Core SWAG Area

The Seething Wells Action Group (SWAG) has been set up on a non-partisan and cross community basis for anyone who is concerned about the ongoing destruction of Seething Wells Filter Beds. We are looking to become a constituted community group.

Seething Wells filter beds are a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation, located on Metropolitan Open Land in Surbiton’s Riverside South Conservation area and we are simply demanding the council and other authorities take urgent action to enforce these protections.

Please join us on our Facebook Group for news, information and campaign updates.

We have formally responded to the application by the owners for a certificate of lawfulness that would designate the site as industrial storage. Read our objection here:

Here’s an abridged version suitable to cut and paste into your own response. Please do respond by 19th June to the emails below and quote the reference 20/00627/CEU. Please email if you have any queries or need further advice on submitting an objection.

To: Karen Coles (Case Officer) Copy:;

Reference: 20/00627/CEU

Retrospective application for retention of existing Use (Class B8) for storage/distribution


Dear Ms Coles

I wish to object to the above application for a retrospective certificate of lawfulness on the grounds of the abandonment of its use as an industrial site (Class B8).

There are four tests of abandonment established by case law:

1. Non-use

Seething Wells filter beds were decommissioned by Thames Water in 1992. They were described as both “defunct” and “redundant” by the Mayor of London in his citation in May 2006 when they were designated a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SINC). This designation built on the London Ecology Unit classification as a Grade 1 site of Borough Importance in 1992. So, it is clear that from the moment the site was abandoned by Thames Water it has not been considered an industrial water storage facility.The filter beds fill with a mixture of ground water and rain water and are not attached to any water network and to the best of the knowledge of local residents and community groups none of the owners since Thames Water abandoned the site has had any contract to supply water. The applicants even admit in their supporting evidence they do not have any commercial contract for water – stating “the Applicant had every reason to believe that the water storage infrastructure maypay commercial dividends”. (My emphasis).Seething Wells is not listed on RBK’s list of non-domestic properties at the Valuation Office. Nor is it listed on the Central Rating List. Thames Water Utilities Ltd appear on the Central Rating List. There is no mention of Cascina Limited. So, if the owners are paying no business rates how can it be classified as an industrial storage site?

2. The physical condition of the land and buildingsThe industrial buildings and features on the site (such as the pump house, workers’ cabin and railings) have been left in a state of disrepair and neglect by the owners and there is plenty of photographic evidence to this effect. One of the actual filter bed walls has been smashed and the boundary walls and railings (townscape merit listed) left to crumble and rust. If the applicants were serious about the retention of the site for industrial use then they would maintain the industrial infrastructure.

3. Has it been used for any other purpose? Seething Wells has been used as a designated nature reserve for the bulk of the last 28 years and therefore has been used for another purpose.

4. The intentions of the ownerIt is clear from the intentions of the owners that they have no wish to use this site for industrial purposes. They claim “The existing infrastructure was a material consideration in the Applicant’s purchase of the site…”. If this is the case why have they failed to maintain the site? And, their immediate action on purchasing the site was to produce a plan for a mixed use residential, leisure and commercial development (submitted to Kingston Council in 2011). When this was refused by the council they spent the next three years preparing an appeal – which in turn was rejected by inspectors in 2014. In that appeal Cascina refer to the site as having “potential” to become a water storage cell. This means they were not claiming in 2014 that the site was being used for water storage, only that it had potential. Therefore, it is clear by their actions and their own account that the owners did not consider the site to be a water storage site in 2014.

In addition, the draining of the beds is not concurrent with “water storage”. The water levels are now very low and have been on many previous occasions. The rotting vegetation in the beds and the constant pesticide spraying make them not fit for water storage.

So, it is clear Seething Wells meets the four tests for abandonment – I request this application for a certificate of lawfulness is rejected on this basis.

Yours sincerely,