I was aware last week of the publicity binge Staffordshire and Lichfield Councils were undertaking on the subject of Chasewater, and at the time, found the forced PR to be a little like the reservoir itself; shallow and lacking in depth. The 100 tonnes of concrete figure was openly misleading, and the idea that the lake will be anything like full by the spring of 2013 is straight from fantasy island.
I was going to write about the lamentable public relations puff and the real situation on the ground this week, but Graham has so neatly encapsulated what I wanted to say that there’s no point, so I reproduce his disassembly of the reportage here, and hope that he doesn’t mind.
The whole affair has been a shambles from the moment Lichfield District Council thought it was prudent to set a very histrionic Michael Fabricant MP loose on the case, succeeding only in terrifying the locals. All through the stalling, lies and prevarication, the park and it’s ecology, hydroecology and economy have suffered. What started as a promising social media relations exercise finished with the Dam Blog ignoring reader’s comments and questions.
Things only improved when Staffordshire County Council took over – but costs have spiralled and the project is now a year late. It really is time that the people behind this fiasco were held to account.
Graham Evans had this to say on the Chasewater Wildlife Group’s News Page:
On February 15th the latest posting was made on the Chasewater Dam blog and it coincided with an article on BBC’s Midlands Today. It appears to be in the form of a press release and repeats what has been said before. Unfortunately it is written in the style of a tabloid paper and contains what can only be regarded as deliberately misleading nonsense which I’ll try to translate a sentence or two at a time.
A Hard Task!
More than 100 tonnes of concrete is to be poured into Chasewater Reservoir to help support the 200-year-old dam. The concrete will help control the flow of water when the reservoir is full. Repairs to the reservoir’s drawdown culvert (or plughole), have also been carried out.
Translation: Over 100 tonnes of concrete (about 40 cubic metres) will be used in the casting of the weir and the completion of other works in the Nine-foot area at the south end of the dam. The apparently rather over engineered structure will only be put to use when the lake is full, on average once every 2-3 years, but health and safety regulations demand that the dam and weir have to be able to withstand a one in 10 000 year flooding event.
County councillor Mark Winnington said: “This is the last major milestone in what has been a hugely successful and high profile project to restore one of the most popular country parks in the Midlands to its former glory.
Translation: We are now approaching another milestone in the works which have taken over a year longer than originally planned and have cost over £6 million, which is around double the estimate made two years ago. The final milestone will only be reached when the long suffering Sailing Club, Outdoor Education Centre and Water-ski Club are able to fully function and the quality of the rare SSSI environment is restored to, at least, its former state, and this may take several years.
“The county council has carried out vital safety improvements to the overflow to safeguard nearby residents in the event of severe flooding, which will enable us to monitor the condition of the dam much more closely in the future”.
“The drawdown culvert – the equivalent of the plughole in a bath – was located and inspected for the first time in over 200 years. Vital improvements have now been made and the project is expected to be complete in the spring.”
Translation: Galliford Try is hoping to be off site by mid-March.
Water levels have begun to rise again after the plug was replaced last October. It is expected to be refilled fully by spring 2013.
Translation: The exceptionally dry 11 months since last March, when the last water was run off into the canal, has meant that the filling of the lake has been very slow and unless we have the wettest year on record, there’s not a remote chance of the lake being full, or even half-full, by next spring. The currently small surface area has only risen by about 90cm since last March and there’s another 7m to go before the lake is full.
Jeffrey’s Swag has refilled and is now overflowing into the main lake bed and helping to dilute the poor quality water flowing down from the Chasetown Industrial Estate, which is frequently polluted by an unadopted drain. Members of the public are urged to call the Environment Agency’s 24 hour Freephone Incident Line on 0800 80 70 60 whenever they sense pollution in this, or any other, stream flowing into Chasewater.
Well, at least this is what I feel should have been said but of course we all see things from different perspectives and I look forward to shifting into the parallel universe inhabited by the writers of the blog so I can fully experience the results of this ‘hugely successful’ project next spring.