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Earlswood and Redhill Commons Steering Group Tuesday 5 of March, 2019 Reigate Town Hall

1. Welcome and Apologies

Members present: Councillor Barbara Thomson (Chair), David Watts (Countryside Officer RBBC) Tony Clinghan (Redhill and Reigate Golf club), Simon Elson (RACV), Benard Fiest (Merstham Cricket Club), Nick Faulkes (Environment Agency), Matt Pipe (Horley Piscatorial Society), John Cumberland (Reigate Society), John Potts (Friends of Swan Group), James Simmons and Tommy Mathews (Earlswood Boats and Café)

2. Minutes of the last meeting.

Correction to Item 4 General Updates. Councillor Thomson’s query regarding hedge cutting along Woodhatch road should be replaced with hedge laying.

All other minutes agreed.

3. Matters arising

SE queried whether the use of the Earlswood Lakes Facebook page to communicate to the wider community is representative of the steering group and RBBC. Only a small proportion of the steering group said they use this and DW confirmed that he does not use this. He sends public information via RBBC’s Communications team who have their own RBBC Twitter and Facebook page.

4. Redhill and Reigate Golf club

 There was a general satisfaction within the Steering Group of Councillor Horwood’s answer to Councillor Thomson’s question at the last Council meeting regarding the maintenance of the Earlswood Common golf course area. DW confirmed that this will be the maintenance regime until a future use has been decided. There were however concerns that there has been no consultation with the wider public other than the survey commissioned by the Conservative Party, this is causing a feeling of uncertainty about the future of the site. SE suggested that a user survey similar to one carried out on Reigate Heath would be a useful exercise. Further feedback from Steering Group members suggested that there is a desire among the local community for RBBC to carry out a survey of this type.

SE reported that he had been invited to attend a meeting with the Surrey Wildlife Trust and residents that had been arranged by a local Councillor without the knowledge of RBBC Greenspaces. He had no knowledge that this had been arranged without RBBC involvement. He advised those at the meeting that he could not present any views without RBBC being involved and immediately contacted DW to notify him.

This meeting has unfortunately misled those in attendance into believing that a decision has already been made of the future use of the golf course area, this has further resulted in rumours circulating very quickly.

JC expressed his desire that the nature conservation management of the sites does not suffer as a result of the golf course ceasing to exist and of whatever this space is used for in the future. DW replied that the management plan and the current SNCI report will continue to guide land management.  MP confirmed that he had been approached by members of the public who wish for the LNR to be expanded and continue to be managed as a family friendly and accessible facility. JS and TM both queried whether golf will be considered as a future use of the site, the Chair confirmed that no decisions have been made yet. The Chair suggested whether she should invite the Portfolio Holder Councillor Alex Horwood to the next meeting to provide an update or ask him to write a statement when a decision has been made. Action Councillor Thomson.  

SE asked for an update on the on the future use of the club house, TC confirmed that the clubhouse has not been sold although development plans have been considered. The Chair agreed to speak to the Portfolio Holder Councillor Alex Horwood to seek clarification on this. Action Councillor Thomson.     

5. Dam Inspections

DW gave a summary of the grounds maintenance operations RBBC are required to carry out following the recent Dam inspection undertaken by Stillwater Associates. The operations include minor vegetation clearance in selected areas around the lower lake. These areas have to be kept clear of vegetation to allow any water leaks to be easily identified.

6. Bird Ringing

DW asked if the group had any knowledge of a bird ringer named Mark Stanley ringing Swans at Earlswood Lakes. The group did not other than the Café and John Potts who had witnessed him on site last year. DW reported that he had made contact with Mark and asked to see his bird ringing licence and credentials, permission was granted based on satisfactory supply of these documents. Concerns were raised during the meeting about the suitability of the Orange Darvic rings that are used and questions were asked of what organisation he represents and what he does with the data collected. DW confirmed he carries out ringing for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). Action DW to investigate this matter further and make contact with Mark Stanley.    

7. Merstham Cricket Club

BF from Merstham Cricket Club attended the meeting to seek approval from the Steering Group regarding a lease extension on the cricket pavilion.  The current lease expired on the 31st October 2018. The club has been in discussion with officers of the council since October 2017 regarding an extension of the lease to cover a 25-year period. This period of lease is required to enable the club to apply for grant funding to cover the costs of constructing an extension to the existing pavilion to store maintenance equipment. Subject to Planning and Section 38 approval. The assets department of the council have agreed in principle to a 20 year lease subject to Green spaces and the Earlswood Common Steering groups approval.

All group members were asked to confirm if they accepted this proposal or objected to it. All accepted the proposal expect the Chair who abstained. Action DW to notify Jo Stillwell, RBBC Assets Manager of the outcome.

8. General Updates

Horley Piscatorial Society

MP reported that the habitat improvements to the lower lake inlet ditch have now been completed and this work has been welcomed by members of the public. The work consisted of selective tree removal, scrub clearance and desilting of the ditch. The coir planting was postponed upon advice from SE who advised that it would be of benefit to monitor any colonisation of native aquatic plants and then use coir plating if required.  Action DW to send to cost of the operation to MP. This cost will be deducted from the remaining habitat improvement grant.

The operation for lowering the water level in the top lake and removing the fish has been booked with a contractor for the date of 22nd November 2019. DW requested that a full method statement is sent to him no later than 1 week in advance, 2 weeks would be preferred. Action MP to send information to DW in requested time so he can send to RBBC Communications Team.

The Café suggested that any debris in the lake could be removed when the levels are lower. All agreed.

A quote for the swan ramp to be installed in the lower lake is due to be supplied by Lawsons, Timber merchants.

New signage for the club is still awaited, RBBC to have sight of content before they are installed around the lake.

Environment Agency

NF reported that they have a large supply of Calamagrostis Reed that could be planted in the silt trap in the top lake.

Reigate Society

JC reported that a dog bin is now missing from the main path at Earlswood Lakes. Acton DW to investigate.

RACV

SE updated on the conservation work that they are carrying out at Redhill Common. They have been restoring the viewpoints from the top of the Common and removing invasive Laurel from within the woodland. DW commented how good both areas are looking and thanked him for his work carried out.

Earlswood Boats and Café

BMW have approached TM to see if there if is an interest in supplying a corporate customer package whereby BMW customer are dropped off at the lake whilst their vehicle is serviced.  No proposals have been developed as yet.

RBBC

DW reported that a natural playground is being proposed in the old car park at Earlswood Lakes. The playground will feature low level natural play equipment using recycled wood material such as logs and tree lengths. There were no objections to this proposal. 

9. AOB

SE raised the issue that the Terms of Reference (TOR) are out of date and need to be revised and renewed. The most current TOR date back to 2016. DW explained that any document would have to be submitted to RBBC Democratic Services for adoption. Action DW to circulate existing TOR and contact Chris Phelan from Democratic Services.

JS requested that he be added to the circulation list for the Steeering Group. Action DW to add his email address to the circulation list.

SE thanked TC for all his contributions to the Steering Group followed by a thank you from the rest of the group. TC offered his own email address should anyone wish to contact him for guidance should golf ever return to Earlswood Common. His email address is [email protected] and can be used when his golf club address expires.

10. Date of next meeting

DW commented that he would like the group to represent the wider sites in its remit such as Felland Copse and Petridgewood Common. It was suggested that the next meeting would include a walk around Earlswood Lakes looking at the work that has been carried and then head over to Felland Copse to look at the woodland and other land parcels. The site walk about will be on the 9th of July at 6pm and the meeting place will be Earlswood Lakes car park. The Autumn/Winter Steering Group meeting will be on Tuesday 12th November, 6.30 pm.