Haslemere Town Meadow's marshy middle is here to stay after a £10,000 project to improve the drainage at the recreation ground was cancelled – with the town council instead diverting the money towards emergency repairs to the Town Hall’s bell tower.

Councillors signed off £10,000 for a new drainage pipe after the town council took back possession of Town Meadow in 2021. But a specialist has since advised the project would have no guarantee of success.

Instead, councillors resolved at last Thursday’s meeting to put the remaining £8,500 towards a £15,000 repair of the Town Hall’s iconic bell tower.

The decision came after a report presented to councillors before the meeting revealed a 'history document' showed that a previous attempt by the Waverley Borough Council in 1988/1989 to fix the drainage issue had failed.

A subsequent CCTV investigation revealed that the previous pipe had collapsed, and quotes from drainage specialist companies did not provide assurance that their proposed work would succeed.

A new opinion from geotechnical and environmental specialists suggested that underlying clay would continue to cause drainage problems, and so the report recommended the project should not be pursued and the remaining budget of approximately £8,500 should be redirected towards repairs to the Town Hall bell tower.

The report stated: "Since taking over Town Meadow from Waverley Borough Council there have been lots of discussions about the very wet boggy part in the middle of the Meadow and what to do about it.

Town Meadow recreation ground in Tanners Lane, Haslemere, is set for a £50,000 playground makeover in 2023/24
Town Meadow recreation ground in Tanners Lane, Haslemere, is set for a £50,000 playground makeover in 2023/24 – but no drainage works after the town council axed a project to fix its swampy middle (Creative Commons)

"A history document held by Waverley was discovered after some investigation work had already been done which didn’t find anything significant.

"The history document showed a lot of information about the Meadow, Pyle Well and Pyle Well Cottage (68, Lower Street) over the years, as well as some dated geology information.

"The sum of £10,000 was allocated by council to engage through the tendering process a company to install a drainage system to drain the water from the middle area of the meadow into the drainage ditch to the west near the old GPO building and subsequently into the stream at the lower end of the meadow.

"The history document had a map attached to it which showed an attempt by Waverley to drain the meadow in 1988/89 by using a central pipeline from the spring head to the covered part of the stream and had a series of perforated pipes herring boned into it to increase drainage through the soil (please see attached History Document).

"Although this appeared to work for a short period of time the report says that the water (springs) started to appear in other areas of the meadow according to the engineer’s report.

"As some time had gone by since the previous tendering process, we looked at this again and it was decided that a CCTV investigation of the existing pipework would be a good way to find out if there was any drainage occurring at all or if the pipe was damaged or blocked.

"The CCTV pipe camera showed that the pipe had collapsed at around 35 metres from its outlet to the stream. To repair or replace this pipe would be very difficult and costly due to the boggy part of the meadow and the problems for machinery access.

"We contacted three drainage specialist companies to give us quotes for running new pipework from the spring head (near Pyle Well Cottage) to the drainage ditch to the west side of the meadow."

Of these, the report added one company did not respond, one quoted £6,914 but without ditch clearance or the removal of silt and soil, and another quoted £13,213 including this work.

The report continued: "None of the above companies could give any assurance that this work would succeed in

draining the middle of the meadow.

"We have sought a new opinion from Albury S I Ltd, geotechnical & environmental specialists, whose report suggests that the underlying Atherfield Clay would continue to cause a problem with drainage even if we were to carry out the work that had been suggested.

"It is felt that continuing with this project with no guarantee of success may be a waste money.

"Urgent work on the bell tower at the Town Hall has been identified and budget is being sought. It is recommended that this would be a better use of the remaining £8.5k in the Town Meadow budget."