In response to concerns expressed through the local press (original article linked here) Reigate & Banstead Borough Council issued the following detailed statement.
A follow up article, which includes part of the full response below, is linked here.
If residents have any concerns please contact one of your Councillors and we can provide further information. To date we have not heard direct from individual residents on the subject.
Statement in response to press enquiries about the clearance of debris from the Earlswood Upper Lake:
The work at Earlswood Lakes is ultimately to improve the habitat for wildlife, the facilities for anglers and the visual appearance of the site for residents and visitors.
On Thursday (28 January) alone, our Countryside Rangers spent the day at the site and removed over one tonne of debris from the Upper Lake, including a bench, metal work, tyres, brick rubble and a laptop (which we will be handing over to the police) along with a huge amount of general rubbish and litter. We will be removing more debris this week, when we will have more man power to enable us to do this.
We are also taking this opportunity to net the Upper Lake of fish to ensure it remains a wildlife haven and prevent it becoming attractive to illegal anglers. It has been home to nationally rare plants and great crested newts.
Fish are possibly introduced to the lake as eggs on birds’ legs/feet but also by people wanting to stock the lake for angling purposes (which is illegal). The fish then eat the tadpoles of frogs and newts and invertebrate lava living in there, such as dragon fly lava, as well as the water weed, which oxygenates the water needed by the invertebrates. It also reduces the risk of algal bloom in the warmer months – a problem often associated with stocked lakes, like the Lower Lake.
The Council will not be selling the fish that are removed. As is usual practice, we are paying a professional contractor a fee to remove the fish on our behalf. The majority will be transferred to the Lower Lake and some may be transferred to Horley Riverside Garden Park. Of those that are not put into the Lower Lake, such as Carp, a sample will be health-checked by the contractors, as required by the Environment Agency, before they can be introduced to other waters. They will then be re-homed as arranged by the contractors and the Horley Piscatorial Society (responsible for managing the fish stocks and angling on the Lower Lake). If the contractors are able to sell some of these fish on to other angling clubs it may lower the cost of our bill, but the Council will not profit from the sale. This type of arrangement is common place.
The Pike netted from the Upper Lake will either be returned to predate on the lake’s remaining small fry (fish) or removed to the Lower Lake. However as Pike eat the smaller fish, and the lower lake is for angling, this option is less likely but we will be guided by the Piscatorial Society.
The mussels are Swan Mussels, a species that has no special protection (the only UK species that does is the freshwater pearl mussel not found in this area of the country). We have been advised that healthy freshwater mussels will, like their marine cousins, happily survive periods of low water levels and will burrow into the mud to avoid predation. They are prey to some bird and goose species. Some fish species will also predate on them, and it is quite possible that carp, as they are bottom feeders will feed on especially young mussels.
We understand residents’ concerns but the work is being carried out in accordance with guidelines from the Environment Agency, who is aware of what we are doing, and our management plan for the site, which was drawn up 2008 in consultation with the public and relevant agencies. Whilst the works are taking place we have been checking the site daily and when the water level is lowered again we will be checking every few hours as we did before.
We have been careful in our monitoring and take issue with statement that dozens of fish have died as a result of this work. It is also unfortunate that no one contacted the Council to express their concerns prior to your article.
The netting of the fish was due to happen last week but because the lake iced over again it was postponed and the lake allowed to refill. It is more humane for the fish to wait for the ice to thaw (otherwise they get netted with the ice). We will be lowering the water level again as guided by the contractors and Horley Piscatorial Society and the fish will be removed when the weather and conditions best allow.
To improve the oxygenation of the water in the Lower Lake and thus reduce the risk of algal bloom, last summer and autumn we introduced more aquatic planting, which is enclosed to prevent it being eaten by the fish and wildfowl, and in 2006 when we carried out significant improvements to the lake; the reed bed was reintroduced and a bales of barley straw were submerged, known for its oxygenating properties.
We are planning further aquatic planting in both lakes again later in the year.