RESIDENTS are up in arms after plans emerged to release treated sewage into a stream feeding into Frensham Great Pond - used by thousands of people throughout the year, including sailing clubs, swimmers, holiday makers, pets and wildlife.
The application for an environmental permit, submitted by Countrywide Park Homes (CPH) to the Environment Agency, proposes to release 27 cubic metres of sewage waste per day into an unnamed stream of the River Wey – located near Wishanger Lane in Churt – which flows into Frensham Great Pond.
CPH has been embroiled in a row with Churt residents over its intensification of a historic caravan park, Symondstone Farm, for the past year – due to fears that the seldom-used holiday park would be converted into a permanent trailer park, with an unlimited number of new homes.
Putting residents minds at ease, East Hampshire District Council later restricted use of the new mobile homes for ‘holiday use only’ in line with Symondstone Farm’s historic licences.
But members of Symondstone Community Action Group, set up in opposition to CPH’s applications at the farm, has criticised the developer for not making this clear in its marketing material for the park.
Objecting to the new proposal, a spokesman for the group said: “Whatever the legality of the waste being released into the feeder stream, we are extremely disappointed CPH have chosen this option rather than running a dedicated sewer to the Churt pumping station.
“Frensham Pond and the surrounding area, as CPH make great pains to point out in their marketing literature, is a resource enjoyed extensively by those both locally and further afield.
“More importantly, it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area, a Special Area of Conservation, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a wild swimming area.
“As many readers will be aware, Frensham Pond suffers from toxic algal blooms which can be a result of nutrient overload.
“This frequently results in the pond being closed to bathers and swimmers. CPH’s proposal is for secondary treatment. However, tertiary treatment is required for sensitive areas, such as trout streams, of which the feeder is one.”
Otters have also been recorded immediately adjacent to Symondstone Farm – these are classified as being at risk and are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List.
The River Wey, of which the feeder stream is a tributary also contains white-clawed crayfish, a protected species. We believe we are not alone in our concern regarding this proposal and that others, such as wild swimmers, fishermen, sailors, and those bathing in the pond will have similar concerns,” added the Symondstone Community Action Group spokesman.
“We ask that CPH seriously reconsider this proposal considering the sensitive nature of the local environment.”
Frensham Common, which is owned by the National Trust and leased and managed by Waverley Borough Council, is one of the largest expanses of open Surrey Heathland in the Weald.
According to the National Trust the land is of “great” importance for heathland wildlife including some rare invertebrates, reptiles and birds.
A National Trust spokesman added: “We would like to see the impacts properly assessed on this highly protected landscape.
We would be concerned about anything that may increase nutrient input to the ponds at Frensham, for instance as a result of sewage discharges.”
Speaking on behalf of Countrywide Park Homes, director Jonathan Harvey confirmed that there have been no changes in use from the licence that was inherited from the previous owners of Symondstone Farm.
He added: “CPH is committed to ensuring any waste from the site is treated and disposed of in a suitable manner and made safe so as not to have any impact on the local environment”.
It also welcomes advice and direction from the Environment Agency as how best to proceed.
The Environment Agency said it will assess impacts on a case-by-case basis, depending on what is being discharged and the health of the receiving water – and will consult with other environmental organisations before determining the outcome of the permit application.
The Farnham Angling Society, users of the popular pond, has strongly objected to the application on the grounds that the discharge is likely to reduce the water quality in Frensham Great Pond, and that the pond is already susceptible to heavy blooms of blue-green algae.
This, anglers say, causes the pond to be closed to bathers and has the potential to be harmful to eco-systems, and may cause the loss of fish.
In its letter of objection the angling society stated that it “sincerely trusts that the permit application is refused, and that all sewage effluent arising from Frensham Country Park is exported from the site by tanker to a suitable sewage treatment facility”.
To comment on the application visit bit.ly/2lKTKiI. Alternatively track Symondstone Action Group’s objections online at www.facebook. com/SymondstoneActionGroup
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