Earlswood Common Steering Group meeting minutes Tuesday 13 November 2018

Earlswood Common Steering Group meeting minutes Tuesday 13th November 2018

1. Welcome and Apologies

The Chair welcomed all to the meeting. No apologies had been sent. 

Present: Councillor Barbara Thomson (Chair), David Watts (RBBC), John Potts (Friends of Swan Group), John Cumberland (Reigate Society), Horley Piscatorial Society, John Faulkes (Environment Agency)  

2. Earlswood Common maintenance

DW updated the group on maintenance operations that have taken place since the last meeting. Access along the main footpaths has been improved particularly around the lakes. The view point looking from the top lake down to the lower lake has been opened up by the removal of small trees and scrub. Matt Pipe from Horley Piscatorial Society requested that they could be notified of any works in the future. The chair also requested that the steering group also be notified of maintenance works in advance. DW to action.

DW also gave a report of the recent volunteer party that he led with staff from Willis Towers Watson who helped to clear invasive sycamore trees from the Earlswood Common woodland compartment adjacent to the top lake.

3. Redhill Common maintenance

DW updated the group on maintenance work he has been carrying out with the support of Reigate Area Conservation Volunteers led by Simon Elson. Works since the last meeting include continuing with Laurel and Sycamore clearance from the eastern block of the woodland. Future works this year will include improving the viewpoints looking over to Gatwick Airport from the hill top by selective clearance of emerging scrub vegetation.

DW reported that he has been contacted by a local resident who wishes to install a memorial bench on the hill top. After a brief discussion the steering group agreed to this application but do have concerns about over cluttering of furniture and any future application for this location would likely be objected to. DW to notify the applicant

Matt Pipe suggested that the Redhill and Reigate Wildlife Facebook Group would be a medium to promote activities relating to any of the commons.

  4. General Updates

The Chair reported that there has been traveller activity in the area and RBBC Greenspaces should be aware of this. She also asked whether the hedge cutting along Woodhatch Road will be completed, DW reported that this will be carried out soon.

The injured swan that was recovered from Earlswood Lakes will be returned to the lake. A black swan that is native to Australia has been sighted at the lakes, it is listed as a Schedule 9 Species under current legislation and it is an offence release it or allow its escape into the wild. DW to investigate further.

Minute taking of meetings was queried. DW agreed to provide brief minutes for each meeting.

Horley Piscatorial Society confirmed that their fishing lease has been extended for a further seven years. A plan was shown of the improvement works that they wish to complete this winter using the remainder of grant allocated to them by RBBC. The majority of the grant is expected to be used for hiring a contractor to clear vegetation and silt from the inflow ditch that runs into the lakes. Action DW to forward ditch clearance plan to Simon Elson for his comments.

There is still no confirmed date for when the Environment Agency can lower the levels of the top lake to allow fish to be netted and relocated to the lower lake. This is delay is largely due to the heavy work load the Environment Agency has endured over the hot summer causing a backlog of works. The Chair requested that when a date is confirmed that there be a strong communications campaign by Horley Piscatorial and RBBC, this will avoid excessive public unrest. Action Horley Piscatorial Society and RBBC to carry this out when time occurs, also notify the Steering Group. 

Improved signage at fishing sites is being looked into by Horley Piscatorial Society to combat illegal fishing and improve onsite information. They are looking at signs that will be multi lingual and quotes are currently being awaited. Action Horley Piscatorial Society to send signage plans to DW first.  

It was also reported that bins around the site are still overflowing with litter and there is a request to increase the number of bins. Action DW to raise the issue.

The boats are still present on the top lake they are required to be taken off the water by the café during the winter period. Action DW to clarify date with the café.

The Environment Agency reported that the summer of 2018 has been their busiest to date due to the drought and hot weather. They have experienced pressures on resources, heavy workloads and problems with blockages in water courses not being cleared by normal water flow rates.

Reigate History Society asked whether the leaking section of the overflow section of the lower lake has been rectified. Action DW to clarify this with the Engineer.

5. AOB

There was no AOB.

6. Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be in March exact date to be confirmed, 2 weeks notice will be given of the date.