Horseshoe Lake enhancements
Our proposed enhancement at Horseshoe Lake is now focusing on simple upgrades to the existing core functions of the site. This includes the provision of the lake for water sports and the management of the wider site as a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG). Our priority is to improve the experience for our site users, whilst protecting the important local wildlife.
The council’s Parks and Countryside staff are updating the site management plan which if approved will sensitively deliver site enhancements, as part of their normal efforts to maximise the public enjoyment of open spaces and to minimise impact on the borough’s Special Protection Areas (SPA), including protected heathlands.
The proposed upgrades include:
- formalising the existing non-chargeable parking areas
- enhancing the landscape quality, including the creation of spaces for natural play and discovery
- creating an opportunity for catering, using a seasonal option, to meet needs at peak times
- continuing to make the lake and existing building available to the site-based water sports operator
If given the go ahead the designs will enhance 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.
The introduction of catering is now proposed with a smaller seasonal outlet rather than a permanent cafe. The plan is to ensure 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.
The first upgrade will connect the water sport building to mains drainage. This should be completed before April 2020. The other projects will be staggered over the following twelve to eighteen months, to minimise impact on wildlife and give new plants the best opportunity to establish. Disruption for visitors during this time 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 Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) and this function of the site as mitigation for the Thames Basin Heaths 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 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 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. Local feedback has been used to shape the enhancements.
Entry to the site will remain free of charge with no charges 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 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. Ensuring 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 expressed about parking on site and how increased visitor numbers might impact the nearby roads and junctions serving the area.
The proposed improvements to parking aim to support the function of the existing road network by making sure that adequate space is available on the site for people to arrive and easily park their vehicles.
The parking currently provided within the site for water sports are informal. They are intended to be improved, 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 proposed enhancements are designed to benefit existing site users rather than attracting new users.
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:
- 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
- the introduction of a reed bank to improve water quality and habitats
- improving public understanding of wildlife and the importance of habitats, particularly relating to birds
The existing watersports provider is a key part of the project and we’re working with them to enable an effective operation at the site.