'Amazon Land' at the picnic field Chessington World of Adventures 21/02435/FUL


There is a new application to build on 1 ha of open land at Chessington World of Adventures (TQ 172 622) with the  removal of 70 trees, and only 21 days to respond. 'Amazon land', will include all things that wouldn't be expected to be found in the Amazon, such as  a new rollercoaster and children’s rides along with associated buildings, structures, landscaping and incidental works.

The environmental work for the above application is called an Appraisal (not an Impact Assessment or Preliminary Ecological Assessment). It was carried out in November 2020, not during the growing season, not mentioned as a limitation of the survey, and is submitted nine months later. It purports to be a Phase 1 habitat survey but it doesn't use the JNCC habitat codes and it doesn't give any references, so that we can see which version of the JNCC document it pertains to.  We are not told how long the consultant spent on site so it is really a desk study with photos.

However, it does mention 'amenity managed grassland' without giving the habitat code J. Amenity grassland contains rye grass and there is no mention of rye grass as one of the species in the plant list. In fact, the photograph of what the consultants term 'field mushrooms'  clearly shows fungi that are not the brown-gilled  Agaricus campestris but most likely the decurrent white gills of a wax cap (Hygrocybe species) and so it is unlikely that this is amenity grassland.

Wax caps are often found in short sward pastures, meadows or grassy areas; typically land which has received no artificial fertilisers, is low in nutrients and has not been ploughed over periods of decades. Unfertilised grassland often looks brownish green during autumn and has many different species of grasses and flowers.This is not amenity grassland but perhaps semi-or unimproved grassland with the habitat codes entirely of their own. The latter can be a priority habitat.

The red line plan does not state anything about the habitats affected a) by the route the lorries will take; b) the route to the SuDs drainage pond in the south-east and how that will be affected (pictured). When viewing the CEMP it becomes clear how extensive this application will be.

The EA cites log piles, stumps, bare earth etc. indicating photos of veteranised features but no invertebrate assessment or bat surveys were recommended or undertaken. So based on Rapid Assessment of Potential Value of Invertebrate habitats (J. Dobson) I did one for them, as presented below. It comes close to requiring an invertebrate assessment and  could be an important site for Lepidoptera for example, with potential for brown hairstreak in the blackthorn in  the south-west of the application site. We have also recorded glow worms well within the buffer zone.

Table 1: Invertebrate habitat assessment

Habitat element



Decaying wood (veteran tree score A)


Standing, lying deadwood. 'Piles of large logs'

Botanically diverse ancient woodland with good
invertebrate fauna within 350m

Rotational management (even if accidental)


Accidental - cutting of hedge, cutting of grass

Nectar sources (flowering trees)


Seasonal effect: large biomass of flowering trees and shrubs

Wet substrates


Several ponds in close proximity including SuDs

Open water


Close to Barwell Lake within 350m, ponds within 250m, 300m and at Jubilee meadows

Structural patchwork


not in November 2020

Still air (suntraps)



Still air (humid, shaded)


Shaded under trees

Ecoclines (pertains to grading)


Bare earth and sandpit

Bare earth


Mole hills and sand pit on site

Other features


Animal dung nearby (deer as well as the lion that roars).

      Thresholds for further action are given based on the representation of the upper grades. Where further action is indicated there are different  pathways that may be followed when further action recommended by an IHP assessment but the above can be used to successfully mitigate the impacts of the key habitat elements.


The data search suffers a lack of proximity data so although it gives 11 species of bat it doesn't state that they were recorded within the blue line (under Merlin's ownership). Certainly, I have collected brown long-eared bat from the site and we have controlled Whiskered/Brandts from harp-trapping studies 2016 within the 1km buffer zone. 

Wouldn't you want to know more about the bat use of a parcel of land where priority species of bat were known to roost and forage in the vicinity? The shed is assessed as low potential for roosting bats but no bat survey is recommended. Will roosts be affected by light pollution for example? Score a complete fail for neglecting to mention the anthropogenic nightmare that will arise from  four months of excavations by 20 tonne vehicles and associated security lighting for the plant.

Amphibians and reptiles

The viviparous lizard in the photo was taken within the blue line area (the land under CWoA ownership). Grass snakes and slow worms are well known at the location. 

The consultants attest to great - crested newts within 300m at a pond to the north-west of the site (page 14). There is a pond (photographed) to the south-east near the Leatherhead road, which may have been colonised by GCN. It is not referred to in the Ecology report but is instead referred to as a 'detention basin' in the Flood Risk Assessment. If the detention basin has GCN this should be determined before it is expanded. I somehow managed to 'fall off' the Chessington Countryside walk that the Zoo have totally ruined and did a HAbitat Suitability Index assessment of the pond and it came out at 0.84, which is high.

Earlier this year we had a total of 7 great-crested newts from the 1km search zone of the application site, which is not apparent due to the lack of proximity data in the data search. There are additional ponds at adjacent Winey Hill and Byhurst Farm as well as other wetland features noted in the Desk study.

In addition, the ecological assessment doesn't mention the habitats located along the route that the lorries will take. Just that there will be a lot of construction traffic. As always, many of the documents are missing from the planning file such as CWPG-SA-06-XX-DR-A-0407_ANIMAL_FEATURE_EXTENTS

If the site is really as ecologically low as is stated-why are CWoA not creating higher value of the natural assets under their management, given their obligations under the licence to continue as a 'zoo'.

Until we obtain a proper assessment of the application site, a fair Net Gain won't be forthcoming -it certainly won't come in the form of yet more trees in plastic tubes. see amenity grass issue at a  parallel site http://alisonfure.blogspot.com/2021/06/biodiversity-net-gain-reality-bites.html

Claire Mellish reminds us that

'In recent years, CWoA seem to have become particularly good at gobbling up Kingston's green belt, calling habitats 'scrub' & 'amenity grassland' and not doing EIAs. The Council doesn't seem to question it. Bit by bit, Chessington have bought up greenfield, then degraded it, first with temporary structures, then applied for more permanent change.
The image shows the main site with a red boundary for high development- the overspill is obvious, for example:
  • 'Go Ape' (South West of CWofA) in part of the ancient woodland SINC at Sixty Acre Wood - "Perhaps London’s most botanically diverse woodland, with many regionally rare species; also important for mammals and birds and probably London’s best site for woodland butterflies" (SINC review) 

    Segway' 17/10289 FUL - also in Sixty Acre Wood and complementing the 'Go Ape' activities' area. This is a "heavy duty all-terrain" track for people to ride segways on, deep into the woods, plus an associated storage building for the vehicles. This affected over 5500 trees with a 1.5m wide route of 1.6 km track through the woods (thus also destroying 2,400 square meters of woodland floor). One of the special reasons submitted for inappropriate development of the Green Belt was CWoA's "important role in nature and wildlife/conservation education programmes." The Council decided that the economic benefit, and link to a major tourist attraction, provided special circumstances to justify what they called "limited harm" to the Green Belt. The tree officer didn't object. In terms of ecology the Council somehow concluded there would be no loss of ancient woodland habitat and that the development's impact would be minimal. Yet you can see the damage is extensive even from Google Earth/Google Maps' satellite view - the scarred woodland in the bottom left of the image. Planning applications 15/10234 FUL and 16/10231 FUL.
  • Car parking in the fields and grasslands to both the South and now West of CWofA site - on the walk to Winey Hill and adjacent to at least 3 SINCs and 2 nature reserves. Some of the car parking on grasslands is also on an area of archeological significance.
The most recent of these was for the large field in the South and replaced gravel tracks with tarmac, added kerbs and removed 7 trees: 19/00262/FUL | Widening of sections of the Southern (Explorer) Car Park outer trackway routes.
  • Zufari (large field in NW of CWofA site) development of over 2.75 hectares in size with 45 accomodation lodges bar and lounge buildings, substation, play areas etc but no Environmental Impact Assessment. For some reason the Council didn't think one was necessary - see image and 16/10471.
  • field area SW of main site taken over for glamping (20/02183/FUL) until 2025, but this started in 2013. Tree protections but no evidence of other environmental considerations. 37 tents plus associated facilities including amenity, storage and security buildings and a play area.
    Chessington World of adventure's expansion plans: "In 2016, Merlin developed a Long Term Plan (‘LTP’), in consultation with RBK, to provide a framework for investment at CWoA over the period to around 2025. This included an indicative masterplan for the coordinated development of a range of exciting attractions and associated development." The plan shows further major incursions into the Green Belt, including the fields along the public footpath to Winey Hill Nature Reserve - 1 and 10 on the plan. 10 would mean that you have to walk through CWoA on this (supposed) countryside walk to a nature reserve'.
    Unfortunately Claire-it has already happened.



  1. Hiya , I understand your concerns over Amazon land , but the park have taken all precautionary measures to ensure the ecosystem is not disturbed. This includes (but is not limited to) ~60 individual sticks of bamboo , up to 4m high. Foxglove trees , Cider trees and white willow trees will all be planted (to a total of 15 new trees.) Lots of other shrubs will be planted , like Cabbage Palms,
    Chinese windmill palm and new Zealand flax.

    As for Your concerns over the Construction path , this will not damage any wildlife , with the only exception of some trees possibly being fell on the south west of the site , to allow site access from the main internal road. All materials for the site , unless being inherently used , will be stored on existing car parks on site , that are close to the construction site. Construction traffic will use one of the main (tarmacked) roads (the entrance nearest the garden centre).

    Over the period of the project there will be
    ~10 waste vehicles leaving the site to dispose of waste
    ~ 25 aggregate deliveries of 30 tons
    ~15 concrete deliveries of 30 tons
    ~Maximum of 3 general delivery vehicles per week
    ~10 Steel work track and column Delivery vehicles.
    ~8 vehicles per day of site personnel.

    The park has suffered over the last year and a half due to the CoVID-19 Pandemic and needs a way to recover its visitor numbers. This project would help boost the local economy and create new jobs for the area.

    The green belt would not be changed much due to this investment , as the land will sit on already-open and undeveloped land.

    I really hope this changes your mind on the project , as it would be beneficial for the local area and the resort themselves , and many people are hoping this project comes to life ; after the park not receiving a new roller coaster since 2004.

    Yours Sincerely

    1. Hi Harry I don't normally allow anon comments so kindly log in if you want to contribute further.
      The planting proposed is ridiculous and I am sure you are joking as bamboo and foxglove trees are invasive species and non of the species you have mentioned are native (good for the ecology). But CWoA cares little about that.
      The park looks pretty full to me it is just a sea of car parks, which have even destroyed the Public Right of Way.
      I am not convinced about the jobs as I know many people that have been made redundant from CWoA, including my daughter- in- law who had been with the company for 5 years but told that if she wasn't available from early in the morning until late at night until early hours of the morning in the restaurant then she wasn't required. The working hours are inhumane especially if you have a young family.

    2. Hi

      I just want to mention that the people who have jobs at CWOA don't particularly do there job for the pay or hours they work, most workers there are theme park enthusiasts and do their jobs because they enjoy the topic involved. I respect your decision in regards to these plans but I do not agree with them, The wildlife cannot be protected under all cases to a reasonable extent for other areas of the economy to survive and it just is how it is sometimes. I think this project is a fantastic investment and opportunity for this country's tourism to be expanded upon.


  2. This would be disastorous for the area and myst be stopped. This is public ancient woodland and must be protected.


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