Horseshoe Lake enhancements
Latest update - 16 September 2021
Our project at Horseshoe Lake is now focusing on simple upgrades to the existing core functions of the site.
This includes the continued provision of the lake for water sports, carrying out sympathetically delivered enhancements that will benefit current site users. The management of the wider site as a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) will help to protect the important local wildlife.
This will be achieved by:
- improving the accessibility of the parking currently provided within the site for water sports, with the car park remaining non-chargeable
- enhancing the landscape quality, including the creation of free to access spaces for natural play and discovery
- providing new outdoor public toilets and updating the shower facilities to improve accessibility at the water sports centre
- delivering enhancements to wildlife habitats (see below)
The improvements have been designed to preserve the natural character of the site. For example, the parking improvements will be designed into existing areas used for parking to minimise the encroachment into other habitats. The existing building is to be retained rather than replaced and the areas selected for natural play and discovery features are those within the lowest biodiversity areas of the site.
There are no existing public toilets, and the shower facilities are very outdated. Horseshoe Lake Activity Centre proposes to offer these new outdoor facilities to current users to enable them to enjoy the site in comfort. The facilities will be made fully accessible, with a hoist for access and adult changing tables provided.
The introduction of catering is also proposed within the current building. The plan is to make sure that services can be provided when the site is busy, without creating a reliance on new visitors to the site for services to be sustainable or the creation of new buildings.
The improvements to parking, natural play and toilets/showers are subject to funding and planning permission being granted. Disruption for visitors while work is underway will be kept to a minimum and the area will remain accessible as the enhancements are put in place.
The wider site is already managed as a SANG. 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 facility that sits within the wider SANG is well used by residents, however, during school holidays and at weekends the site can become very busy, a point that has been raised by residents.
Many residents experience barriers to enjoying healthy time 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.
The proposed 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. Local feedback has been used to shape the enhancements.
Free of charge parking
Entry to the site will remain free of charge with no charges for parking.
The cost and the type of water sports activities provided by the water sports provider will be set by the company independently of the council. It is expected that the passionate staffing team will continue to deliver these great facilities while adjusting their offering to match customer demand.
The landscape around the buildings will be designed to incorporate opportunities for natural play and discovery while learning about wildlife habitats. This will be free to access.
Dogs with responsible owners will continue to be welcome and catered for with free drinking water and shade stations. The provision of additional facilities, such as opportunities for dog washing, are being explored in response to public feedback from SANG monitoring. Making sure of the long-term appeal of the site for dog-walking is a key aspiration for the management of the site as a SANG.
Concerns have been raised regarding earlier proposals about parking on site and how increased visitor numbers might impact the nearby roads and junctions servicing the area.
Improvements to parking at Horseshoe Lake are proposed that aim to support the function of the existing road network by making sure that adequate space is available for people to arrive and park their vehicles. The proposal concentrates on parking provided within the site for water sports, which are currently informal. This will be improved to make sure the spaces for water sports function effectively and to make sure separate access to the SANG is not made difficult when the water sports use is high.
To achieve this the site compound, which is used for storage, will be moved, and the space reallocated for parking. Three new disabled parking bays will be included.
Relocating the car park and connecting path will help to improve the flow of visitors to the site. This work is subject to getting the relevant planning permission.
The new parking area would be managed by the water sports company who run the building, as part of their provision of activities.
The main SANG car park is not affected by the proposals. There are no new parking charges proposed or limitations on the duration of the stay.
Wildlife will benefit from the improvements, as the part of the normal development of a SANG.
The key parts of the proposed project to increase biodiversity are:
- improving the island to make it a suitable refuge and breeding site for birds, for example extending the area, reducing bank erosion, protecting it against disturbance (completed)
- providing habitat for barn owls
- 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 (completed)
- the introduction of a reed bank to improve water quality and habitats (completed)
- improving public understanding of wildlife and the importance of habitats, particularly relating to birds (underway)
The existing watersports provider Horseshoe Lake Activity Centre is a key part of the project and we’re working with them to deliver this improvement project whilst enabling an effective operation at the site.