14th September 2020
On Friday 11th and Saturday 12th September we held our first (socially distanced) evening Bat Walks in Queen Elizabeth Park.
A big thank you to Chris Doubell from Hampshire Bat Group and to the lovely people who came along to enjoy an after-dark stroll among the trees. Both evenings were beautiful with the tiny pipistrelle bats putting on a good display in the car park even before the walks began.
While we didn’t get quite so many sightings on the walk itself, searching for the bats with Chris’ bat detectors was all part of the adventure.
The evenings included an excellent and very informative bat presentation from Chris and we were even treated to an encounter with two of his rescued bats, a pipistrelle and a serotine.
We will be organising more similar events in the future, in line with government guidelines on group gatherings. Details will be posted on our events page and members will also be notified by email. If you haven’t already done so, please join us and be the first to know about our upcoming events.
17th July 2020
We are pleased to report that Leo Docherty’s office has had a great response to our request for local residents to write to him with their views on Esso’s plans.
He has already received hundreds of letters but if you haven’t already written, there is still time. The deadline has been extended to Tuesday 21st July 2020, so if you were thinking of writing but didn’t get round to it, now is your chance! More details, including a letter template, can be found here.
The deadline for childrens’ letters has also been extended to the same date.
20th April 2020
During the Planning Inspectorate’s 6 month examination we submitted 10 documents, totalling over 260 pages and 64,000 words. You can find all these documents on our Planning Inspectorate Examination page. We also attended five hearings and an accompanied site inspection. Details of those hearings and links to the recordings are also available on the same page.
Now that the examination is over, the Planning Inspectorate have 3 months from 9th April 2020 to write a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (currently Alok Sharma). The Secretary of state will then have 3 months to decide whether the Development Consent Order (DCO) should be granted so that the project can go ahead. This means we will know whether the project will proceed on or before 9th October 2020.
Sadly Esso made no major changes to their plans for the park during the Examination so it is still under threat if the Secretary of State approves the DCO.
Although the Examination is complete we still have plans which we hope will reach a more favourable outcome. We are still hopeful that Esso will agree to drill beneath the park, instead of trenching through it and causing major damage to many of the Notable and Veteran Trees within it.
16th March 2020
20th November 2019
Esso are still refusing to change their plans for Queen Elizabeth Park, despite the fact that we have the support of over 6,200 people.
We know that Esso’s current plans will cause tremendous, lasting damage to the park. Rushmoor Borough Council agree with us - in their Local Impact Report, they say:
“throughout Queen Elizabeth Park, 5.8 acres of the 23.15 acres will be clear felled with 25.1% of the woodland being lost” Rushmoor Borough Council’s Local Impact Report, section 8.12.2
The Planning Inspectorate have published the latest batch of documents on their website (the Deadline 2 Submissions) and we can see that Esso have not responded to public opinion at all.
One of these documents contains Esso’s responses to the Planning Inspectorate’s questions on Queen Elizabeth Park. Sadly it shows that Esso are absolutely unwilling to consider alternatives to their current, immensely destructive plans.
For example, in their response to question QE.1.5, Esso say that they won’t use trenchless installation in the park for these reasons:
- They need to clear trees to make space for stringing out the new pipeline (even though they told our councillors they would thread the pipes between the trees)
- They need to clear an area to auger bore under the A325
- They need an access route across the park to the auger bore area - which means clearing more trees
- Because of all this clearance, they say they might as well dig a trench for the pipe because the other activities result in so much tree loss that a few extra trees won’t make much difference
Their response is paraphrased for ease of understanding but the level of disregard they have for our park should still be apparent.
Saving our park from this destruction will not be easy but there are still opportunities to make our views known. We can still influence the planning process and fight to make Esso work carefully in our park and treat it with the care and respect it deserves.
What Can We Do?
Unfortunately, putting direct pressure on Esso will not make them change their minds. They will do the least they can to get consent to install their pipeline through our park.
However we can influence the Planning Inspectorate. They are listening to us. As long as we follow their rules and participate fully in the examination process, we have a very good chance to show how important the park is to us and to convince them that Esso’s current plans are too damaging.
The petition helps too, as do all the posters which are appearing around Farnborough. Attending events in the park helps too - in fact anything that shows how many local people will be negatively affected by Esso’s plans will help our case.
The plans can be changed, but Esso will only do this when becomes clear that the Planning Inspectorate will not recommended them as they currently stand.
Please Come to the Open Floor Hearing
If you have time, please come to the Open Floor Hearing on Monday 25th November, 6pm at the Holiday Inn, Farnborough. It’s a public meeting, organised by the Planning Inspectorate, so anyone can attend.
There is no need to speak at the meeting. Just being there will show that the issue is important to you and will help us immensely. We really hope you can spare the time to come along.
20th November 2019
Thank you to everyone who signed our petition, both online and on paper. In just six weeks we collected an amazing 6,203 signatures. It’s more than we thought possible and we are very grateful to everyone who has expressed their support.
The petition has now been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate, who will use it as evidence during their examination of Esso’s plans. This adds a huge weight to our arguments and we are delighted that it has been officially recognised as part of the process.
Copies of the petition have also been sent to Rushmoor Borough Council and Leo Docherty, because they were also named on it. Leo Docherty is currently a parliamentary candidate but he was our local MP at the time the petition was launched.
We are aware that many people are still only just becoming aware of Esso’s plans, so we are leaving the petition open. It’s not too late to add your support.
We have also submitted a Written Representation to the Planning Inspectorate - please follow the link if you would like to read it in full. In it, we describe our concerns about Esso’s plans in detail, covering the following activities and their effects on the park:
- Removal of the existing playground
- Building a construction compound
- Tree felling and associated vegetation clearance
- Installing fences along the edge of the site
- Directional drilling under the allotments and associated stringing out of the pipeline
- Auger boring beneath the A325 (more details here)
- Access to the auger boring site for equipment and materials (more details here)
- Trenched installation of the pipeline
- Reinstatement of subsoil and topsoil
- Replacement tree planting (but only where permitted)
- Removal of the construction compound
- Construction of a new playground
Esso are going to turn our park into become a busy, noisy construction site with limited or no access for local residents. The effects will be visible for many years afterwards.
Our Written Representation contains 158 distinct issues which we would like to see Esso address.
If you want to show how much Queen Elizabeth Park means to you, please join us in the park to celebrate National Tree Week on Sunday 24th November, 11:00 - 13:00 - details here.
15th November 2019
Join us in Queen Elizabeth Park on Sunday 24th November to celebrate National Tree Week.
Come with your postcards to gently tie on the trees. This will help to highlight the trees which are put at risk by Esso’s plans.
Date and time: Sunday 24th November, 11:00 - 13:00. Meet at the Cabrol Road entrance, by the play area. Dress warm and waterproof.
21st October 2019
The Planning Inspectorate have agreed to accept the change.org petition as part of the examination of Esso’s plans. It must be submitted by 14th November so please sign it if you haven’t already done so.
There are now 2,497 signatures on the petition - so close to 2,500!
Queen Elizabeth Park was the top news story on Eagle Radio during the morning on Wednesday 16th October. I described the impact of Esso’s plans on the park and raised the question of why alternative methods of installing the pipeline have not been considered.
The Planning Inspectorate’s Examination Authority have issued their Written Questions - an important stage in the examination process. This includes a section on Queen Elizabeth Park (pages 69-71). All the interest shown by the local community in recent weeks has surely been a major influence in prompting the Examination Authority to pay close attention to the park. Topics of the questions include the play area, exactly how many trees will be removed from the park and why trenchless techniques cannot be used.
We have submitted requests to the Planning Inspectorate for an Issue Specific Hearing on the park, an Open Floor Hearing where the park will be discussed and an Accompanied Site Inspection to observe various points which were not noted during the Unaccompanied Site Inspection a few weeks ago.
On Sunday 20th October there was a ribbon tying event in the park to mark some of the trees which are at risk. This was very well attended and allowed some of the participants who had previously only spoken online to meet in person for the first time. It has also helped to raise awareness of the threat to the park amongst its more occasional users. The ribbons really do show what a large area of the park is at risk. Thank you to everyone who attended and to Peta for organising it.
17th October 2019
The plans for Esso’s Southampton to London Pipeline show a square zone at the eastern end of their 30 metre wide corridor through Queen Elizabeth Park. This is an area of approximately 40 by 40 metres (130 by 130 feet) and the Development Consent Order will allow them to clear all the trees within it. What do they plan to do in this space?
This is the area for the activities and machinery that will be used to install the new pipeline underneath the A325. Esso will use an auger borer to drill a straight path right under the road.
The scale of this job and the destruction associated with it might surprise you.
First, two large holes will be dug, one on each side of the road. The hole on the Queen Elizabeth Park side is called the drive pit and it will be 36 feet long, 10 feet wide and an incredible 20 feet deep. This is where the auger boring machinery will be installed. It is an enormous hole and it will be dug by large, heavy machinery which needs a lot of working space around it.
Just imagine the size of excavator that’s needed to reach 20 feet into the ground, whilst keeping a safe distance from the edge of the hole it’s digging.
There will be at least one excavator, along with lorries to move the earth to another part of the park where it will be stored so that it can be replaced later. Alternatively, the earth will be stored in a space near the hole, specially cleared of trees for this purpose. The sides of the drive pit will have to be reinforced to prevent it collapsing so there will be machinery and materials associated with that work too.
When the digging is complete, the bottom of the drive pit will be lined with concrete base and rails will be installed on top of this. The auger borer will then be lowered onto these rails and it will be ready to begin drilling. The auger borer is large and heavy so the concrete base will have to be thick and sturdy enough to take its weight. It will also have to absorb the forces associated with driving the auger through the earth under the A325. The length of the path to be drilled is about 51 metres (165 feet). All of the earth displaced by the drilling will be discharged into the drive pit and will have to be removed from the site.
A similar hole will be dug on the other side of the A325, in the grounds of Farnborough Hill school. This is the called the reception pit and it will be the same depth as the drive pit with a length and width of 10 feet. There will be no heavy machinery in this hole so it will not have a concrete base. Trees will also be removed from the grounds of Farnborough Hill school to make way for this work.
Here’s a video which shows the auger boring process - it’s produced by Wessex Water who, as far as I know, have no connection with Esso’s project. It is used here because it gives a clear description of the process.
This video shows open pits at the end of the installation process but Esso will fill both pits in after the pipe has been installed. However, any trees which are planted afterwards will not be a direct replacement for what was removed because they will be so much smaller.
The pit dimensions in this section are taken from the Environmental Statement (Volume D) Appendix 8.2, section 1.23.
Access Through the Park
Even though the drive pit is right beside the A325, the excavators, trucks, concrete mixers, machinery, generators and workforce will be brought to the area through the park, along the path cleared for the pipeline installation. The play area at Cabrol Road will have been removed and replaced with a construction compound where all the machinery and materials associated with this work will be stored. So one of the uses of the path which will have been cleared through the park is an access road for the drive pit.
The distance between the play area and the drive pit is about 500 metres. Is it really right to remove a play area and clear a half-kilometre path through the woodland, to a large open space cleared for the purpose of boring under a road?
In the map above, I’ve drawn the path connecting the construction compound to the drive pit at a width of about 15 metres, close to the current pipelines, to illustrate what Esso’s ‘narrow working’ proposal means. This is still too destructive.
Esso mentioned the use of auger boring in their recent statement on Queen Elizabeth Park as if it’s a good thing. It is not. The statement was intended to show their commitment to a working width of 15 metres in the park but it is clear when you see the size of the area needed to build and operate the drive pit that there is at least one exception they were hoping would not be noticed. The works for the drive pit simply cannot be accommodated within a 15 metre width and Esso have no intention of trying to do this.
Even a 15 metre working width through Queen Elizabeth Park will result in extensive tree loss. This width is only required for construction activities. It is not needed after the pipeline has been installed. Esso must use techniques which are appropriate to the environment through which the pipeline runs.
The space needed to build and operate the drive pit is huge and must also be re-thought. The picture below gives an impression of the size of the drive pit area. There will be a similar, smaller gap on the Farnborough Hill side of the road.
The corridor of trees formed by Farnborough Hill on the left and Queen Elizabeth Park on the right are a welcome and uplifting sight for anyone approaching Farnborough from the north as they travel along the A325. Esso’s planned activities will create a gap in this landmark which will last for generations.
13th October 2019
Esso recently issued a statement in which they claimed they would use a 15 metre working width in Queen Elizabeth Park. This should be treated with extreme scepticism. In fact, their plans will even allow them to remove trees outside this area, and also outside the 30 metre Order Limits.
There is no real commitment to a 15 metre working width in Queen Elizabeth Park
Esso say that they have committed to ‘narrow working’ within Queen Elizabeth Park. They point out that it this commitment is made in the Development Consent Order (DCO), and the wording is indeed present. It is commitment NW17 in the Environmental Management and Mitigation section of their Environmental Statement. Here’s the relevant extract:
“Working width reduced to 15m to reduce the impacts on Queen Elizabeth Park, an area of high amenity, visual screening and landscape value within an urban area. Two trees with bat roost potential are also present in this location. The approximate distance would be 472m.” Environmental Statement (Volume B) Chapter 16, p18
However, this is contradicted an another part of the DCO:
“Removal of woodland along the southern side of the park would be noticeable and urbanise views, opening up close views of the railway line and emphasising views of the residential development at Queen Victoria Court from the southern part of the park.” Environmental Statement (Volume D) Appendix 10.3: Visual Impact Schedules (item 41a, page 34)
So one part of the DCO says that narrow working will retain screening in the park, whilst another part says that the screening will be lost. What should we believe?
The truth is that the DCO allows Esso to completely disregard the 15 metre working width. Here’s how they will do this.
The plans show a 30 metre width, known as the Order Limits.
Esso have freedom to place the 15 metre strip anywhere within the Order Limits. They have produced diagram to explain this:
The exact path of the pipeline will not be decided by the time the DCO is granted so no-one knows exactly where it will be placed. There is nothing to stop Esso investigating more than one path within the Order Limits and removing trees while they do this.
Esso have said that the route will stay as close to the original pipelines as possible. The existing pipelines run along the path at the southern edge of the Order Limits. So if Esso were truly committed to a 15 metre working width, their plans would indicate a 15 metre width which borders the existing pipeline.
The plans also ask for a triangle of land which allows the Order Limits to be extended further from the path.
This further contradicts the commitment to a narrow width. If the new pipeline will run as close as possible to the existing one, there is no reason for this area to be included within the Order Limits.
Esso is clearly trying to get as much flexibility as possible to put the pipeline wherever they want in Queen Elizabeth Park and to remove anything they please within the Order Limits without any penalties. In fact, it’s worse than that. Esso will be allowed to remove trees OUTSIDE the Order Limits too. Here’s a paragraph from another part of the DCO:
“Article 41 Felling or lopping of trees and removal of hedgerows – This article allows any tree, shrub, hedgerow or important hedgerow that is near the proposed development to be felled, lopped, pruned, coppiced, pollarded, reduced in height, or have its roots cut back, if it is considered to obstruct the construction, operation or maintenance of the proposed development or to endanger anyone using it.” Statement of Reasons, item 5.3.16, p17
This means that the Order Limits do not define the outer boundaries of the area which Esso could destroy to install the pipeline. Trees which are simply near the boundary could be removed without notice or consultation because the DCO will allow Esso to do this.
Esso’s PR department might be telling us that they will stay within a 15 metre strip but the wording of the DCO shows their planners have no intention of being constrained in this way. If they want to clear a 30 metre path - or more, they will. And there will be nothing that anyone can do to stop them.
What will happen within the working width?
Esso have produced a graphic which shows the type of activities and machinery which will be used to install the pipeline in an open trench. They plan to use an open trench throughout the park.
This shows that they plan to use tracked excavators and large trucks in Queen Elizabeth Park. These are large, heavy, noisy machines.
The area in which these machines will operate will be flattened and completely cleared of all obstructions. It’s the working width shown in the diagram above. Esso wants this to be be a completely clear path - and it will run from one end of the park to the other. Temporary fencing will be installed on each side of the path.
It will look absolutely awful.
The trees will be gone, the topsoil will be removed and piled up along the route and the surface of the subsoil will be churned up by the tracks and wheels of their noisy, filthy construction machinery. And this disruption will last for a whole year.
Queen Elizabeth Park is not an appropriate place to use heavy construction equipment like this.
The size of the machinery is the reason why so many trees have to be removed, and why Esso want to be able to remove trees from outside the Order Limits too. These machines cannot be operated in woodland, so the woodland will be removed. If there is an obstacle between the road and the working area, it will be removed to make way for the machinery. Esso will be able to do this because the DCO will give them this right.
The new pipeline will be 30cm in diameter and Esso only plan to install it 1 metre below the ground. Surely this can be achieved with much smaller scale machinery.
Esso should use machinery and techniques which are appropriate to the environment in which they are installing the pipeline but they are making no effort to do this.
13th October 2019
There have been plenty of achievements during the second week of this website’s existence:
- Esso finally reacted to the contents of the website and issued a statement, though they didn’t think it was necessary to send a copy to us directly. Nothing in this statement changes what Esso plans to do. For example, here’s why we still can’t trust them to stay within the 15 metre width which they claim they will use.
- The Planning Inspectorate’s Preliminary Meeting took place on Wednesday. An audio recording has been published. Several Farnborough residents attended, as did Rushmoor Council’s legal team. Rushmoor Council are not happy with Esso’s plans. They were one of the most active participants in the meeting, contributing on a number of topics including Queen Elizabeth Park. They are on our side but we must continue to make our voices heard.
- A local group of residents is beginning to form as a result of the meeting with the objective of challenging Esso’s plans. Some of the members of this group can be found in this Facebook group.
- We have also made contact with a group of residents in Lightwater who also want to challenge the plans with a view to co-ordinating actions where it makes sense to do so.
- I made a brief appearance on Radio Surrey on Thursday to talk about the pipeline’s impact on the park.
- The petition at change.org has passed the 2,000 signature threshold. There are 2,046 signatures at the time of writing.
6th October 2019
What a huge response we’ve had since launching the website on 30th September! It has been beyond our wildest expectations and we’re so grateful for the overwhelming reaction from the Farnborough community and beyond. Thank you to everyone who has visited the site in its first week and thank you for everything you are doing to fight Esso’s plans.
There is still a huge amount of work to do but thanks to the superb response from the community we are off to a better start than we could ever have imagined. Please keep making your opinons known through any channels available to you.
Here’s a summary of the major achievements:
- A petition has been launched on change.org by Peta Howell and the response has been enormous. At the time of writing there are an incredible 1,263 signatures. Please add yours if you haven’t already done so.
- The MP for Aldershot and Farnborough, Leo Docherty has made a representation to the Planning Inspectorate in support of the numerous people who have contacted him since Monday. Thank you to everyone who wrote to him, and to Leo Docherty for his very prompt response.
- Surrey Live published an article, “Esso pipeline through Farnborough would cause ‘substantial tree loss’ at Queen Elizabeth Park”, describing the impact of the pipeline along with statements from Leo Docherty and Esso.
- Local councillor, Adrian Newell asked an emergency question at the council meeting on 3rd October to raise the issue with the rest of the council.
- Rushmoor council have issued a statement confirming that they have concerns about tree loss in Queen Elizabeth Park.
- 7,900 people visited this website in its first week. Thank you to everyone who took the time to read it and thank you to everyone who shared it on Facebook.
- Most importantly, Farnborough residents and visitors to Queen Elizabeth Park are now aware of Esso’s plans. They are talking about them and reacting to them. Please keep spreading the word because every voice strengthens our arguments against the plans.
Sadly Esso have not responded directly. They have merely provided comments to the media and officials—but only in response to questions. They have simply restated their position and have not given any signs that they intend to respond to our concerns.