SES Water is developing plans to generate solar power, promote biodiversity and build a centre for education on the land it owns at Fetcham Springs.
There were fears that parts of the site could be developed for housing or recreation, including playing fields and a club house.
But in a meeting with the FRA, SES management said it had no intention of selling the site or allowing any residential or commercial use.
The FRA very much welcomes this reassurance.
At present the open land to the west of the Mill Pond footpath and extending to Raymead Way, is designated by the company as a ‘Source Protection Zone’, because of its location close to the natural springs where it extracts water every day.
The company says it now sees generating solar power on the land as an important way of reducing its carbon footprint and working towards its target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030. The water industry is one of the heaviest users of energy in the UK, mainly because of the need to pump water from underground sources.
SES Water Wholesale Director Tom Kelly told us: “It’s our firm view that we can demonstrate the ability for this site to have various activities that can co-exist together and are compatible. Solar generation, increasing our ability to generate from renewables, is a key part of our plan for the Fetcham site.”
Proposed education centre
A second major aspect of the company’s plans is the building of an education centre. It already has a visitors’ centre at Bough Beech reservoir in Kent, but the emphasis at Fetcham is more likely to be on education, particularly around biodiversity and renewables, and potentially hosting community activities.
“What we are trying to do with our education centres is to demonstrate the link between water, energy and the environment and how they can co-exist,” said Mr Kelly.
If they are to go ahead, all of these potential developments at Fetcham Springs will eventually be subject to planning applications to Mole Valley District Council. There is no suggestion that any applications are about to be made. SES says it is still at the early stages of formulating its plans and welcomes input from the local community.
Crucial questions for residents will include the extent of solar panel coverage across the site, and the size and exact location of the proposed education centre.
The company has pledged to undertake biodiversity assessments of the whole of the Fetcham Springs site. This is part of the process needed for it to achieve The Wildlife Trusts Biodiversity Benchmark status for the Mill Pond area, a designation it has already won at its Elmer Works site on Hawks Hill which is a first for the water industry.
FRA Chairman Tim Waller commented: “We are grateful to SES for sharing their ideas with us at such an early stage and reassuring us that no part of the site will be sold for development.
“We believe that the open land at Fetcham Springs represents a real opportunity to show that water companies can work hand in hand with local communities to deliver environmental benefits for everyone.
"In view of the extensive number of species already noted at Fetcham Springs by local ecologists, we look forward to plant and wildlife surveys taking place as soon as is practicable in the coming months.”
The FRA would like to know what you think about the plans.
If you wish to comment, either use the comment facility on our website, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
(We hope to have more comment and analysis of the SES plans in our Spring Newsletter.)