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Horseshoe Lake enhancements

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Following feedback received from visitor surveys and the public, we are reviewing the proposals to enhance facilities at Horseshoe Lake.

We are re-examining plans for a chargeable car park and new café, as it’s been highlighted there could be a potential displacement of visitors to the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area, which is an open space with a European protected designation.

Our focus is now on how we can deliver smaller-scale enhancements at Horseshoe Lake that will benefit its users while maintaining the natural character of the site. This was an important point highlighted in feedback received from the survey.

New opportunities we’re exploring include:

  • providing new natural play facilities
  • formalising parking areas without introducing charging
  • consideration of smaller seasonal catering offers at the site without a permanent new building
  • working with the site-based water sports operator to enhance their offering and facilities

This new approach to the project will make sure that Horseshoe Lake will receive smaller scale enhancements that will be beneficial to its users, whilst also protecting the integrity of nearby protected sites.

Background

We are working on plans to enhance lakeside facilities at Horseshoe Lake. The aim is to enable people to continue to enjoy the site during busy periods.

The wider site is already managed as a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) and this function of the site as mitigation for the SPA remains the overarching priority for the site. The SANG designation means that we are carrying out separate improvements and maintenance to create an enjoyable natural environment for circular walking, away from the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area.

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 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 enough opportunity to be close to nature, with long walks.

Small scale enhancements of the lakeside facilities will help address these concerns and increase the accessibility of this beautiful open space, whilst protecting its natural character.

We 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 budget for this project was originally set at £2.6m, but this is now under review in light of the smaller scale of enhancements proposed, including:

  • seasonal catering offer
  • enhanced free car parking capacity to cope with seasonal demand
  • new water sports facilities to enhance use of the lake
  • nature inspired play area for all ages, incorporating educational themes and including promotion of SANG sites and protection of the SPA

Proposed charges

Entry to the site is to remain free of charge with no charges now proposed for parking.

A seasonal catering facility will charge for food and drink at market rates.

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 staffing team will continue their successful core provisions while adjusting their offering to match customer demand.

The landscape around the 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.

Transport

Concerns have historically been expressed about parking opportunities on the site and the nature of the roads and junctions serving 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 make sure access to the SANG is not made difficult when the water sports use is high.

The road network is being independently assessed to determine any impact on existing traffic flow. The aim is to make sure, through design, that adequate space is available on the site for vehicles to arrive and park easily.

Wildlife

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 enable better management between neighbouring sites
  • creating woodland glades for insects
  • building nesting habitats for native water birds towards the western end of the lake
  • improving public understanding of wildlife and the importance of habitats, particularly relating to birds

Water sports

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.

If you are interested in hearing about the proposals for this site, then please send an email to rangers@bracknell-forest.gov.uk

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