AN ONLINE row has broken out over the £65,000 restoration of Midhurst’s South Pond.
The ambitious project to create a wildlife haven on the edge of the town centre was carried out last year masterminded by the South Pond Group of volunteers after three years of consultation work with the South Downs National Park, owners Chichester District Council, the town council and the Environmental Agency.
But in a debate on the South Downs National Park public forum, editor of the online community magazine ‘Midhurst Pages’ John Trueman claimed iconic views of the duck pond had disappeared.
“Everything seems fine for the wildlife but not so good for the humans. We seem to have come off second best. Have we shot ourselves in the foot?” he asked.
“The ‘look’ of the pond has taken a back seat. The expanse of water is greatly reduced, replaced by large areas of ‘enclosed’ marginal plants. The southern side has a dishevelled, overgrown appearance made worse by eight tatty warning signs. Seats face vegetation. It’s bizarre.”
Midhurst historian Bridget Howard said: “The quest for ‘biodiversity’ had ‘cost Midhurst yet another part of its heritage’.
Everything seems fine for the wildlife but not so good for the humans. We seem to have come off second best. Have we shot ourselves in the foot?
But former chairman of the South Pond Group Graham Ault hit back saying : “I am surprised John (Trueman) feels people come from miles around to see a concrete edged, polluted, silting up duck pond with no meaningful wildlife and very poor water quality.”
He had no doubt: “we should choose good biodiversity based on much better water quality and better silt management over retaining a dying pond.”
The restored pond would be an innovative feature and Mr Ault was sure people would come from far and wide to see good biodiversity and good pond management in an urban setting.
“It will be a wonderful resource for families to look at wildlife and appreciate its value, rather than feeding stale bread that is unhealthy for ducks, pollutes the water and is heaven sent for the ever flourishing brown rat population.”
Leader of the South Pond Group Barbara Coote said work on the restoration project was not yet complete.
Mrs Coote who has been involved throughout the scheme said: “The island trees will soon be thinned and cut back allowing Salix (the contractors) who are due to come back this autumn, to complete some of the dredging between the islands, filling in the area around the island and planting that too.”
She said the overgrown area near the road would also be pruned and thinned removing some of the large saplings.
In addition a working party is due to carry out more planting work this Saturday, (September 26).
“We will be planting wild daffodils, wood anemone, snakeshead fritillary and snowdrops in areas around the pond and Jubilee Path.
“Anyone is very welcome to come and help we meet at the wooden bridge at 10am.
“We hope that it will not be too long before we can safely remove the fencing,” added Mrs Coote, “ and plant protection making the whole area look far more pleasant.”
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