Fleet Pond Restoration Programme

Hart District Council has employed contractors ENTEC to draft a Framework Project for the restoration of Fleet Pond. At a meeting on 25th October 2007, Matt Johns, who is retained by Entec as adviser, led the presentation of progress on the Framework Project.

Negotiations with Heritage Lottery Fund had confirmed that they would not be able to fund the dredging aspect of the programme. Dredging was not seen as providing immediately identifiable community benefit and was considered a responsibility of Hart DC as owners. Owners of a SSSI were obliged to take measures to address the deteriorating status of the site. It was obvious to everyone involved in the preparation stage that Hart Council would not have adequate funds for the significant cost of removing even a part of the silt now covering the base of the pond.

It was necessary to consider the long term benefits of a major restoration programme and the contribution it would make to reducing the ongoing management costs. The current management programme could be seen as merely “fire-fighting” problems as they arise; although significant improvement was being made in some habitat types.

The meeting agreed that a small working group would be established to assess all options for obtaining sufficient funds for the full Programme and a number of different funding organisations would be approached with a view to sharing the cost.

Options on the elements of the Programme were discussed. It was necessary to provide good fishing facilities while protecting the valuable and sensitive wildlife sites. One option to be considered might be the sub-division of Fleet Pond into fishing and non-fishing areas. Under the current regime fishing jetties were located only along the northern bank and at Chestnut Grove, as a way of safeguarding reedbed and marsh areas from disturbance. This separation of fishing and conservation interests could be extended to the open water by, for example, the installation of marker buoys or physical barriers constructed of repositioned silt material. The creation of new islands and reedbeds might help such a separation of interests.

Matt Johns, Entec, suggested it might reduce silt deposition to realign the course of the Gelvert Stream such that it would pass through a reedbed or marsh area and not feed directly into the Pond at the current position. This would carry any silt much nearer to the outflow and help reduce the amount deposited on the pond bed. The disadvantages would include the potential opening of currently protected sensitive SSSI areas to more public intrusion and disturbance which would need to be weighed against potential advantages.

The second phase of works on the Defence Estates lands was under consultation with the DE Agency. Any statutory or other obligation on the DE to assist in the restoration would be researched. Defence Estates Agency representative, Jonathan Gasson, should be included in the next phase of consultation for advice on the extent to which DE could assist further. Water monitoring equipment could be installed at Fleet Pond to extend the monitoring currently under way on DE lands.

Colin informed the group that UCL (University College of London) had expressed an interest in conducting water quality survey work at Fleet Pond. This might provide more data for the Programme base.

Derek Dunthorne, Fleet Pond Society has summarised the decisions agreed as follows:

1. After discussion of Entec’s presentation – and taking particular account of the likely difficulties documented in obtaining Heritage Lottery Fund support – it was agreed that Entec should continue with production of the full scoping report as originally envisaged. All present agreed that it was important to have a comprehensive assessment of the required programme and a baseline against which to assess eventual implementation options open to Hart DC in the light of possible funding sources. Within the ultimate solution, Entec were free to recommend a range of implementation approaches against the possibility that full-funding might not be available as originally envisaged. All options identified would, in any event, need to contain assessments of the business case (costs and benefits) in each instance as Hart DC and all other stakeholders would be particularly keen to adopt solutions providing the best value for money commensurate with achieving programme objectives.

2. Whilst Entec concentrated on defining the scope of the task and producing the project plans and business case(s) required, Hart DC – working closely with Environment Agency, Natural England and other potential stakeholders – would explore in parallel the funding options which might be available so that, once Entec’s draft report was produced, all required information would be available to inform decision-making. A sub-group would be formed to take this work forward.

3. Entec estimated that production of the report would take three months. They undertook to produce a revised project plan covering this period and showing in particular the points at which Steering Group members would need to review emerging findings and provide guidance to Entec.

Colin Gray, Chairman Fleet Pond Society.
26th October 2007.