From left to right: Tim Ackroyd (Fleet Pond Ranger), Peter Martin (President FPS), Cressida Wheelwright (Natural England), Adam Green (Hart District Council), Colin Gray (Chairman FPS), Councillor Ken Crookes (Leader Hart District Council) and Geoff Dee (FPS Committee Member).
Cathy Holden, Fleet Pond Society (FPS) Committee Member, writes:
The fundraising Clearwater Campaign received a boost in early November when Natural England confirmed a Higher Level Environmental Stewardship (HLS) agreement consisting of a grant of £19,000 per year to Hart District Council. This agreement, and the support and involvement of partners including the Environment Agency, Hart District Council, the Fleet Pond Society and the Ministry of Defence, means that dredging can begin in several key areas of the Pond and that measures can be taken to reduce silting in the future.
Colin Gray says: “Clearing the silt is a major task and we hope to draw in further funding, including sponsorship, to help us with an ambitious long term restoration programme. At Fleet Pond Society we have been encouraged by the support and advice from Natural England and we welcome this HLS agreement as the first stage in the restoration of the pond and adjacent habitats. This is a great project which has involved much hard work by the partners to bring it all together. We look forward to working closely with Natural England on future projects for this much loved nature reserve,”
Colin continues: “Sorting out the silting problems is, of course, our priority and our Clearwater Campaign will continue to seek funds for further dredging. The other work, like wetland and heathland restoration, clearance of scrub, protecting local wildlife, control of invasive species etc, is also important. Our volunteers will continue to help the ranger service with these tasks.”
Adam Green, grounds and countryside manager at Hart District Council, says: “This is an important project for the District Council and for local people. One of the things we will be contributing to the work is to seek extra funding, through section 106 agreements and other sources. We will also be doing much of the project management, working closely with the Fleet Pond Society and other stakeholders.”
Cressida Wheelwright, Natural England conservation adviser, says: “Funding this work through the HLS scheme will lead to clear improvements in the condition of the SSSI. We are sure that local people will see and enjoy the benefits from the £19,000 a year HLS grant. Partnership working on this project has been particularly important because it has allowed us to pool the expertise of the different organisations, both technical and local.
It has given us a consensus on the way forward and we now have an imaginative restoration plan which has the backing of everyone. It is also a clear demonstration of how we can deliver on the government’s Big Society and localism agenda. We have benefited in particular from the enthusiastic and knowledgeable involvement of the local Fleet Pond Society volunteers.”
We are very pleased to have been awarded this HLS grant by Natural England and look forward to working with them in partnership. However, this is just the beginning! We need to raise a lot more money through our Clearwater Campaign to ensure that the Pond retains its Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) category and allow us to make the restorations which will guarantee that the Pond is around to give pleasure to generations to come.
Picture credit: Cathy Holden.