Welcome to the campaign to save the historic
Filter Beds at Seething Wells.
Surbiton’s Seething Wells filter beds are a site of national historic importance. They are located near the town centre on the Portsmouth Road.
They were constructed between 1848 and 1856, firstly by the Lambeth Water Works and secondly by the Chelsea Water Works, as part of London’s drive to provide clean water and defeat the covid-19 of its day – cholera. More on the history of the filter beds and of the work of Dr John Snow and engineer James Simpson can be found here. It is the Chelsea site that is now under threat.
The site is one of the most protected in the Royal Borough of Kingston: in the South Riverside Conservation Area, designated Metropolitan Open Land (MOL – which has the same protections as greenbelt) and is a Site of Interest for Local Nature Conservation. Kingston Council’s own biodiversity good practice guide states:
The Council will protect and improve Kingston’s valued natural and green environment by…
Protecting Kingston’s open space network from inappropriate development through its open spaces designations: Green Belt, Metropolitan Open Land (MOL), Thames Policy Area, Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINCs)…
Current ownership and activities
Sadly, the owners, a company registered offshore in the Isle of Man – have been poor guardians of the site and on a number of occasions tried to develop it. In 2012-14 when their plans to convert the filter beds into a marina, restaurant and 92 luxury floating apartments were dismissed by the planning inspector following rejection by Kingston council.
Since then they have felled protected trees, cleared the site of all vegetation, regularly spraying with industrial chemicals and neglecting original Victorian features including the locally listed railings and the locally listed Pump House.
This year has seen two retrospective planning applications.
In March, the first a “retrospective application for retention of existing Use (Class B8) for storage/distribution” was refused by the council. The application claimed, falsely, the site has been used as a water storage facility continuously for ten years despite it being drained on a number of occasions and sprayed with chemicals that have poisoned the water. The application also claimed the filtration substrates have been removed, when local experts have evidence suggesting otherwise. Cascina are now appealing against this decision.
In July, they attempted to get permission for the “Erection of additional building (Lawful Development Certificate)” for a canteen for workers on the site. To our knowledge there are no workers on site.
Both applications have been refused thanks to the hard work of our supporters – we really couldn’t have done it without you! But we are staying vigilant as other manoeuvres are likely from the owners.
And yet, Casicna have now applied for another planning permission. The third this year !
The campaign to save Seething Wells Filter Beds
The Seething Wells filter beds are precious. The council cannot any more stand aside and allow them to be destroyed. But time is running out to stop plans and make them listen.
Local residents and activists have come together to fight to save the filter beds as a local nature and wildlife asset and a national heritage asset as the best example of a Victorian water treatment facility that saved thousands of lives during a previous pandemic.
You can find out more about local campaigns here: