Plans for a wetland centre develop as Mushroom Farm demolition nears completion
The Horsell Common Preservation Society (HCPS) has engaged The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust at Slimbridge, in Gloucestershire, to design a wetland habitat for its new headquarters and visitor centre at Heather Farm – the derelict mushroom-growing facility off Chobham Road.
Blue Prince Mushrooms Ltd, the former owners of the 17 acre site on the outskirts of Horsell, once produced 70 tonnes of mushrooms a week for Sainsbury’s at the site, but when the supermarket giant switched to imported supplies in 2003, the farm closed, with the loss of 120 jobs. Since then, the site became a target for various development schemes, including an incinerator and a waste plant for Surrey County Council. Plans for the site to be developed into offices and industrial units had been approved in 2009. However last year, in a complex agreement with McLaren, HCPS acquired the site, which allowed the car company to build its new production centre off Chertsey Road, adjacent to Horsell Common.
HCPS chairman, David Robbins, explains; “Our agreement with McLaren calls for most of the site at Heather Farm to be returned to a natural condition in replacement for the Green Belt land that has been developed for the car factory. All of the buildings, except the office block, have now been demolished and, within the next few weeks, all of the concrete hard standing will have been removed. In total, 14 acres of concrete and 155,000 sq ft of buildingswill have been demolished”.
A small part of the retained building will become the HCPS headquarters, but it is likely that the larger proportion of offices will become home to the Surrey Wildlife Trust, currently based in Pirbright. Mr Robbins added; “ The Surrey Wildlife Trust would be quite literally our natural partners to share in this exciting project. We still have a lot of work to do in formalising the arrangements, but are all very keen to develop a plan which will benefit both organisations”
Once landscaping has been completed, at least 60% of the former brown field site will become open to the public, with circular paths and viewing points to observe the wildlife in the wetland area. The western section of the site will contain a visitor’s car park and a dedicated area for dog exercise. A wooden footbridge will take visitors across the River Bourne, with extensive access to paths along the river. A 3.5km circular walk will also be a feature of the project, with ample opportunity for dogs to access the river for a swim on hot sunny days! Plans will also include an option for an education facility at some stage in the future, with part of the building set aside for classrooms. Ponds with dipping platforms will be created in the wetland area to enable children to get close to nature.
At a recent meeting, the HCPS Board of Trustees unanimously agreed to name the building BEDSER HOUSE, in lasting memory of the cricketing twins who lived on the edge of Horsell Common for most of their lives and were staunch supporters of the Horsell Common Preservation Society.