Dam freeloaders?

We all love Chasewater – but it seems there may be trouble ahead. Archive image from 365days.

It seems all is not rosy between Staffordshire County Council, owners of Chasewater, and the Canal and River Trust, the people who actually use the water it supplies to top up the canal network in Birmingham and the Black Country.

I saw this press release via the Inland Waterway Asssociation newsletter and a couple of tip-offs before Christmas, but further enquiry has left me none the wiser.

My personal feeling is that Staffordshire County Council are probably sick to the back teeth of being the sole agency to pick up the bill for dam inspections, maintenance and repair of an infrastructure asset critical to a very large national body that doesn’t pay ta thing towards it, yet is apparently dependent.

This will be worth watching. You can see the original article here, but it’s included in full below.

Comments welcome, either here or by email: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.

Chasewater Dam is a surprisingly large structure, and it’s safety and maintenance are critical for keeping communities dow the Crane Brook Valley dry! Image Kindly supplied by Pete Hummings.

No Water for Birmingham Canal Navigations from Chasewater Reservoir
13 December 2017

The Association has raised concerns with Canal & River Trust after being advised that water from Chasewater Reservoir, which is a major water supply to the BCN, was terminated by the owners, Staffordshire County Council, earlier in the year and that no water has been available to Canal & River Trust’s canal network from the reservoir since the Spring.  

On a regular inspection by the Council’s Reservoir Engineer the valve which controls the water feed into the Anglesey Branch was declared unsafe to use in April 2017, cutting off the main water supply to the BCN.  For historical reasons, the reservoir is owned by Staffordshire County Council and managed as part of the Chasewater Country Park, although Canal & River Trust has rights to the water.

On further enquiry, it has come to light that the valve that should be used to control the water has been inoperable for a number of years. The valve that is now closed is intended to be used only for the emergency drawdown of the water from Chasewater.  Staffordshire County Council is in continued discussion with Canal & River Trust to develop a temporary alternative form of water extraction from Chasewater into the canal network that provides both a solution for the canal system but also allows the reservoir to operate at a level that does not impinge on the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).  Meanwhile, Canal & River Trust has virtually emptied Rotten Park reservoir, which was already low after a dry winter, as well as increasing pumping from the Bradley borehole and using back pumping at Titford, in order to maintain water levels.  

Chasewater Reservoir was created as a canal feeder reservoir in 1797 to directly supply the Wyrley & Essington Canal, and later to maintain levels in the 160-mile Birmingham Canal Navigations network. When the Ogley Locks section of the Wyrley & Essington Canal was closed in 1954 there was a reduced demand for water from Chasewater, and in 1956 it was purchased by Brownhills Urban District Council from the British Transport Commission.  In 1994 Lichfield District Council became responsible for management of Chasewater and the site became a country park in 1998. The reservoir diversified and is a popular public amenity with activities such as water-skiing, sailing, wakeboarding and cycling. Chasewater is the third largest reservoir by volume in the county of Staffordshire and the largest canal feeder reservoir in the West Midlands.

In 2010 major works were carried out to the reservoir and in May 2011 ownership of the reservoir passed to Staffordshire County Council.  The £5.5 million repairs were completed in April 2012.

Canal & River Trust has informed IWA that work is ongoing with Staffordshire County Council and Natural England to resolve the current issues.

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6 Responses to Dam freeloaders?

  1. f.b. lycett says:

    Yet another Canal & River Trust/ British Waterways and government cock up, rip off, call it what you like, recent attitude is to sell off for short sited, short term gain, anything that is or is not screwed down, ie all the staff with knowledge, lock keepers, lengthsmen, in house plant and equipment, land allowing access for maintenance etc.,, jobs invented that never existed, like butterfly surveyors, vole watchers, human relations bods. etc..

    All work put out to outside contractors and volunteers (who, with respect do a good job), but in doing so in a misguided way, help subsidise the top heavy management structure and expensive offices, I am not sure the CRT involvement in property speculation whist selling off their own, would not stand scrutiny, there I have had a rant!, in short why did a canal organisation, dependent on the water supply (which is why it was constructed in the first place) hand it over to Staffs. CC., no one at Staffs CC thought it might need a few quids worth of upkeep in the future ? somewhere in there the NCB probably had a hand too mmm ??

  2. Carol King says:

    Perfect solution………. install a water meter………… charge ’em for the water they take and use the proceeds for the upkeep. Other suppliers could do the same.

  3. andkindred says:

    CRT has never had any ownership or role in management of Chasewater. The dislocation between canal and reservoir is down to sale by government to Brownhills UDC back in the 1960s.

    It seems to me that Chasewater has three main functions that, to some degree, are mutually antagonistic, but which can, and have, been managed with an acceptable degree of compromise and harmony. It should not be so difficult to return to that position.

    But first, how did the extensive and expensive repair program fail to address the valve issue? This seems to be quite an oversight! (To put it politely.)

    The three main functions are (IMHO):
    – recreation;
    – nature conservation; and
    – water supply to canals.

    It makes sense for one authority to manage the site overall. The County Council males most sense, unless some new bespoke body is to be set up. Also, they receive local taxation, grants and fees, which should help with site management. There is also a role for English Nature, including the natural history value of the canals themselves, and for English Heritage.

    It seems obvious that the reservoir, and its catchment, is vital to the canal network in the West Midlands. As such, it is surely the case that some responsibility, both technical and financial, must be taken by CRT (but they must be allowed a role that they have not had previously). CRT does rely on charitable donations and membership fees, but also receives income from boaters’ licences and some mooring fees. The government grant is shrinking year on year, planned until 2022.

    I don’t say this will be easy, but it is surely feasible.

    Your friend Ishmael.

  4. aerreg says:

    there is an old saying to many cooks spoil the broth thats whats happend at poor old norton pool brownhills council found out from the begining land yes water no they got a pig in poke they tried a fair ground family came off the road to establish pleasure nice folk who had to leave with no where to go then various other people had their idears and plans walsall council lichfield and staffordshire all got involved in brownhills bog i think the only answere is one cook one pool one county staffordshire after all its bounderies touchess them all its a local treasure for all may its water always give pleasure

  5. Pete Dicks says:

    Lichfield Council are an utter disgrace. They allowed – or worse still supported – the M6 Toll Motorway to be moved CLOSER to the houses on the White Horse estate. They allowed work to take place outside of agreed work times, which led to the Motorway being opened earlier than thought. They failed to force the owners to place noise reducing panels, leading to unacceptable noise pollution

  6. andkindred says:

    Surely, a local authority has no powers over motorway construction? As a consultee they could object or make suggestions, but the decisions would be made by Government?

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