13th October 2022
A memorial meeting for Queen Elizabeth II was held on Sunday 9th October 2022 in the park. Thank you to all those who attended and laid flowers. We were even joined by Chris and Maisie the corgi!
We feel that we have said goodbye now from the park to Her Majesty.
7th October 2022
On Saturday 1st October we were delighted by the number of children who attended our Big Green Day activities between 10 a.m. and 12 noon, marking the end of Big Green Week. Fifteen children came along with their parents and in almost every case they took part in both the Scavenger Hunt and the Art in Nature competition. As you will see from the photographs below of the three winning art entries, we have some extremely creative children in our nature-loving community.
In the evening, The Big Climate Debate at The West End Centre in Aldershot provoked a good deal of thought by concerned parties. The meeting was very well-attended — and chaired by Kathryn Stuart from Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park. What a day of worthy representation by our community!
9th July 2022
Over 250 visitors enjoyed our celebrations during The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend.
Events kicked off on Thursday night with a torchlight procession around the park. Walkers lit the paths with their own homemade lamps while others carried torches to light their way. Trees were also adorned with specially written haikus which created an enchanting atmosphere. After the procession, residents were treated to a late feast of Jubilee-themed homemade buns.
“I enjoyed the Royal Torchlight Procession which made a magical string of lights through the trees,” said Sue Runciman, Walk Leader. “It really makes me value the park. We are so lucky to have it.”
On Friday, a Jubilee Nature Trail saw adults and children hunting for clues among the trees. There was also a special visitor as Rushmoor’s Mayor, Councillor John Marsh, planted an oak sapling to complete the addition of 70 new trees to the park as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative. Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park’s own working party group had previously planted 69 trees prior to the Mayor’s visit. After planting the 70th tree the Mayor unveiled a plaque to mark the occasion and thanked Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park for looking after the trees for future generations.
On Sunday, the park welcomed Farnborough residents to a Big Jubilee Picnic Lunch. Trees were decorated with jubilee paperchains and a schedule of musical entertainment ensured everyone had a lot of fun. Cactus Brass, a local band played a programme of crowd-pleasing songs, followed by the very talented singer-songwriter and guitar player, Yaz Dale, who performed her own songs as well as a medley of much-loved hits. The U3A’s ukulele band also delighted picnickers by taking them on a whimsical and delightful musical journey through the decades of The Queen’s reign.
There was an unexpected but much-welcomed addition from the local Nepalese community whose members brought along a crate of traditional Nepalese food and invited everyone to tuck in. A long queue was quickly formed as everyone was keen to sample the delights.
“The Queen wanted her Platinum Jubilee celebrations to focus on togetherness and I think we certainly achieved that as well as having a long weekend of fun,” said Kathryn Stuart, Chair, Friends of Queen Elizabeth Park. “I’d like to thank everyone who came along and also everyone who has supported us since we took up the role of park guardians.”
“Everyone had a superb time at the Big Lunch and it was glorious to hear the lovely music in the park,” said Kath Parish, a local resident. “It was great to see so many people singing along.”
2nd March 2022
On Thursday 3rd March, Rushmoor Borough Council’s contractors will be working on the Fairy Tree. Although the work is happening at the same time as Esso’s clearance activities, the people working on the Fairy Tree have nothing to do with Esso and the work is not related to Esso’s pipeline installation.
Specific pieces of deadwood will be removed from the main part of the tree. These have all been identified in advance. The southern part of the crown - the part which is growing from the section of the trunk which spreads out towards the path - will be pruned to reduce the length of the upper and outer branches by between 2 and 2.5 metres. The aim is to relieve the weight borne by the southern fork of the trunk.
In addition to this, a branch of a nearby sweet chestnut tree will be removed because it currently competing for space with the Fairy Tree.
6th February 2022
Esso recently marked 29 trees in the park for removal by spraying a red dot on each one. After examining these trees and comparing them to Esso’s published plans, we had doubts that they had all been correctly identified. We told Esso about this and suggested we should have a meeting with them in the park, before any trees are felled. This would allow them to check that they have marked the right ones and will not be removing any in error.
Esso told us that they know which trees to remove.
No, they don’t.
Esso are only allowed to remove the trees listed in their published Site Specific Plan. This is legally binding so they have to get it right. There are no excuses for any mistakes. When they put a red spot on a tree Esso are stating they have done all the checks and they have no doubts that this is the right tree.
Here are two trees Esso believe they can remove but actually can’t:
T129 (birch) and T125 (holly) have been numbered incorrectly, and are therefore mistakenly marked to be removed. The holly tree they do have permission to remove (T124) has no label or red spot! We hope Esso appreciate our help in identifying the correct one.
Esso can’t even translate their tree survey from the plan to what they see in front of them.
Other trees have been numbered incorrectly and marked with a red dot, but luckily for Esso, they have permission to remove these. If only they could identify them correctly and put the right number on them.
Esso had great difficulty identifying the real T119 but it’s one of the easiest to find because it is so close to a neighbouring sweet chestnut. We simply cannot understand how they could have got this one wrong.
T119 was put on Esso’s original list of trees to remove when it was published over 2 years ago. At the time, we tied ribbons round all the trees on the list. Our ribbon is still on T119, and yet Esso still couldn’t identify it and mark it correctly.
We have informed Esso and Rushmoor Borough Council about the errors. RBC are the land owner and also the local planning authority so we hope that they can take action to ensure that Esso comply with the permission they have been granted.
We hope that Esso will rectify these mistakes and improve their working practices to prevent any additional serious errors from being made.
26th January 2022
The moment we have been dreading for years is nearly here. On 1st February Esso will begin clearing their working area in Queen Elizabeth Park, destroying hundreds of trees in the process.
Esso’s widely publicised total of 30 trees only includes those with a trunk diameter of 75mm or more. They will remove hundreds of trees which are smaller than this.
A 10 metre wide strip running along almost the entire length of the south path will be cleared of rhododendrons, shrubs and all other plants, leaving only trees with a trunk diameter of 75mm or more. We estimate that there are hundreds of young trees and saplings with trunks smaller than 75mm which will be removed during the next few weeks and there is nothing that can be done to stop this. These are the trees which would have grown to fill the spaces as older trees die. Because of Esso, the future tree cover in the park will be thinner and less extensive than before.
Esso will clear an area 10 metres wide by 4 metres tall along the southern path.
The destruction doesn’t stop there. Trees within the 10 metre strip will have their lower branches lopped to create at least 4 metres of headroom for Esso’s machinery. Just one single tree is safe from lopping: the Fairy Tree. There are other trees which we have asked Esso not to lop but they have refused.
Trees will be felled
After the smaller trees have been cleared, 30 trees with trunks larger than 75mm will be felled — these have already been sprayed with red dots so that the workers can identify them.
Many of the choices of which trees to fell and which ones to keep make no sense.
We asked representatives from Esso to explain why specific trees were selected for felling and they did not know the answer. Let’s have a look at some examples.
T99 and T100 are oak trees by the path near the Cabrol Road end of the park. T99, on the left, will be felled whilst T100, on the right, will be retained. The centreline of the pipeline runs close to the trunks of both of these trees.
We asked Esso’s representatives why one of these trees will be felled and the other will be retained, when the pipeline is about the same distance from each of them and they could not give a reason. We asked how T100 would be protected (because they must not damage any of the trees they retain) and we were told that when the pipe is installed, the area around the tree would be dug out by hand. There was no explanation why this can’t be done for T99 as well.
A little further along the path is a clump of trees which is going to be very difficult for Esso to get right. Their mapping of this area is questionable and the individual trees are very difficult to identify precisely. Esso only have permission to fell some of these trees and if they remove the wrong ones they will be in a lot of trouble.
The sweet chustnut identified as T115 will be problematic for Esso because they are not allowed to remove it. However it overhangs their working area much more than the neighbouring trees, some of which they will remove. If Esso lop this tree at a height of 4 metres, they will remove the entire crown and kill the tree. So what are they going to do? We asked them and they haven’t got a clue!
Let’s have a closer look at the base of T118, which is a sweet chestnut they will remove. Its base is intertwined with a birch tree which is not marked for removal and therefore must be kept unharmed. The plans which Esso have shared do not allow us to identify the number of this one precisely.
Needless to say, we will be keeping a very close eye on this area to ensure that Esso have properly identified each and every tree before they remove any of them.
Where the path curves away from the railway line, Esso have marked T222, a sycamore, for felling.
T222 is several metres away from where the pipeline will be installed. The existing sewer separates the new pipeline from the tree so there is no reason for Esso to be digging or working anywhere near it, yet it is still marked for removal. We asked their representatives why this is and they were equally baffled. At first they suggested that it was in the path of the pipeline trench, showing that even within a week of their clearance works starting, they are still not sufficiently familiar with the site.
Esso’s lack of knowledge at this stage is inexcusable.
One of the most endangered trees in the park is a large beech, a veteran tree, which was severely and excessively crown reduced by Rushmoor Borough Council a few years ago. The tree is just about managing to cling to life, with only a few branches still alive and bearing leaves.
There is still a chance that this tree can recover but Esso are not willing to give it a chance. The pipeline will run between the path and the tree - and Esso are going to lop one of the few living branches which extends into their 4 metre high area. We do not know whether it would be better for the tree to keep this branch, or remove it to promote growth higher up. Esso’s representatives said they were not willing to take this into account and it would be lopped anyway. This is classified as a veteran tree and should be treated with more care.
Another of the park’s veteran trees, the Fairy Tree is reasonably safe from harm during the early stages of the works. The area around it is fairly clear and no branches will be removed from it. Esso are still working out how to install the pipeline underneath it but it has emerged that there are a number of options including drilling underneath the tree to avoid digging a trench through its roots. If this is an option for the Fairy Tree, it is not clear why they will not do this in other areas of the park.
Moving on from the Fairy Tree, the main feature of Esso’s works in February will be clearing rhododendron. This area contains a few trees marked for removal, such as T362, a birch, shown below.
Although T362 is reasonably well separated from its neighbouring trees, there are more examples along this stretch of path where trees marked to be felled are very close to retained trees which overhang the working area to a greater extent.
Any claims that the trees have been carefully selected are nonsense. Their workers have had great difficulty in precisely identifying the trees which Esso have permission to remove so there is a definite risk that errors will be made.
26th January 2022
Before the main pipeline installation work starts, Esso are already in breach of their commitments in the DCO.
In December, Esso dug three holes in the park to allow them to investigate the precise locations of concrete blocks which hold an existing sewer pipe in place. Although the holes were only a few metres in size they still failed to handle the soil which was excavated from them correctly.
The rules are very clear and state that topsoil must be stored separately from subsoil and that is must be properly replaced when the works are completed. The two types of soil are quite different and it is important for the park’s ecosystem that they are properly reinstated.
Esso’s management and workers are not familiar with their legally binding commitments and are unable to work to them.
We examined the sites of all three holes and found that the subsoil had been replaced on the surface layer. This is against the commitments in the DCO and shows that the workers had not been properly briefed by their managers. We also found that the excavated soil had been placed in the root protection areas of trees, which is also not permitted.
We spoke to Esso’s representatives about this and we are still waiting for them to explain why their legally binding commitments were not adhered to. Esso’s initial reaction was that the topsoil was correctly replaced but when looking at the areas in question they conceded that the surface layer was indeed subsoil.
The excavations were carried out when it was raining, so we asked a representative who was present at the time the holes were dug if they knew how their soil handling procedures differed when it rains. They did not know the answer and seemed to be unaware that there were any differences.
Esso have not yet explained how they will rectify their errors and prevent them from re-occurring during the main installation works.
26th January 2022
Esso’s works in Queen Elizabeth Park are not off to a good start after they failed to properly clear up after themselves for over six weeks.
The road signs which warned of the working times should have been removed when the works finished but they were simply abandoned. There is absolutely no chance that Esso would not have seen them, yet no-one cared enough to do anything about them.
It was only when we contacted Esso on 13th January to remind them to take their signs down that they went out and removed… only one of the signs!
However we received a message to say they were all gone. No they weren’t!
It took a further week for them to remove the remaining signs, which were all in clear view. So be prepared to find all sorts of things discarded by Esso in the park when the pipeline installation work starts, because they clearly have no idea how to tidy up properly.
9th December 2021
This week, beginning 6th December, Esso’s contractors are digging three trial holes in the park. Esso explain the reason as follows:
“We will be digging three trial holes to visually confirm the location and size of thrust blocks that support the sewer. This is being undertaken because there are no as-laid plans on their location or size. By doing these surveys before works start our detailed construction plans can be re-confirmed. This will make sure that our open cut installation methods are the most appropriate and works are completed on time.”
Esso have provided a map showing the location of the trial holes, which is also on display, along with other information, in the park.
This is not the start of the pipeline installation. Preparations for that will begin in February 2022 when Esso’s contractors. start clearing the area to the north of the southern path and felling trees. The full timetable as currently planned by Esso is:
- February 2022: Vegetation removal and tree felling.
- February/March 2022: Installation of the alternative play area.
- March 2022: Constructing the Cabrol Road car park compound.
- May 2022 - August 2022: Trenchless installation, boring from the play area, under the allotments and past Stake Lane along the railway embankment.
- August 2022 - November 2022: The open cut works to install the pipe through the park.
- Sometime between August and November 2022: Trenchless installation under the A331 - this will take about one month.
5th October 2021
Esso are asking for comments on their proposal for a temporary play area in Queen Elizabeth Park. Esso are going to remove the existing play area in 2022 to make space to install their aviation fuel pipeline. They are legally required to construct a replacement play area which must be ready to use before the existing one is removed. When Esso have finished working in the park, they will reinstate the original play area.
Esso have published details of the proposed play area on their website, along with a form for you to provide your comments. The closing date for comments is Monday 25th October 2021, so please be quick if you want to have your say.
Esso will close the Cabrol Road car park and remove the existing play area in early 2022. The site of the play area will be used for drilling and pipeline installation, whilst the car park and other open areas will become a construction compound. Esso’s original proposal was to build a temporary play area next to the construction compound, but agreement has now been reached with Rushmoor Borough Council to place it in the glade.
After Esso’s works have been completed, the existing play area will be reinstated in its original position and the car park will be reopened. The temporary play area will either be removed or retained, depending on what is agreed between Esso, Rushmoor Borough Council and residents.
Please read the proposal and give Esso your comments by Monday 25th October 2021.
2nd July 2021
Thank you to everyone who entered our Spring photo competition. We has some really delightful entries - please have a look at our gallery to see them and find out who the winners are.
If you ran out of time to enter the Spring competition, don’t worry, our Summer photo competition is now on! Capture the silvery foliage of the birch trees, along with the glorious greens of the beech and oak trees.
Please email your entrites to [email protected].
The closing date is Tuesday 31st August.
Please submit your photos at the largest size possible and ensure they are in focus - then they will look great on our website. If you’re using your phone, don’t forget about turning it on its side to capture wide views, or even use the panorama mode if the view still doesn’t fit.
Now is your chance to get out in nature and get creative!
11th February 2021
We are still in the winter season and would really like to see your photos of Queen Elizabeth Park in the winter. Your photo can be from this winter season, or from a winter in the past. Once again we will be offering a small prize for the winner and 2nd place.
The closing date will be Sunday 28th February and we will announce the winners shortly after that.
Autumn Competition Winners
The winner of our Autumn photo competition was Darren Hall with this fabulous picture of fungi in our park.
The 2nd prize went to Vicky Jones for this beautiful shot of the tree in all its Autumnal splendour. The winners received a book about fungi.
10th December 2020
We now have the equipment to litter pick safely in our park: pickers, litter bag hoops and lovely pink bags. The park is 24 acres so we have a lot of ground to cover… including along the front near Farnborough Road.
Litter picking must be done in household groups at present due to Covid-19 - so if you feel you could do a few hours that would be good.
If you would like 2 pickers and a hoop get in touch via our Contact page and say how many sessions you could do. You will be given written litter picking guidance which you must read first, and be prepared to pick up and drop the kit back off (near to park).
We also ask that you keep a count of the number of bags of litter you collect (and leave at the Cabrol Road bin) so we can let other park users know.
We hope you can spare the time to help - thank you.
5th November 2020
Although we are in lockdown, exercise is still permitted, so why not take a walk around Queen Elizabeth Park and help us with a small project?
We want to create a gallery of photographs of the park — ideally photos that will show the richness of autumnal colour, the atmosphere of the trees, the beauty of the various mushrooms and fungi you can find whilst walking round.
So you could get some exercise, be creative and help in this community endeavour all in one go.
You could post your photos to our Facebook page or email them to [email protected].
The photos (or a selection if we get large numbers) will then be used to make a gallery on our website.
We will be offering a small prize for the best photos: Adult and Child categories.
The closing date is 2nd December 2020.
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.