SES Water describes outline plans for Fetcham Springs

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SES Water has outlined its latest thinking on plans for solar arrays, biodiversity conservation and an education centre at Fetcham Springs.

Addressing the FRA’s AGM on April 13th, SES Water director Tom Kelly, for the first time gave residents an indication of how extensive solar panel coverage might be on the site, and the amount of power the company wished to generate.

Referring to a map of SES Water’s total land holdings in the Fetcham Springs area, Mr Kelly said that one possibility was the installation of solar panels on 7-8 acres of the main field between the Mill Pond footpath and Raymead Way.

Mr Kelly suggested this might generate up to approximately 2 Megawatts of power and this could meet 20% of Elmer Water Treatment Works power needs. An additional 1 MW might be generated at the Elmer Works site on Hawks Hill.

Tom Kelly answering questions at the FRA AGM on April 13.

But Mr Kelly said that because of the current high costs of raw materials for solar panels he did not envisage starting any installation work (subject to planning approval) for another two or three years.

He stressed that the company wished to work with the community and he was confident that the solar arrays could be screened at ground level.

He said there was the opportunity for the site to become “an exemplar” in balancing the company’s need to generate more of its own power, for commercial reasons and in recognition of the climate crisis, while at the same time enhancing biodiversity and local amenity for residents.

“We wouldn’t want something that was overbearing,” said Mr Kelly. “I would much rather Fetcham Springs became known as a nature reserve, and for its open space.”

Solar panels would be sited in the green zone on this SES proposed layout. The education centre is in the field off Mill Lane in the purple coloured zone. (Diagram: SES Water)

Residents’ questions raised concerns about whether SES had looked at finding alternative sources of renewable energy, whether residents would have access to the land and whether wildlife would be affected.

Landscape architect and expert in visual impact assessment Liz Brown, who lives in Cobham Road, said it was important that the solar arrays did not dictate the design of the whole area.

“The earlier the community can get involved in designing a master plan for the site, the better; the landscape and ecology features will all need to be considered,” she said.

The SES scheme also includes a proposal for gifting a three-year-old modular building as an education centre for the water industry and the community. This might be sited in the field north of Mill Lane and adjacent to the River Mole. 

The FRA is committed to working with SES on developing an integrated plan for the whole site, and managing the entire area to enhance its biodiversity and allowing improved access for residents.

After the meeting, FRA Committee member Caroline Cardew-Smith said: “We want to thank Tom Kelly for speaking to residents, and look forward to engaging with him, SESW and other interested parties, to find the best solution for siting the solar panels, as this will be a major change of use for Fetcham Springs if it goes ahead.

"We want to work with SES Water and other stakeholders to come up with integrated solutions (for footpaths, solar panels, biodiversity restoration after NR works etc) that we can put back to the Community BEFORE any planning application is submitted. If there is general agreement with the FRA and the community on the SES Water proposals, then they are likely to go through planning more smoothly."

We have reproduced below the slides presented to the AGM by Tom Kelly.

SES-for-AGM-13.4.22

2 comments

  1. Brilliant idea for creation of this renewable energy generation project and a great use of that open land however suitable preparation in growing a dense hedge of a suitable height (s) surrounding the whole project is a must do surely ??
    With a suitably high hedge / low tree line then the visual impact will be dramatically reduced and the wild life inhabitants then pretty much in a peaceful and undisturbed domain once the solar panel framework structure has been installed.
    My personal opinion on this is that it is great news to see the innovative application of this renewable energy generation technology but I can see that the visual impact of NOT screening off this site will not be popular in the local community and especially not the homes bordering the western border along Raymead Way & Cannon Grove where surrounding hedge border will definitely need to be higher.

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