An on-site survey will soon be started by an independent consultation company. This is to gather responses from a selection of existing site users, starting around the weekend of 26 July and 27 July 2019. The survey staff will be on site for 7 to 10 days, covering a range of days and times to make sure a range of user views are sampled and captured.
The survey is specifically designed to understand the thoughts of existing regular users and we appreciate anyone who takes the time to speak with the independent company.
A different survey will be available in future to capture the views of local residents who might be affected by the operation of the site, but who do not regularly use the site at the current time. This survey is not designed to receive that feedback. The current survey is also not designed to capture the views of potential new site users. A different opportunity will be provided to gather feedback in this area.
The environmental and highway aspects of the project continue to be explored to inform a future planning application.
The council has drawn up plans to upgrade lakeside facilities at Horseshoe Lake. This will enable people to better enjoy the site during busy periods. It will also widen the range of people who can enjoy the lake edge location throughout the year.
The wider site is already managed as a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). This means that it is undergoing separate improvements and maintenance to create an enjoyable natural environment for circular walking, away from the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area.
It is recognised that the lake edge and water sports provision that sits within the wider SANG is a good facility for the residents. However during school holidays and at weekends the site can become very busy, a point that has been raised by local residents.
Many residents also experience barriers to enjoying healthy time in the outdoors. This includes limited access to toilets, seating and shelter; nature needing to be more appealing to children and finding sufficient opportunity to be close to nature, with long walks.
Enhancements of the lakeside facilities will help address these concerns and make sure that the accessibility requirements of being a country park are met.
The council are proud to have managed Horseshoe Lake for a long time and want any changes to be sensitive and to protect the nature currently at the site.
The improvements to the park are expected to cost £2.6 million and include:
- new lakeside bistro-style café to provide hot food and beverages all year round
- enhanced car park to cope with seasonal demand
- new water sports facilities to provide year-round offer
- exciting new adventure play area for all ages, incorporating educational themes
Entry to the site as a whole is to remain free of charge.
For members of the public accessing the wider SANG site for a circular walk and to exercise dogs, there will continue to be free parking spaces, located further around the lake and away from the new facilities.
For water sports customers and those visitors whose main activity on site is using the café and play areas there will be a modest parking charge. The parking charges will be reviewed periodically and set during the annual budget setting process of the council as per the other council car parks. The charges are proposed to be within the range of the table below and will be broadly comparable with charges at The Look Out Discovery Centre.
1 to 2 hours
£2 to £3
2 to 4 hours
For all site visitors the access to the toilets will be free.
The café will charge for food and drink, serving a simple but good quality range of hot and cold dishes, with cakes, coffees, ice creams and other refreshments. Ingredients will be locally sourced, and dishes will maintain variety through the inclusion of seasonal specials.
The cost and the type of water sports activities provided by Freetime Leisure will be set by the company independently of the council. It is expected that the passionate existing staffing team will continue their successful core provisions while adjusting their offering to match customer demand.
The landscape between the café and water sports buildings will be designed to incorporate opportunities for extensive and exciting play while learning about wildlife habitats. This will be free to access.
Dogs with responsible owners will be welcome in all facilities and catered for through the provision of free drinking water and shade stations.
Concerns have historically been expressed about parking opportunities on the site and the nature of the roads and junctions leading to the area.
The potential impact on traffic flow from additional car movements if the site were to get busier has been raised as a concern by residents. The parking opportunities currently provided within the site for water sports are informal. They are intended to be resolved by the design, to make sure the spaces function effectively and to ensure access to the SANG is not made difficult when the water sports use is high.
Those using the site for natural walks will still be provided with free parking on the site as part of the project, but at a different location to help create a separation from the water sports and the recreational use of lake edge. The parking spaces near to the enhanced facilities will have modest charges applied, which is common practice as part of making enhanced public services viable.
The road network is being independently assessed to determine any impact on existing traffic flow. The aim being to ensure through design that adequate space is available on the site for vehicles to arrive and park smoothly.
Wildlife will benefit from the improvements as the planning process will work towards a net gain for biodiversity through careful design and habitat enhancements.
The key parts of the project to increase biodiversity are:
- providing habitat for barn owls (a BAP species)
- installing enhanced water level control to prevent flooding and allowing better management between neighbouring sites
- creating woodland glades for insects
- building nesting habitats for native water birds on site towards the western end of the lake
- improving public understanding of wildlife and the importance of habitats, particularly as affecting birds
The existing water sports provider is a key part of the project and we’re working with them to enhance their facilities and improve the offer on site, whilst supporting them to cover their costs of operation. The provision of enhanced showers is part of the design.
If you are interested in hearing about the proposals for this site, then please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Horseshoe Lake at Sunset image courtesy of David Robins.