Hurst Meadows – Water Activity Centre and Boathouse

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Hurst Meadows – Water Activity Centre and Boathouse

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As you may have heard, a recent planning application for a major development in the popular Hurst Meadows, East Molesey, is creating conflict in the local community.

The Friends of Hurst Park have kindly shared their environmental and safety concerns with us.

Of great interest is the report of Elmbridge Borough Council’s ‘Heritage, Landscape and Trees Officer’, Clare Smith, which raises some serious concerns about the development proposal.

We also invited the primary beneficiaries of the development, the Jaguar Scouts, to share with us what they see would be the perceived benefits to them.

The application has now formally closed for comments but late submissions will be considered.
Notably there have been objections to this proposal from:

The Campaign to Protect Rural England:

The Campaign to Protect Rural England Report

Elmbridge Borough Council’s Heritage, Landscape and Trees Officer:

Elmbridge Borough Council’s Heritage, Landscape and Trees Officer Report

The Environment Agency:

The Environment Agency Report

Garricks Temple to Shakespeare Trust:

Garricks Temple to Shakespeare Trust Report

Molesey Boat Club:

Molesey Boat Club Report

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The Planning Proposal – Friends of Hurst Park

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The proposal is for a 30m boatshed on the Thames Path, with a fenced compound behind, to store more than 60 boats and cater for groups of 80 to 100 at a time.

The proposal first began as a replacement boatshed for 1st Molesey Sea Scouts, when the group had to move from a previous site between reservoirs.

This was welcomed by local people, but the application now under consideration is for a regional water and splash activities hub, to let out to groups far and wide.

Opposing the development, the Friends of Hurst Park is working with Hurst Park Residents, Rivermead Residents, Hampton Court Crescent Residents, the Hampton Society, Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare Trust and residents on Taggs and Garricks Islands.

An area of public open space, covenanted and gifted to the council in a deed in 1946 for universal enjoyment by local people, will be developed and fenced, and more than 30m of river’s edge habitat stripped for boat launching.

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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.

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Enough Impact Assessment?

Local people are concerned that much is missing from the information submitted to determine the application.

The Friends of Hurst Park say:

There is no assessment of the need for so big a development on this local park, and the implications for transport, parking and the local infrastructure.

There is no assessment of the impact on the Thames Path right of way from vehicles and scores of boats hauled and trailered across to the water.

There is no plan or detail for the cess tank

There are no details of the flood voids for a development in the undeveloped functional flood plain.

There are no light or noise assessments for a development in a site of nature conservation importance in a dark corridor.

There is no assessment of the disturbance to local wildlife from frequent very noisy splash activities along the river’s edge.

The Friends of Hurst Park say there concerns for the safety of children who will be splashing and playing in a busy navigation.

The Surrey channel takes all Thames traffic into and out of Molesey Lock.

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The development site is located here by the Thames Path. This Lime tree is to be felled

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Hampton Sailing Club holds regular regattas that round the race marker just upstream of Duck’s Eyot, and for rowers and chaseboats from Molesey Boat Club, this is their practice reach.

They are concerned about the prospect of day-hire boats driven by novices – that zig-zag across the river, and they consider the location would seem on water, as well as land, to be the worst choice.

The Friends of Hurst Park feel that the local community had been happy to welcome the scouts to the waterside, but consider that the size of the development and its position in such a sensitive area – with what they feel would be an irreversible impact too for the historic Arcadian views celebrated in the Thames Landscape Strategy – has dismayed residents and regular users of the park.

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

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The consultation continues until Friday the 14th October

To view and comment upon this proposed development click here: 

Application Number 2016/2760

You can read more on: www.friendsofhurstpark.org.uk

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As we mentioned earlier, this application has been subject to analysis and review from Elmbridge Borough Council themselves, notably the Heritage, Landscape and Trees Manager.

This is the Heritage, Landscape and Trees Manager’s report to ‘Development Management’ of EBC 

(you can download the original document here):

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The Planning Proposal – Elmbridge Borough Council’s Heritage, Landscape & Trees Manager

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2016/2760 Proposal for a new Water Activity Centre with a single story boat house with rooms in the roof at Hurst Open Space, Molesey

Thank you for your recent consultation regarding this site. Pre-application advice was provided a number of months ago which raised a number of concerns and my comments on this current application are as follows:

The area for this potential new development is on land which was historically common meadow and known as Molesey Hurst. The proposal is for a new building measuring 30m x 10m with a compound to the rear giving a depth of 23.5m and located 10m from the edge of the Thames.  It is orientated to be parallel to the river bank, of single story construction with rooms to the rear within the pitched roof with a height of 7.55m.  It is within Hurst Park Open Space and falls within the Thames Policy Area and is covered by the Thames Landscaping Strategy (TLS) Weybridge-Hampton-Kew.

I consider there are a number of concerns raised by any potential development in this area because it is such an open and important riverside landscape.

The current TLS document describes it as being “Characterised by open parkland” and that “Bushy and Hurst Park provide a broad expanse of open space on either side of the river, determining the main character of the reach.  Hurst Park sweeps down to the water’s edge”.

There is therefore no principal to support new built development and the Council, who manage and maintain this area have always ensured any recreation facilities such as the adjacent unfenced playing courts have minimal physical and visual impact.

There are a number of important vistas identified for protection including St Mary’s Church in Hampton and Molesey Lock which passes directly adjacent the proposed site of the water activity centre.  This is reproduced in page 4 of the applicants Design and Access statement.

In addition there are strategic views identified in the Council’s Core Strategy of the River Thames Meadowland from St Mary’s Church and Garrick’s Temple in Hampton to St Paul’s Church in Molesey.  The landscape setting for these views is provided by Hurst Park and introducing built development within this landscape will have an effect on its open character.  The applicant has incorporated a number of extracts from the TLS document within the supporting documents, in particular the Planning Policies document which could imply agreement and support for this scheme and this has not been the stance of the TLS.

All the riverside projects and management strategies in Hurst Park have concentrated on reinstating this openness with the support of the landowners including the Environment Agency, Surrey County Council and Elmbridge Borough Council.  The applicants Landscape Planting Strategy (dated 7/07/16 and prepared by Design for all Seasons) states that there will be new riverside planting either side of the pontoon launch area of 1.5m high to “soften” the front elevation of the 30m long building and prevent scouts launching boats where it is unsafe to do so, reference is also made to creating a “lawn” on the reconstructed riverbank.  A TLS management project for this area states “Thin the growth of trees and shrubs between the towpath to the river to occasional clumps to prevent a thick vegetative barrier separating the water from the land”.

This proposal for new riverside planting, augmenting  additional riverside planting and new planting to provide security and screening around the site boundary of the new activity centre is contrary to this approach and to maintaining the existing open landscape character. 

Historically there have been issues concerning new planting on the riverbank by residents at nearby Garricks Ait which compromised the openness of this area and these were resolved by their subsequent removal.

Construction materials proposed include timber clad walls, metal cladding for the domer and a Sedum blanket Green Roof on the 30 degree pitch, however there is no information about the specialist construction and maintenance required for this type of roof to be successfully delivered.

The towpath forms part of the long distance Thames Path National Trail, a pedestrian route running from Cricklade to London and the Sustrans Cycle Path.  It is a narrow shared path, in an open area which already suffers from conflict between cyclists and pedestrians.

The towpath will be main operation area for the new activity centre building and offset riverside facilities and form the access route for vehicles to transport boats, equipment and supplies and this would change its nature and character.

The presumption in considering this type of planning application would normally be to support the provision of a new riverside activity facility.

Unfortunately development in this particular area will compromise the character of this open public landscape and the proposed mitigation measures do little to recognise or offset the harm.

Pre-application advice has not been followed and therefore it is difficult to support this application for built development within Hurst Park. 

The applicant has investigated and assessed a number of new sites in the locality and presents the case for this site to best address their requirements.

It was suggested that they investigated the potential to share and/or extend existing riverside facilities that are already operation in more suitable and accessible areas along the Thames and this advice does not appear to have been undertaken in favour of constructing a new and bespoke site.

Clare Smith [Hons] MA, CMLI
Heritage, Landscape and Tree Manager,
Planning Services

(you can download the original document here)

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The Planning Proposal – The Jaguar Scouts

Scouts in Molesey are working in partnership with Surrey Search & Rescue to build a community water activity centre at Hurst Park. View the full proposal document here.

Both organisations believe that young people growing up in Molesey’s riverside community should understand how to use the river safely and that opportunities to get afloat should be readily available. Recent tragic events on the Thames in Elmbridge demonstrate that stronger emphasis on the education of water-safety is required.

The Scout Group has been without a waterside facility since the late 1990s after being evicted for gravel extraction at their site in the Lambeth Waterworks. This site has since been restored to a wetland nature reserve and so it’s not possible to return.

The activity centre is named after PC Andrew Duncan, a local Scout volunteer and Police Officer tragically killed whilst on duty in 2013. The The Andrew Duncan Activity Centre will create a legacy in Andrew’s memory and will reflect his dedication to the community.

Key benefits to be provided:

  • Increased opportunities for children to experience the river in a safe & friendly environment
  • Access to water activities for those with disabilities and additional needs
  • Dedicated training facilities for SurSAR, the lifesaving charity that works with Surrey Fire & Rescue Service to respond to emergencies on the water
  • An increased number of opportunities for volunteering in Molesey, both in Scouting and with SurSAR.
  • More places for Beavers, Cubs, Scouts in Molesey.
  • The centre is not not a “regional water activities hub”, it’s a community, volunteer run activity centre for young people in Molesey
  • We don’t anticipate hiring the facility out as a “hub for many clients”. The centre will be made available to Surrey Search & Rescue as a training facility
  • The launch area is sited at the widest point on this reach. Our instructors are experienced with professional qualifications, many work on the river. We know how to keep young people safe, claims that this centre will put “scores of children at risk” are unfounded

The building is sympathetic to the environment it will exist in and advice given by Surrey Wildlife Trust has been sought to ensure it will help to increase the biodiversity and flood resilience of Hurst Park. Additionally, the Scout Group has consulted Thames Landscape Strategy and Natural England.

Riverbank naturalisation schemes are supported by the Environment Agency as they help to increase flood resilience and biodiversity. Hurst Park is an area identified in the Thames Landscape Strategy as one where a riverbank naturalisation scheme would be of considerable benefit.

The Thames Landscape Strategy are satisfied with the planting strategy as it increases the percentage of holly and fruit bearing varieties to improve the impact of screening during winter months as well as helping to reduce light pollution.

The scheme will reduce congestion on the tow path, it will not block or obstruct it as is presently the case with our activities.

The development is for alternative sports and recreational provision that are currently under provisioned in Elmbridge. The needs for which clearly outweigh the loss and as such this proposal complies with Policy DM20 of the council’s core strategy.

The benefits provided far outweigh the use of less than 0.2% of Hurst Park.

Anyone that feels passionate about making the Thames in Elmbridge safer through increasing opportunities for young people to access the river are urged to support the planning application set forward by two volunteer led charities. jaguarseascouts.org.uk/support

More information on the Scout Group’s website here: jaguarseascouts.org.uk/splash

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Whether you are for or against the proposal you only have until the 14th of October (that’s this Friday) to lodge your support or objection (2016/2170).

There have been over 600 comments already submitted.

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