Friends of Seething Wells object to development

The Seething Wells filter beds are under threat of a massive development.

The Friends of Seething Wells are the latest group to object to the application to develop the filter beds at Seething Wells in Surbiton which are under threat of a massive development consisting of 69 dwellings with roofs up to 6ft above pavement level in the basins, with a parking ramp to water level, a 100 seat restaurant, and a marina with a lock to the Thames and parking for some 180 vehicles. It is proposed to leave approx 20% of the site for wildlife and public access.

The Friends of Seething Wells do not accept the developer’s argument that the many legal and environmental protections afforded to this site should be swept aside by the Royal Borough of Kingston which has the responsibility to make a decision on the planned development. The Council has turned down two previous applications for developing the site including the last one to build a block of 56 flats in 2002 (on the solid ground at the Esher end) and has fought and won two expensive appeals by developers. The site was subsequently designated Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) the equivalent of Green Belt protection) by the Council and included in the Conservation area of Riverside South (RSCA)

The Core Strategy inspector in September 2011 declared: “this must be the most designated site of the river”.

Over 60 species of bird, chalk grassland and 8 types of bat have been recorded by experts as settling within the site. These are recognized habitats and species within BAPS and LDP (National and London Biodiversity Plans) and is also of industrial archeological importance being the first non tidal site (1852) to create clean water for London.

Tony Johannsen one of the founder members of the Friends said “In spite of it being declared a Site of Metropolitan Importance (SMI), Regional Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI), Strategic Area of Special Importance (SASC) the developers have managed to destroy the exisiting beds and remove the vegetation thereby changing the well established wildlife habitat.

He added : “We agree when the London Plan (LP) says “we seek the Borough to protect Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) and to resist development of these”.

Jill Green of the Friends of Seething Wells said “We shall again insist that the Council must resist this latest application to ensure that the site must be used solely as a resource for the whole community and future generations.Every action the Council has taken in the past to protect the site has recently been confirmed in its own Core Strategy so it would be nonsense for them to agree with these proposals. The Friends encourage all those who agree to strongly object to this plan and remind RBK of its obligations to protect this important site and turn this application down”

A meeting is being held at the YMCA Victoria Road Surbiton on Monday 12th December at 19.30 to which all interested in the future of the site are invited.


1. The Friends of Seething Wells (FOWSA) was established in 2003 by a partnership of interested parties such as SCARA and Thamesbank who had been involved in fighting earlier applications for developing the Filter Bed site. Its prime objective then and now was to defend the site from inappropriate development and to retain it as one homogenous wildlife area whilst allowing permanent but restricted access to the public. Such access would include provision along the Portsmouth Road side of the site of a safe walkway to enable visitors to view the filter beds whilst protecting the habitat.

2. Since 2003 the FOWSA has continued to monitor all planning applications which would have a direct affect on the integrity of the site.


I do find it both depressing and irritating in equal measure that whenever a construction development of any magnitude is proposed in this area, the bobble hat brigade suddenly recognise the value of a location hitherto ignored for decades... I refer to the Jolly Boatman debacle, amongst others. The Seething Wells proposal is, in my opinion, a rather elegant and imaginative solution to the eyesore that has been ignored for the last 30 years. Opposition was an inevitatable knee-jerk reaction to the improvements proposed to the collection of stagnant water and old shopping trollies that represents the area in its present state.....Firstly, the leisure issues. I am a sailor and appreciate that congestion on the Thames in this area can be an issue, but if you look at the plans proposed by Hydro Properties, the residential moorings will take less space than the rusting hulks that currently blight the riverbank at this point. Also, the amount of access and egress traffic from the marina would be of little moment, bearing in mind how much river traffic has to be navigated in the Summer Sailing season. The roof tops would extend six feet above the existing railings...Really? Look at the plans; only at peak river levels would this be a problem and given the current flood conditions, at least the houses wouldn't be a burden on Environment Agency funds as they rise with the floods!
Please think before you raise your voices against any form of progress. I would imagine that Sixteenth Century Nimbies thought Hampton Court Palace a potential blot on the landscape.....

The River Thames Sports Alliance is totally opposed to the river related aspects of Hydro Properties’ proposals for the Surbiton Filter Beds which would compromise the use of a significant stretch of the River Thames for river sports activities. This would have a serious and lasting impact on member organisations including historic and world-renowned river sports clubs in Surbiton, Kingston, Teddington, Thames Ditton and beyond and would threaten the future of sailing, rowing, skiffing, canoeing, punting, dragon boating and paddle-boarding from recreational right up to Olympic level.

Specifically, the proposed marina, lock, ferry landing and residential river moorings would lead to increased motor boat traffic, congestion, a dangerous cross-flow of river traffic and navigational conflicts, all on one of the narrowest and busiest stretches of the River Thames between Kingston Bridge and Hampton Court Bridge. This would render a significant part of the river unsafe and unsuitable for river sports and particularly sailing which would jeopardise the future of many local river sports organisations.

Thames Sailing Club would be one of the most severly affected river sports organisations because the proposed marina, lock, ferry landing and residential river moorings would be located at the heart of the racing and training area it established 141 years ago. However, it is just one of many local river sports organisations whose members race and train regularly in the area that would be affected by Hydro’s proposals. Other organisations that would be directly affected include: Tamesis Club (Teddington), Minima Yacht Club (Kingston), Kingston Rowing Club (Kingston), Dittons Skiff and Punting Club (Thames Ditton), Walbrook Rowing Club (Teddington) and the Royal Canoe Club (Teddington).

These organisations have a global significance and are a unique and enduring part of our sporting and cultural heritage which must be protected for future generations. They are active, growing, affordable and successful family sports clubs. Many are nationally recognised training centres and are largely run by volunteers. Each year, they introduce, large numbers of adults and children of all ages and backgrounds to water sports on Thames in Surbiton. These clubs provide access to the Thames for hundreds and possibly thousands of river sports participants in the locality. They attract river sports participants from significant distances. Their activities are healthy, highly environmentally sustainable and they help to safeguard and enliven the river environment. They and their craft also help to draw thousands of sightseers to Kingston and to the banks of the Thames each year; with obvious benefits for the local economy.

A significant number of Olympians began their sporting careers on the River Thames as members of these organisations and some still train regularly on the river in the area that would be directly affected by Hydro’s proposals. As such, the proposed development also threatens the future of Team GB.

The RTSA believes that the supposed public benefits of the proposed development are being exaggerated by the developer and that they would be greatly outweighed by the serious costs to river sports in this area.

Alarmingly, there appear to be significant discrepencies in Hydro’s town planning application. Furthermore, aspects of the application are at best confusing and at worst deeply misleading. For example. the drawings mis-represent the river environment and underplay the impact the development would have on all river users.

The RTSA appreciates that the Surbiton Filter Beds have fallen into disrepair over a period of many years and would arguably benefit from some form of regeneration. However, not all solutions need necessarily involve commercial developers such as Hydro which stands to make huge profits by upsetting the delicate balance of river use to the detriment of river sports organisations. For more info. please visit

I agree with the sentiments of this group, but the priority must be to bring this site into use. It is depressing to walk down the wonderful Queens Promenade and then find that the next part of the riverside is an overgrown mess hemmed in by rusted 1970's railings.

If this is Metropolitan Open Land, it must surely be quite easy to fight this planning application, but what will happen to the site after that? It can't be left to rot for another 20 years.

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