When we learned ‘on the grapevine’ (from the Angling Press) that Cemex
were selling many lakes, representatives of Wraysbury Parish Council
organised a meeting with the Land Manager of Cemex.At that meeting, which
took place in my home, we expressed a desire to purchase the lakes for the
village, to create a country park and nature reserve. The Cemex Manager
informed us that the two Wraysbury lakes were not for sale. We were given a
verbal assurance that, should that change, the parish Council would be given
A few weeks later, we learned to our surprise that the lakes were in the
process of being sold to RK Leisure. We had heard nothing from Cemex. Using
new legislation, we asked the Royal Borough to declare the lakes to be
Community Assets, which would have postponed the sale for 6 months, allowing
the Council to pursue the option of a purchase. The relevant papers were
served, but, when they were challenged by the Cemex lawyers, the Borough
lawyers were unwilling to impose the new legislation. The sale to RK Leisure
therefore was completed.
I do not understand why Cemex deceived the Parish Council, and were so
keen to sell to RK Leisure. I wonder if their Senior Management were aware
of what their Lands Department were up to.
Cemex, and their predecessors R.M.C., whose past Chief Executive was Sir
Christopher Aston, a Wraysbury resident and Councillor, and first Mayor of
the Royal Borough, were considerate landowners. Wraysbury 1 Lake was let for
over 50 years to Wraysbury Lake Sailing Club, and they allowed residents and
visitors to enjoy the beautiful lakeside walks, also for over 50 years,
without ‘let or hindrance’. They put in gates and stiles in several
locations to facilitate public access. Angling took place under the guise of
RMC, later Cemex Angling.
As soon as RK Leisure took over things changed. They immediately started
to fell trees and build a road around part of the lake, within the S.S.S.I.,
without permission from Natural England. They erected ugly industrial style
fencing to completely block the long established lakeside paths. They sold
several plots of SSSI lakeside land to local residents, who incorporated the
land into their gardens, they ‘bullied and harassed’ the sailing club until
they ‘gave up the ghost’ and surrendered their lease, and, without Planning
Permission, or permission from Natural England they demolished the Clubhouse
and built a large new ‘lodge’
in its place. They also, without permission, performed major civil
engineering work to the lake shore near their new ‘lodge’. They have also
behaved very rudely and aggressively to many local residents.
RK Leisure clearly have no respect for either the Parish or Borough
Councils, or Natural England. They believe in doing as they please without
permission, and then applying for retrospective permission if they don’t
‘get away with it’. It is a disreputable way of operating.
The Wraysbury Lakes are important Sites of Special Scientific Interest,
and world ‘Ramsar’ sites. The ecosystem is vulnerable and needs very careful
and sensitive handling. RK Leisure’s conduct resembles a ‘bull in a china
shop’. They have caused untold damage, and must be held to account.
The Royal Borough’s Local Plan contains clear policies which strongly
favour countryside recreation and public access to the countryside. The
Public Rights of Way Management and Improvement Plan 2016 – 2026, which is
part of the Local Plan, and which is currently undergoing public
consultation, contains two proposed paths, 45d and 45f, which pass along the
banks of Wraysbury 1 Lake, through RK Leisure land, and a third, 45g, which
passes along the banks of Wraysbury 2 Lake. All three of these paths have
been blocked by RK Leisure.
If the Royal Borough’s own Adopted Planning Policies and footpath
aspirations are to have any credibility, the current RK Leisure planning
application must not be approved until a satisfactory agreement has been
reached regarding public access, in accordance with the long standing
planning policies mentioned above.
I have no objection to the replacement of the old clubhouse with a more
modern building, as long as the scale in the Green belt is not increased. I
feel that the civil engineering work to the lakeside has been excessive, is
ugly, and has caused great and unnecessary disturbance to wildlife, but now
that it is in place, it might as well remain, as its removal would cause yet
more disturbance. I do not object to angling, but I fear that RK Leisure’s
plans will be unacceptably intensive in a SSSI.
If the application is approved, strict conditions must be imposed,
requiring an agreement on public access to the lake margins, as mentioned
above. The use of the ‘Lodge’ must be restricted to supporting angling. I
have heard rumours that it is being readied to serve, for instance, as a
wedding and party venue. That would be quite unacceptable in such a
sensitive site, which is literally in the middle of a SSSI.
RK Leisure have been the worst thing to happen to Wraysbury in my memory.
I am still hopeful, however, that they will have a change of heart, and can
be persuaded to work with the community, and with other important landowners
such as Affinity Water and the National Trust, to create the Country Park
which would be such a wonderful asset for future generations.
This Planning Application is the last chance for the Royal Borough to
influence RK Leisure. If it is approved without the appropriate conditions,
they will know that in future they can do as they wish with no regard for
the community or the environment.
There is no point in Wraysbury having protected SSSIs and nature reserves
if walkers and bird watchers are unable to study and enjoy them. People who
have purchased SSSI land must be compelled to submit applications for change
of use from quarry / nature reserve to domestic garden.