Chasewater: Lichfield District Council wave the white flag

The shrinking remains of a once-great lake: Chasewater on the 13th May, 2011.

Tonight, Lichfield District Council posted on their Chasewater Dam Blog the news that the whole park had been signed over to Staffordshire County Council, who would henceforth be responsible for the completion of the dam works, as well as eventually, the site as a whole. At the moment, I’m not sure what this means in terms of the wider future of the reservoir and surrounds, but it can only be good that finally the dam works are taken out of the hands of Lichfield Council, under whose stewardship the works seem to have been unable to meet their own self-set deadlines, and now look set to rumble on into autumn.

The culvert in the railway causeway – expected to be completed in time for easter – has been subject to engineering issues, and as one of the simpler parts of the project, this doesn’t bode well. A summation of the general feeling on site amongst users of the park can be read at Chasewater Wildlife Group’s news page where Graham Evans says more about the shambles than ever I could. One of the most telling parts of a fantastically prescient statement reads:

Perhaps the one most evident at the moment is the new culvert in the causeway, which apparently was installed at a level that didn’t allow for the required depth of ballast to be laid on top and the photo below shows the activity currently going on trying to rectify the problem, including the arrival of a new mountain of ballast.

The Chasewater Railway lost its lucrative Easter holiday schedules and the Swag cannot be allowed to refill until the problem has been rectified.

As ever, I take my hat off to Graham for writing that.

Things can’t be terribly comfortable for LDC’s star of Countryfile and Director of Parks and Play, Neil Turner, whose department also seemed to get a kicking in the national press recently for the controversial refurb of Beacon Park. Only the most hardened cynic would suggest a pattern to be emerging…

The official statement as it stood at 12:00am on the 19th May read:

Chasewater joins Staffordshire County Council’s family of country parks
May 18th, 2011 by lizziethatcher

A joint press release was issued today by Staffordshire County Council and Lichfield District Council:

Chasewater Country Park and its reservoir have been transferred to Staffordshire County Council in a strategic move set to secure and strengthen the long-term future of this key regional resource.

Chasewater Country Park is home to one of the largest reservoirs in the West Midlands and a country park that attracts around 150,000 visitors a year.

County Councillor Mark Winnington, Cabinet Member for Environment and Assets, said: “Chasewater Country Park consists of 360 hectares of open space, and is a fantastic fit for the county’s property portfolio.

“It will join our network of 12 country parks and open spaces which are run as leisure attractions and havens for wildlife.

“We are already looking at potential ways of developing Chasewater further as a cultural and economic facility. The county council operates the Chasewater Innovation Centre which has tremendous development potential. The site also lies very close to where the Staffordshire Hoard was discovered, and we are keen to work with our Mercian Trail partners to see what opportunities could exist for telling the story of this breathtaking piece of our local history at Chasewater.

“We are also keen to develop relations with all the many community groups that currently use Chasewater and seek their views on the site’s potential. This will include Chasewater Railway, the sailing club, wildlife group and other stakeholder groups. There is also the county council run Outdoor Education Centre that could benefit. We will look at all options to draw more people to the area and benefit the local economy.

“We will build on the good work Lichfield District Council has carried out up to this point.”

To date Chasewater Country Park and reservoir have been owned and managed by Lichfield District Council, which inherited the park in 1994 following a local authority boundary change. Since then, millions of pounds have been pumped into the park’s transformation, thanks to the work of the district and county council, together with external grant funding.

The reservoir provides British Waterways with essential water to maintain levels in the Birmingham Canal Network, and beyond. The reservoir is currently empty, as essential multi-million pound improvement works to the dam take place.

Councillor Val Richards, Deputy Leader of Lichfield District Council, explains: “It is most unusual for a small district council like ours to be responsible for managing such an integral part of the nation’s infrastructure. Managing an asset of this size places a huge burden on the district council and our small number of council tax payers. We are incredibly grateful to the team at Staffordshire County Council for working alongside us, and for agreeing to take over the future ownership and management of the park and dam.”

Under the move Chasewater Country Park will continue to be managed by a team at Lichfield District Council for the next three years and the county council will lead the completion of the essential improvement works to the dam.

Councillor Mark Winnington continued: “We have a broad range of skills within the county council that include complex engineering project management such as the dam improvements.

“Staffordshire County Council and Lichfield District Council are committed to ensuring that the public will continue to be able to enjoy the attractions of Chasewater in coming years, and that through the works to the dam, the safety of all those living nearby will be secured. There will be no additional costs to the tax payer as a result of the transfer, and once the works are complete local people and visitors will be able to enjoy Chasewater Country Park at its very best once again.”

It will be interesting to see how this evolves. This project started out in an open and honestly informative fashion and it is very sad to see how it deteriorated. Meanwhile, it’s a dry summer and Chasewater is still empty. One can only speculate as to the environmental damage being caused to this valuable, well-loved site. A tragedy, and no mistake.

Lizzie did a great job with the blog. I wish her nothing but well, and thank her for her efforts in what must have been impossible circumstances.

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10 Responses to Chasewater: Lichfield District Council wave the white flag

  1. David Quinn says:

    How many times has Chasewater changed hands in recent years Bob? I don’t go there as often as I used to even though I’m only a mile away but it always feels like a lost opportunity regardless of who’s in charge.

  2. Rob says:

    No real surprise that a “Director of Parks and Play” was clueless in regard to civil engineering projects.

    I’m sure he’s highly regarded in the civic centre.

    Kiddies, swings, roundabouts are probably more his thing.

    I wonder how much he costs us, including pension?

    word of warning:

    Don’t build your hopes up with the county council.

    They’re just incompetent on a broader scale.

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  4. martin says:

    A civil engineering project run by a local authority running into problems?
    Who’d have thought?

    But imagine if the park had still been in Mad Mike’s hands?
    it would have houses on it by now…..

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