SES Water has written to the FRA apologising for the concerns raised by the recently erected Rights of Way notices placed around its land at Fetcham Springs.
The statutory notice signs went up in the first week of January at various points on the perimeter of the Fetcham Springs field – the open land between Raymead Way, the Cobham Road and the Mill Pond.
A number of residents raised concerns with the FRA over the purpose of these legal notices, and why the water company had chosen to post them without any warning. The notices also prompted a lively discussion on social media.
After an urgent letter from the FRA, SES Wholesale Director Tom Kelly wrote to us saying the notices were “purely procedural”.
In his letter Mr Kelly says: “Can I apologise for any concern caused by the notices that have recently been displayed at the Fetcham Springs site?”
“The signs have been displayed to protect SES Water from the creation of inadvertent rights of public access on the site. Dalcour McLaren, our appointed land agents, progressed the posting of these notices on a number of our sites at the same time, Fetcham Springs being one.
In effect, the legal notices from SES are saying that it doesn’t believe that any public rights of way exist across the land, except for the already very established pathways running from the Cobham Road, past the Mill Pond, and the footpath by the railway embankment.
An explanatory note from Surrey County Council informs residents that if they dispute this, they have until January 2022 to lodge an objection.
In a separate development, SES Water has announced that it has been awarded The Wildlife Trusts’ Biodiversity Benchmark for enhancing and protecting the biodiversity at its Elmer site on Hawk's Hill.
The Wildlife Trusts is the umbrella organisation for county organisations such as Surrey Wildlife Trust. The announcement (see link) also stated that SES hoped to achieve this award at two more sites, including Fetcham Springs.
In his letter, Mr Kelly also invites the FRA to meet with the company to discuss its “evolving plan” for the land at Fetcham Springs.
Mr Kelly says: “Additionally, we recognise (particularly so over the last year) the growing importance of open space to local communities, alongside our obligation to engage with and ultimately help influence customers and communities of the importance of water and energy efficiency, and their interdependency with the environment.
“We believe Fetcham Springs could continue to play a key role in this process, and we have been developing plans to engage with local stakeholders to help shape our approach for the site. The FRA are obviously a key part of this engagement.”
The FRA has welcomed these statements of clarification from SES.
Chairman Tim Waller said: “I’d like to thank Tom Kelly for his letter to us and his willingness to meet and discuss these matters further.
“Our priority is to make sure that this piece of land is retained for its wildflife, and is valued for its biodiversity potential, as so many of our residents wish to see.”
If you wish to make representations about rights of way across the SES land at Fetcham Springs, you are invited to contact Surrey County Council's Countryside Access Team.
Correction: On February 8th the reference in paragraph four to Tom Kelly as a 'Board Director' of SES was corrected to 'Wholesale Director'. We apologise for the error.