Earlswood and Redhill Common Steering Group meeting minutes Tuesday 12 November 2019, 6.30 pm, Town Hall

1. Welcome and apologies

The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and introduced herself as Councillor Natalie Bramhall, Executive and Portfolio Holder for Greenspaces. A brief introduction was made by attendees.

Apologies from: Nick Faulkes, Environment Agency

Absent: Councillor James King

Present: David Watts (RBBC), Councillor Natalie Bramhall (Chair), John Potts (Friends of Swans Group), John Cumberland (Reigate Society), Bernard Fiest (Merstham Cricket Club), Simon Elson (RACV), Councillor Stephen Kulka, Councillor Hal Brown, James Simmons (Earlswood Boats and Café), Tommy Matthews (Earlswood Boats and Café)

2. Minutes of the last meeting

The minutes from March’s meeting were agreed as they were outstanding.

Actions from this meeting:

Item 4: Portfolio Holder to provide update on future use of golf course. There are no current plans to bring the golf course facility back to the common.

Item 4: The Chair reported that the former club house is to be marketed as a rented premise. There is a strong local feeling that the property should continue to be a community asset.

Item 6: DW as requested circulated the credentials and method statement of the bird ringer at Earlswood Lakes. No-one from the steering group contested the bird ringer’s credentials or method statement.

Item 7. DW notified RBBC Assets Team that the steering group did not object to proposals by Merstham Cricket Club to extend their lease and seek planning permission to construct a more permanent building to store equipment.

Item 8. DW sent MP the final remaining figure of the EA Habitat improvement grant.

MP sent DW a method statement for the fish netting operation that could be passed onto the RBBC Communications Team.

Item 9: DW sent the current TOR’s and contacted Chris Phelan. New TOR’s will be adopted when the Management Plan is renewed.

Item 9: DW added JS’s email to the steering groups circulation list.

The minutes from July’s meeting were agreed. Actions from this meeting:

The Chair will make contact with St Johns School to invite them to represent themselves at the steering group.

Action Chair to make contact with St Johns school.

3. Matters arising

The Chair reported that the Café and RBBC have met to resolve the issues with large amounts of rubbish being left on the picnic tables.

The Chair asked which areas other than Earlswood and Redhill Common are of interest to the steering group. DW confirmed that Felland Copse, New Pond Farm, Petridgewood Common and Whitebushes Common are also areas of interest to the steering group.

4. Membership, TOR’s and Management Plan

It was agreed that the TOR’s and membership needs to be reviewed to ensure that all areas of interest are appropriately represented. The Management Plan that expired in 2013 urgently needs updating to reflect the changes in land use and management regimes.

Cllr Brown has received an enquiry from a sports ground restoration expert who has offered their services to manage the former golf course. It was agreed that this is not needed as the former golf course is not planned to be restored, and the land will be managed as open common.

The Chair is keen to develop community involvement on the common for example task days, litter picking. Anyone with any ideas or suggestions to contact either DW and the Chair. SE endorsed this proposal and will pass on information he has about a group called the Redhill Common Volunteers.

Action SE to pass on information to DW and the Chair. All members to pass on any ideas or suggestions they have for developing community involvement.

5. Top lake netting and fish removal

MP outlined Horley Piscatorial Society’s (HPS) plans to remove the large fish from the top lake and transfer to the lower lakes. The water levels will be lowered with help from RBBC, the work will start on the 19 November. On the 22 November a specialist contractor will use a netting operation to gather the fish and they will be put into the lower lake by the fishing club. An EA permit for transferring the fish is not required as the two lakes are connected, and this does not constitute a transfer between two separate water bodies. Laminated signs informing members of the fishing club will be put up on the Friday, media coverage will be minimal to avoid large crowds from gathering. DW has sent the method statement to the RBBC Communications team to refer to when dealing with any public enquiries. Upon being asked if HPS have a website and a team of bailiffs MP confirmed that they did.

6. Swan Ramp

MP reported that HPS will be using the remainder of their Habitat Improvement Grant to purchase a swan ramp for the lower lake. The ramp will be made from composite plastic which is more durable than wood. It will be located between the café and the first swim.

JP reported that the number of swans in the lake is 54, an injured swan was recently taken for specialist care at Shepperton.

DW asked the group what their thoughts were about feeding bread to water birds. There has been recent activity on social media suggesting that people should continue to feed bread to water birds as they rely on this food source. DW outlined that by encouraging water birds to rely on humans for food is dangerous for them as they are wild animals not pets. Excess bread in the lake is bad for water conditions as the extracts of yeast and sugar leads to algal blooms in the summer which lowers the oxygen levels. The sign installed by the lower lake informs the public of this and encourages them to use more natural foods such as corn and seeds. SE commented that the same information would be useful at Priory Park.

Cllr Kulka suggested making more use of social media to educate the wider public about this.

Action DW to speak with RBBC Communications.

MP will also speak to Surrey Wildlife Trust (SWT) to see what if any education work they do around this subject.

Action MP to contact SWT.

7. Model boats on fishing lake

The Chair confirmed that permission has been granted to a member of the public to operate a sail boat on the fishing lake. The sailing of boats of any kind is prohibited under the common byelaws, but an allowance has been made as his boat is not likely to harm wildlife. A letter has been sent to him stating that he has permission but if other boats are attracted to the lake as a result his permission will be revoked, this is stated in the letter. The steering group agreed with this. MP outlined that he did not have any problem with a sail boat being used on the fishing lake. It was agreed that the situation will be monitored for any increased boat use.

8. Chamomile on the common

DW reported that he has begun fixed point monitoring of Chamomile to monitor its spread over the common. Now that golf has ceased, and the mowing regime has become less frequent it is thought that this could be aiding the spread of Chamomile. SE will send DW a map showing locations with recorded Chamomile when he finds it. DW expressed his pleasure at seeing the public enjoying the common without the risk of getting hit by golf balls, he also commented that it makes maintaining areas of the common much easier now that there is no golf being played.

9. Incursion protection works

DW reported that RBBC has undertaken protection works for illegal incursions around Earlswood and Redhill Common. The works consist of earth embankments and wooden posts along vulnerable stretches. A retrospective Section 38 application to the Planning Inspectorate is being sent as the works were deemed as an emergency. Access gates have also been fitted with metal covers to prevent locks being sawn off. It is proposed that the earth embankments will be sown with a suitable wildflower mixture to enhance biodiversity.

10. Annual Dam inspection

DW reported on the recent dam inspection by Stillwater Associates. The banks around the bottom and top of the lower lake must be kept clear of high vegetation to allow inspectors to see any water leaks, this operation is now on the annual grounds maintenance regime.

11. AOB

BF circulated the design plan for the construction of the new pavilion storage building. The current internal design plan is required to be altered to satisfy planning conditions and the roof will use tile material and the walls constructed using brick. A section 38 Planning Consent Application will need to be made as the building is on common land. The lease for the container expires in February 2021 and a tenancy agreement is to be agreed between the club and RBBC.

SE commented that the proposal will be beneficial as the container will no longer be present. There was agreement from the group for the design proposal.

Cllr Brown reported that there is a desire by members of the public to request a traffic calming measure or crossing point on the A23 Horley Road between the two sections of common near the Earlswood Depot. This road is a direct route to the East Surrey Hospital and Fire Station and would require careful consideration by the Highway Authority.

There is also interest by members of the public to see an indoor café area at Earlswood Lakes, JS and TM replied that this is something they are looking into but would be subject to Planning Permission.

The hedge line along Woodhatch Road requires gaps to be filled in to form a continuous hedge.

Action DW to look into this.

JS reported that CCTV in the car park is a useful deterrent for anti-social behaviour, they would like to install a false camera on a post to better protect their premises. The Chair commented that soon Reigate Police will no longer be monitoring CCTV which is not good news. The Chair will investigate the exact details and work with the Café.

Action Chair to investigate CCTV monitoring by Reigate Police

JS questioned whether the old car park could be reinstated as the main car park is regularly full to capacity. DW commented that this area falls within the SNCI report and features interesting waste ground and wetland plants which would be lost if a car park was to be rebuilt. Works would also have to be given consent by the Planning Inspectorate as it is common land.

SE reported that RACV recently cleared Chain Pond of dominant Typha Reed and they noted a good population of Rigid Hornwort. DW thanked SE for his work and commented how much better it looks. RACV will return in 2021. RACV will continue with view point clearance and Laurel clearance on Redhill Common this winter. Developers will soon be providing CIL funding for infrastructure improvements.

MP asked what options are available for rehousing caught terrapins. The RSPCA do not take them and there seems to be no venues who will. Any suggestions should be sent to MP.

DW reported on recent/scheduled habitat improvement works:

  • Earlswood Common – Clearance of acid grassland area in woodland between Pendleton Road and Woodhatch Road. Scrub clearance in species rich roughs scheduled for winter.
  • Redhill Common - Restoration of pond in the woodland.
  • New Pond – Scrub clearance along Earlswood Brook scheduled to improve aquatic habitat.
  • Petridgewood Common – Scrub clearance in species rich areas by the cricket ground and scrub clearance along ditch edges to improve aquatic habitat scheduled.

12. Date of next meeting

January/February 2020. Date to be confirmed.