Alton Town Council has hit back at criticism of its proposals for Kings Pond – and claims it is being used as a ‘political battleground’.
The local authority issued a statement to the Herald this week.
It also asked us to carry the frequently asked questions document which is available on its website, which we are happy to do.
The council statement reads: “The local press and social media have made for interesting reading over the past few weeks, with more conspiracy theories surrounding a seemingly proactive draft management plan for Kings Pond, than you would read in a national tabloid.
“The first rumour was the council was going to dry out the pond, fill it in and then sell the site to developers for housing.
“The second one, which was simply bonkers, was the council’s secret deal with the Environment Agency to improve the water quality to sell it to South East Water.
“When that myth was dispelled, the rumour changed direction and claimed it was actually Thames Water we were doing a deal with so that untreated sewage could be dumped in the river.
“These types of rumours would be funny if it were not for the fact that the future of Kings Pond is an incredibly serious matter and these myths are detracting people from engaging with the consultation process.
“There is no subterfuge, no pre-determined view by councillors; all the council is seeking to know is quite simple – would residents support the council spending tax payers’ money on ascertaining if it would be feasible to take the pond off-line from the river.
“That’s it... and it is incredibly frustrating and depressing that Kings Pond has been used as some political battleground with certain disaffected individuals seeking to score “points” through personal, vitriolic attacks on councillors, council officers and, on occasion, other local residents who are faced with rude and offensive remarks which have been fuelled by misinformation and distorted truths, when seeking only to engage in reasoned debate.
“The concept of separating the river from the pond is not new and has been raised under previous administrations as a potential long-term solution to eradicate the repeated need to invasively dredge the pond every 25 years or so.
“With escalating costs for dredging, it is incumbent upon the council to try to seek a permanent solution to an increasing problem.
“This problem is the build-up of silt; not a problem years ago when there was a working mill, no tarmac roads and no large-scale development increasing water run-off in to the pond.
“In recent years the increasing popularity of the site for residents and visitors to feed the wildfowl, which has provided both improved physical wellbeing and mental solace for many, has in turn caused the water and surrounding area to be increasingly polluted with stale bread, excess seeds, grain and other products deposited in and around the water because of the increasing number of wildfowl in residence.
“The council has taken the bold step, in view of the deep affection with which the pond is held by many, to try to ensure that not only does the site remain for generations to come but seeks to improve both the water quality and the ecology of the site.
“To do nothing is not an option on the consultation. Why? Because the reality is the environmental factors around the pond and human interventions mean the problem is an increasing one.
“If the public are opposed to any measures to alter the current site, whether that is to take it off line or de-silt it, the pond will eventually silt up to such a degree that the “muddy swamp” which the council have been accused of wanting to create, will happen organically.
“The council would implore residents to set aside what they may have heard on social media and in the local press that the plans will kill all the fish and the birds.
“This is mere scaremongering by a small number of people looking to save Kings Pond, through the misapprehension that doing nothing will safeguard its future. It won’t.
“What the council is looking for is support from residents to enable the council to explore what might be possible – an opportunity to understand whether taking the pond off-line is an appropriate response to the continued silting issues and the resulting poor water quality.
“It may be that dredging is the only viable way to desilt the pond but for the sake of future generations of residents, wildlife and for the local environment, doesn’t it warrant exploring?
“We would urge local residents to read the draft management plan, look at the FAQs (on our website www.alton.gov.uk) and to come along to the two drop-in sessions at the Assembly Rooms on November 18 (3pm to 7pm) and November 19 (10am to midday) to chat about the concept, find out more and make their own independent assessment of what they are reading and hearing in order to complete the consultation.
“A copy of the updated frequently asked questions can be found at http://www.alton.gov.uk/_UserFiles/Files/FAQs%20as%20at%20031122.pdf”
Alton Town Council