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Heron today, gone tomorrow? Fish removed to stop anti-social anglers
The removal of fish from an idyllic pond because anti-social thugs have been fishing there has sparked concerns for herons and local wildlife.
Following consultations with police and conservators, Reigate and Banstead Council has had carp, goldfish and rudd - all illegally introduced into Burgh Heath pond - removed.
But Robert Russell, 50, from Hatch Gardens, next to Burgh Heath, condemned the move as an overreaction which threatens wildife in the area, such as herons, who eat fish.
He said: "What about the native wildlife who depend on this resource? It would only be the local herons (and anyone who likes to see these birds) who would suffer.
"That is just an overreaction to a small problem. There are a few lads who I have seen fishing there but they all seemed to be behaving OK."
Canada geese, mallard ducks and rare great crested newts live in and around the pond while kingfishers have also been spotted.
The pond is owned by the council but managed by Banstead Common Conservators.
Council leader Councillor Joan Spiers, who represents Kingswood and Burgh Heath, said: "They were removed because we get huge amounts of antisocial behaviour, normally associated with night-time fishing.
"They keep residents awake with noise, shouting and the radio. We have more cans there after a pleasant evening and it's just not reasonable. They drink, get drunk, have loud music and fight."
In response to wildlife concerns, she said: "We leave enough fish for the herons but not enough fish for these thugs to fish. They are not all removed because we want them to breed again."
Robin Davis, parks and countryside manager at the council, said local residents complained about anglers making noise and dropping litter.
Mr Davis said: "There is no agreement with any angling club for fishing on this pond. We have now removed these fish, as we have done in previous years."
He said a contractor decided how and where to move the fish, based on their health and the suitability of different locations, in line with Environment Agency guidance.
He said: "Even though some fish have been removed, there is still plenty of food for birds to eat from this pond and others."
Simon Cowell, founder of the Wildlife Aid Foundation (WAF) in Leatherhead, said: "Obviously people do get fish sometimes and shove them in ponds, which is not the best thing to do.
"If there is unauthorised angling then that should be stopped. It depends on how much they have taken. If a majority of the fish have been taken you are going to get all the local wildlife suffering.
"But if they have taken away a few species it is hard to comment. Why take fish out to stop angling? It seems absurd. Why not stop angling? It seems a better idea to police it better or get local residents to."
A police spokesman said officers from the Reigate and Banstead Safer Neighbourhood Team had been working with partner agencies to combat anti-social behaviour around the pond.
She said: "This work has been on-going for several months and a vast improvement has been seen in the area due to this."
Malcolm Corner, secretary at the Banstead Angling Society, said: "This has been a problem that has been experienced for many years. I believe Reigate and Banstead Council have taken action before.
"I'm not surprised. Anybody who makes a noise and disturbance brings it on themselves."
A council sign at the pond said: "Angling is not permitted on the pond.
"Following incidents of antisocial behaviour the council, in association with the Banstead Commons Conservators and the police, has initiated the removal of fish from the pond.
"Please be aware that the placing of fish in this body of water without permission is illegal. Anybody found doing so is liable of prosecution."
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