Heather Farm Green Belt
Heather Farm near Woking Aerial View

Wetland Habitat Visitor Attraction


We were asked by Horsell Common Preservation Society (HCPS) to help them gain planning permission for the redevelopment of a former mushroom production facility on green belt land. The redevelopment of Heather Farm included demolishing previous buildings and hardstanding to create a wetland habitat visitor attraction.


The new building provides a base for HCPS, space for community-based enterprises and a café for visitors to the wetland area and surrounding walks.


Horsell Common Preservation Society



Heather Farm, Horsell



Wetland Habitat

The Challenge

This beautiful site had a number of planning challenges. There had been significant previous development on the site, including extensive hardstanding areas. Despite the goal of developing a new wetland habitat, achieving change of use was challenging as the site is in the green belt and directly adjacent to a designated Site of Specific Scientific Interest. 


Heather Farm is on flood plain and there was some contamination of the land from the previous mushroom facility. It also falls in the Thames Basin Heath Special Protection Area, which created additional planning constraints.

The Solution

We produced plans for a comprehensive redevelopment of the site, removing the vast majority of old buildings together with the hardstanding which covered almost 80% of the 6.5-hectare site. The former office building was redeployed to create the café and visitor centre, as well as housing a main office for HCPS and an Education Centre.


A bio-mass power plant was added to provide the facility with sustainable heating and hot water, powered by wood recycled from the surrounding common which is owned and managed by the society.


The centre has been linked with the adjacent Suitable Alternative Natural Green Space set up by HCPS in conjunction with the Council.

The Result

The redevelopment of Heather Farm included excavating the lake and surrounding water features to create a natural wetland habitat, which now has a great diversity of wildlife. Adding this new wetland habitat has reduced pressure on other local sites of nature conservation importance.


The old mushroom processing buildings were removed along with the concrete hardstanding, which was up to a metre deep in places, making the site more effective as a flood plain.


The new visitor centre has made the area a major attraction for local people in the Borough, providing a range of countryside recreational facilities and rural walks.