Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of days, you’ve probably noticed a host of stories about the ‘plug being put back in at Chasewater’ and a lot of self-congratulatory claptrap from the dam team, largely propagated by Lichfield District Council. Stories have appeared in the Express & Star, Lichfield Live and even the BBC. Lizzie Thatcher has been on hand today, moderating approving comments over on the official Chasewater Dam Blog, seeing reader contributions approved in less than 20 days since posting, a veritable record. S’all good news, isn’t it? Even the publicity team from Staffordshire County Council contacted me, inviting to attend a press event this morning.
Hope you are well. As an ex Brownhills girl myself who checks out your blog from time to time, I thought you’d be interested in the below. It’s a chance for you to come along and see the sort of work going on at Chasewater from the county council, and speak to those involved with a possibility of featuring it on your blog. You’ll also have the chance to take pictures (don’t worry about the shoes, I’m sure they’ll have your size).
The sender clearly doesn’t read the blog as much as they claim, otherwise they’d realise I’d been visiting the works and taking pictures for quite some time already, and much as I’d love to come on their media enlightenment event, I had work to do. Staffordshire County Council are actually heroes here, but I’m a bit depressed by the publicity binge. How many people, having heard all this good news, will be imagining that the park is now ready and well on the way to recovery? The reality is somewhat different.
- The dam works are not finished. The major strengthening is, but there’s still a huge amount to do on the Nine-Foot, spillway and other areas.
- The Dam road – the main route from north to south for cyclists and pedestrians – is still closed, and likely to be so until well after Christmas.
- Access is still impossible from the canal basin to the park, and will be for a while yet
- The ‘plug’ – i.e. the outlet culvert – has been pretty much ‘in’ (closed) since spring, the lake is still empty due to lack of rain.
- Chasewater is very unlikely to be anything like full by 2013 unless we have a very bad 2012 weather-wise.
- The clubs and businesses – including those in the craft centre – are suffering terribly with little support or information.
Whilst I welcome the rocket put under the job by Staffordshire who took over the project from Lichfield, I still worry for the future of Chasewater and it’s ecology. The delays, prevarication and indecision in the first twelve months of the project were hugely damaging and sadly, nobody at LDC seems to be being held to account for what was a PR and management disaster. From the very beginning with the Michael Fabricant propagated ‘We’re all going to drown…’ hysteria to the risible ‘It’ll all be sorted by Christmas, now shut up…’ promises of 2010, Lichfield dithered and utterly failed to do anything except talk and try to manage the public perception. Sadly, this latest burst of publicity is straight out of the same textbook. I thought Staffordshire County Council were better than this.
Good progress has been made in the last week and all but the work around the Nine-foot area appears to be close to completion. The lake now appears to have a proper plughole but the ‘plug’ has effectively been ‘in’ for the last 6 months, since, I think, the last time any water was released into the canal was in March. We must now hope that the extremely dry year has saved up all the rain for the winter period and good progress can be made towards refilling the lake. The water level is currently at 144m AOD and when full it is at 152m. In recent years, when levels have been 150-152m, the average October-March rise in water-level has been 130cm. The present area of water covers only 25% of the total lake bed so only around 30% of water required for the final metre will be needed to raise the level to 145m, but of course the Swag will need to fill before any of the ‘Norton water’ helps to refill the main lake. Given a reasonably wet winter we could hope for a 4m rise to 148m by April, which is the level it was at during the 1976 drought. However, if rainfall over the last 12 months is replicated its going to be an achievement to reach 146m by the spring. I wonder what the odds are for when it will next overflow the new weir?
Against my better nature as a cyclist, I’ll be doing a rain dance for Chasewater this winter. I love this place, and want it returned to it’s former glory. Whilst I applaud the progress made, creating what are essentially false milestones to hang publicity on is silly and patronising. Such guff fools nobody who really cares about the park and it’s future.
Just cut the crap, and get on with it. It’s been long enough.