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Since 2011 the most ‘extensive’ long-term restorative works for over 70 years have been taking place on Hampshire’s largest freshwater lake, Fleet Pond.

The lake forms an extremely valuable historical, social, recreational and biodiversity resource for the local community. Unfortunately, over the years the ecological and physical condition of Fleet Pond Site  of Special Scientific Interest, or SSSI, has declined due to the build up of silt in the lake brought in from the Gelvert and Brookly Streams. The build up caused key habitats to deteriorate and the lake to decline into an unfavourable state.

A Project Steering Group was set up and led by the site owners Hart District Council in 2007.  A final plan for the restorative works, which are now in their second phase was agreed back in 2010 with combined value of over £1.1 million for the duration of the project. Hart District Council and other Steering Group Members, Natural England, the Environment Agency, MoD and Fleet Pond Society have released funding and support the restoration by providing resources needed to implement the project.

Since 2012 Johns Associates, which is a leading environmental consultancy, has been securing environmental and planning permissions along with monitoring the environmental and CDM coordination aspects of the works. Speaking about the development, Senior Consultant at Johns Associates, Becky Burvill said: “The contractors, WM Longreach have managed to dredge several tonnes of material out of the lake and deepen it in several areas up to 2 meters from what had previously been 0.7 metres. We have also created over 20 islands, meaning the lake can cope better with temperature extremes.”

These islands will also help break up the wind and wave action across the lake to stop sediment getting stirred up and will create new and diverse habitats to encourage plant growth in the lake.

Furthermore, diversions have been created which will allow for the sediment to settle in areas very easily accessible from the shore. Contractors JDB created a new channel and associated wetland habitats, to divert some of the stream into the adjacent marshland and an existing ditch system. A new, larger culvert has been put in under the footpath that is sturdy enough to take work vehicles.

The flow of water can be controlled by sluice gates to either let all of the water flow down the Gelvert Stream, as happens now, or let a reduced amount of water flow down the Gelvert Stream and the excess flow into the new channel where it will slow and release some of its sediment load.

Becky added: “Restoration of habitat and long-term water quality improvements are the main driver on this project and it is the main reason why we have managed to gather as much funding as we have”.

“We have enough funding for at least three more years of work and that includes work on the rivers that enter into the lake, but are working to secure further funding.”

It was drained in the 1940’s during the Second World War as it was used as a navigational tool by German pilots flying into London, but minimal amounts of work have been carried out since then. This is therefore the most extensive work to restore the depth and encourage plant life to thrive in the lake.

The Restoration project has managed to achieve an awful lot in the last 18 months and Hart District Council along with the Fleet Pond Society have managed to publicise and inform the visitors so that there is an overwhelmingly positive reaction to all the intensive works on the SSSI. The work really has been ongoing for much longer than that- the Fleet Pond Society and Hart District Council rangers have been caring for the Pond for over 30 years.

The Fleet Pond Restoration Project is shortlisted for an Institute of Civil Engineers’ Engineering Excellence award for 2013, submitted by WM Longreach with full support of the project team.

For more information on the development visit www.hart.gov.uk, www.fleetpond.fccs.org.uk and www.johnsassociates.co.uk.

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