames Path and will be an industrial boatshed
The development site is located here by the Thames Path. This Lime tree is to be felled.

You can see more about the many designated nature conservation sites nearby - some of them of global and national importance, all are linked by the River Thames through Hurst Park. Please tap here.

There is more about revised planning policies relating to flood risk and building in flood plains here.

Tap here to see the full planning application

or go to Elmbridge Planning and Search for Application Number: 2016/2760

Tap here to respond to the application quoting no. 2016/2760

See the building's front and rear elevations here. The flanks of this development are likely to be highly visible on approach to the building along the Thames Path. An urban structure of this size in the historic Arcadian vistas will be seen from the river and opposite bank, but there is no photomontage nor any context with the application to visualize the setting of the development.

You can contact the Friends here: friendsofhurstpark@gmail.com

Tap to see earlier comments from the community