A campaign to restore Fleet Pond nature reserve to create a more healthy amenity for wildlife and people.

Follow the progress of the de-silting efforts

Where is Fleet Pond?

What’s wrong with the Pond?

How did this happen?

If the army caused the Pond to silt up, why don't they clear it out as an exercise for their troops?

Has anything been done to stop the silt coming into the Pond?

Who owns the Pond and what are they doing about the problem?

What is an SSSI?

Why is Fleet Pond an SSSI?

Could the Pond lose its SSSI status?

The Pond looks fine to me and always seems full of wildlife, isn’t this a sign that it is OK?

Wetland is rare, so why don't you let the Pond silt up and create more reedbeds and wetlands?

Will Natural England assist with restoring the Pond?

What can be done to restore the Pond?

Is mechanical extraction of silt the only answer or could an army of volunteers provide a low tech solution?

How will the dredging be carried out, will it be noisy and smelly and what impact will it have on local residents?

What effect would dredging have on the wildlife of the Pond?

Where will you put all the silt you take out of the Pond?

If you clear it out, won’t it just silt up again in another few years?

How long will it all take?

How will it affect visitors to the Pond?

Who will manage the work?

What is the Fleet Pond Clearwater Campaign?

How would funds be raised and how much money is needed?

Can money be extracted as a result of local development e.g. Pyestock?

What can I do to help?

Where will my donation go and what will it do to restore the Pond?

If you only get, say, 20% of what you need, what will you spend it on? Can you do a bit each year to spread the costs?

What else could we spend the money on?

Of what benefit is the Pond to the people of Fleet and the surrounding area other than just a place to walk?

To donate to the Clearwater Campaign send your cheque, payable to Fleet Pond Society, to Nick Keeley, 12 Chestnut Grove, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 3LW or click the button above.

This campaign will be a partnership between Fleet Pond Society, Hart District Council, Natural England, the Environmental Agency and other interested parties. We will be mounting a major funding campaign that will draw on government and non-governmental sources wherever possible to fund a substantial restoration programme of the Pond itself.

This will include projects to benefit people by providing more seating, more and better Information Boards, improving the footpaths and bridges, repairing and installing more fishing jetties.

Where is Fleet Pond?

The Pond is to the north of Fleet, just south of the railway line (SU 820 550, OS Landranger 186). It’s accessed from various roads in the Pondtail area of Fleet, the station car park and off Cove Road.

It is thought that the Pond was man-made, constructed by the damming of a natural watercourse sometime in the 12th Century. Although it is Hampshire’s largest freshwater lake, in medieval times, an artificial body of water, no matter how big, was called a pond. A lake described a natural body of water.

What’s wrong with the Pond?

Accumulated silt is killing the life of the Pond.

The Pond is in danger of becoming Hampshire’s largest muddy puddle. A depth (bathymetric) survey, undertaken by the University College London in November 2008, as part of their OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) project, showed that at no point over the whole area of the Pond is the water more than 0.8 metres deep - most is less than 0.6 metres!

How did this happen?

Silts and detritus have flowed into the Pond via two feeder streams – the Gelvert and Brookly steams.

Following vehicle activity on military training land in Long Valley, a significant inflow of sand and clay silts entered the Pond via the Gelvert Stream. This was followed by the commercial development of Farnborough’s airfield for which the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) required the removal of the tops of two hills and hundreds of trees.

A smaller area of the Pond also suffers from large volumes of detritus (leaves and general human debris) silts that have accumulated from the other feeder stream, the Brookly Stream, which drains surface water from Fleet town residential, recreational and commercial areas. This underwater quagmire represents a significant danger to humans and dogs.

If the army caused the Pond to silt up, why don't they clear it out as an exercise for their troops?

Sadly, even if they had the inclination, they no longer have the equipment or money to undertake this work.

The Ministry of Defence, Defence Estates, is responsible for the military training lands that drain into the Pond from the south. They have installed a series of traps and filters that have reduced silt deposits caused by activities on their land, but they have stated that they do not have the resources to remove the accumulated silt.

Has anything been done to stop the silt coming into the Pond?

Yes, the series of silt traps and filters installed by Defence Estates in Long Valley have significantly reduced silt deposits coming in via the Gelvert Stream. But because the MoD were unwilling to accept responsibility and act soon enough it was too late to prevent the problem now faced by the Pond.

The problem with Brookly Stream still requires urgent action to reduce the inflow of silts. The mud bank at the mouth of Brookly Stream looks like a refuse heap and is getting worse. The rubbish accumulating on the mud banks is out of reach - attempts at clearing it have been unsuccessful as the water is too shallow for a boat and the mud far too deep and dangerous for wading.

An essential element of the recovery of Fleet Pond’s SSSI status depends on a significant reduction in the inflow of silt; then measures can be taken to address the removal of the accumulated volumes. Along with Natural England, we believe that inflow from the Gelvert Stream, the main problem feeder, has now largely been dealt with, however, Brookly Steam remains a challenge.

Who owns the Pond and what are they doing about the problem?

Hart District Council owns the Pond. They are one of our partners in the restoration of the Pond and are committed to the project.

Hart District Council has stated that they do not have adequate funds available for the significant cost of removing even part of the silt now covering the base of the Pond. We need to help them sort out this problem for our town.

What is an SSSI?

An SSSI is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and its designation gives legal protection to that area.

Natural England is the government body responsible for protecting the SSSIs in England under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. SSSI’s are designated special interest by reason of their wildlife or geological features.

SSSI owners, in this case, Hart District Council, are bound by law to protect their sites and are legally obliged to take measures to address any deterioration of their status. If an SSSI is suffering as a result of a lack of positive management or neglect, and Natural England cannot reach a voluntary agreement with the owner, then they may pursue more formal legal methods, such as serving management schemes and management notices.

Natural England has the legal power to make an owner sort out any ecological problems with their SSSI.

Why is Fleet Pond an SSSI?

Because of the rich variety of wildfowl and aquatic plants that used to inhabit the Pond in great numbers.

In 1951, Fleet Pond became one of the first Sites of Special Scientific Interest to be notified in Hampshire. The reasons for the designation were the importance of the lake to waterfowl and the rich aquatic and heathland flora. In 1984 the SSSI was reaffirmed, but covering a smaller area, 48 hectares, of which the open water itself accounts for 21 hectares.

Could the Pond lose its SSSI status?

Yes, and soon if it continues to degrade at its current rate.

Natural England has reiterated that the existing situation is not acceptable and has confirmed the assessment that the Pond’s condition as a Site of Special Scientific Interest is 95% deteriorated and is declining even further.

We believe it would be a disaster if the Pond lost its protective SSSI status. The little Pond (by Heron on the Lake) lost its SSSI status in 1984. Hart District Council failed to take enforcement action every time more infilling and development took place, until the little Pond finally lost all attributes that qualified it for re-notification.

The Pond looks fine to me and always seems full of wildlife, isn’t this a sign that it is OK?

What you see is definitely not what you get in terms of the Pond’s health.

Natural England has declared “The condition of the Pond continues to deteriorate. There is little aquatic vegetation in the Pond or on the margins. Geese continue to graze around the edges of the Pond reducing the extent and quality of reed. High levels of suspended silt and algae are reducing water quality.”

There are plenty of healthy marginal plants in the adjacent wetlands and these sustain a rich diversity of wildlife. But there are very few submerged plants, an unsuitable mixture of fish, and far too many Canada Geese. This is an unsustainable mix that puts the Pond’s true local ecosystem at risk.

But it can be helped to recover.

Wetland is rare, so why don't you let the Pond silt up and create more reedbeds and wetlands?

That simply wouldn’t work as you have to design these habitats properly.

Reedbeds and wetlands need a certain depth and clarity of water to support the aquatic life that will ensure they prosper. Letting the Pond silt up further wouldn’t do that. But we could build new reedbeds and wetlands out of the silt extracted from the Pond, which would attract wildlife back and improve the quality of fishing.

Will Natural England assist with restoring the Pond?

Yes, but it will need a group of partners to physically solve this problem.

Natural England offer advice and help to ensure SSSI’s are managed in the best possible way. Their advisors provide advice on appropriate management and they are also able to advise on what sources of funding may be available. Any major works carried out at the Pond will require Natural England’s consent.

What can be done to restore the Pond?

Initially, any further significant amount of silt must be prevented from entering the Pond and this may involve the design and installation of new silt traps or filters on the runoff from Defence Estates land that is polluting the Gelvert Stream.

Unwanted silt must be moved, either away from the Pond, or used to build reedbeds or new islands.

The wildlife and habitat must be managed in a more balanced way; a good example of this is the size of the Canadian Geese population. This is far too high and is threatening other aquatic bird flocks and the state of the reedbeds.

Is mechanical extraction of silt the only answer or could an army of volunteers provide a low tech solution?

This job is beyond what volunteers with spades could do.

Mechanical extraction is the only practical solution in terms of cost and timescale. Bear in mind that the Pond is extensive and covers 52 acres (21 hectares); we could be talking about 1/4m tonnes of silt.

How will the dredging be carried out, will it be noisy and smelly and what impact will it have on local residents?

Any dredging will be designed to have minimal impact on the Pond’s neighbours and visitors.

The silt will be removed by mechanical dredging and/or pumping. This will involve heavy plant equipment and we realise this could be noisy. The contractors will be mindful of the likely disruption and will take measures to minimise this. When we apply to Hart District Council for planning permission we will need to ensure that we have adequately dealt with this aspect of the project.

What effect would dredging have on the wildlife of the Pond?

Any dredging will be done in a way that minimises the effect on wildlife at the Pond.

Fleet Pond Society, the contractors, and Hart District Council will need to plan the programme to ensure the effect on wildlife is minimal and that work is not undertaken during the breeding season. Before any work begins, an Environmental Impact Assessment will be carried out and permission obtained from Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Where will you put all the silt you take out of the Pond?

We will find a useful purpose for the silt.

Some silt can hopefully be reused to build reedbeds and new islands. What remains will need to be taken offsite, probably to an intermediary area where it will drain. Defence Estates has already given an undertaking to provide this area on their land. It would then be taken offsite, possibly to landfill sites as an alternative to top soil. There is also a possibility that we can sell the silt as fine aggregate.

If you clear it out, won’t it just silt up again in another few years?

No, Defense Estates will have to satisfy Natural England that the inflow of silt has been minimised sufficiently before we get the go-ahead for the programme.

Defence Estates will need to review their current arrangements and may need to design and install new silt traps or filters on the runoff from land that is polluting the Gelvert Stream. These will need to take into account the need for routine clearance of the traps and prolonged poor weather conditions.

How long will it all take?

We do not know exactly, as we need to design the programme first. Natural England might require a phased extraction, section by section, so that a dredged area can recover and be re-colonised before another section is dredged. This might mean a phased programme over three years.

We are mindful of the need for minimal disruption to people and wildlife, particularly breeding wildlife. We will need to address that aspect when putting together a detailed design solution. We will then have a clearer idea of how long the programme will take.

How will it affect visitors to the Pond?

We would not expect to have to close the Pond to visitors; there could be even more interesting things to see than usual!

We may to have fence off areas where work is being undertaken to make sure the public are kept away from any hazardous areas. Neighbours of the Pond will be consulted on our plans and updated as work proceeds. Our website will give details of the work programme and notices will be displayed around the Pond in advance, to warn of any planned restrictions. We also hope to post regular information in the local newspapers.

Who will manage the work?

The day to day work will be managed by professionals in that field.

The civil works will be undertaken by a specialist contractor, managed by Hart District Council, with assistance from the Fleet Pond Society, where needed.

What is the Fleet Pond Clearwater Campaign?

It is a campaign to restore Fleet Pond Nature Reserve to a healthier and more valuable amenity for wildlife and people.

The campaign will be a partnership between Fleet Pond Society, Hart District Council, Natural England, the Environment Agency and other interested parties. Its purpose is to try and raise enough money to fund a major restoration of the Pond. The restoration programme would include projects of benefit to local people and visitors, by providing additional seating areas, a variety of new information boards, improved footpaths and bridges, and the installation of new fishing jetties.

How would funds be raised and how much money is needed?

A very large sum is needed and we will have to raise the money through grants and donations.

We will be mounting a major funding campaign that will draw on government and non-governmental sources wherever possible. We hope local businesses and people will also contribute.

Can money be extracted as a result of local development e.g. Pyestock?

Hart District Council can require contributions from local development as part of the planning process, known as Section 106 contributions.

The Fleet Pond Society and partners in the programme would lobby Hart District Council to require PruPrim, the developers of Pyestock, to provide a substantial financial contribution to the restoration programme should their proposed warehouse scheme go ahead.

What can I do to help?

Any time you can spare will be just as important as donations. Your support for the programme is vital.

The backing of the local community, residents and businesses is essential if we are to succeed in making the restoration programme happen. We will need help to raise awareness - and cash.

Where will my donation go and what will it do to restore the Pond?

The Clearwater Campaign fund is managed by Fleet Pond Society who will make sure any personal donations are used for the restoration programme. Large grants may have to be held as ‘restricted funds’ by some of our partners, such as Hart District Council.

The Clearwater Campaign fund will be used for all aspects of the restoration. Bear in mind ‘every little helps’ and your donation of 1 is just as important as one for 1000.

If you only get, say, 20% of what you need, what will you spend it on? Can you do a bit each year to spread the costs?

Yes, we intend to design the restoration programme so it can be tackled in manageable chunks.

We would like to be able to raise enough funds to employ a contractor to draw up a plan which would breakdown the restoration programme into phases. This would take into account the priorities and dependencies of each phase. We would also ask them to put a price on each phase, so that we could apply for grants and fund-raise for specific projects.

What else could we spend the money on?

Nothing - this money is to be raised specifically for restoring Fleet Pond.

Any money raised by the Clearwater Campaign will be used to maintain the Pond and improve its value to both people and nature. This could be by preserving and enhancing valuable wildlife habitats or by laying new paths and replacing bridges to give us all better access to the Pond.

Of what benefit is the Pond to the people of Fleet and the surrounding area other than just a place to walk?

The Pond is Fleet’s ‘green lung’ and in many ways the flagship of our town.

The town of Fleet came into existence because of the Pond. It still brings money into the town in terms of attracting visitors, as well as new residents and businesses. It also protects a significant part of Fleet from further unwarranted development.

The Pond is a well-used location for many forms of recreation, leisure and fitness activities, including walking, running and cycling. It is a place to escape to, and this function will become more important as the town grows and climate change takes effect. There are many government initiatives to promote this idea.

Essentially, the Pond is a local nature reserve and provides opportunities to see birds, mammals, insects and plants close to hand. But it could be much, much, better.

As well as seeing a vast increase in the numbers and variety of wildlife, an improved Pond would once again offer excellent fishing facilities, whilst still providing and protecting valuable natural habitats.

We will lose all of these benefits if we don’t do something to safeguard the future of the Pond.

Imagine Fleet without a Pond?