A COUNCIL is recommending the partial demolition of a listed structure at a Yorkshire reservoir despite admitting that the work will cause “substantial harm” and damage tourism.
Campaigners fighting to preserve the stone-built overflow spillway at Butterley reservoir at Marsden, near Huddersfield, yesterday reacted with shock and disbelief that Kirklees Council’s planning department supports the plans.
Councillors may yet reject the Yorkshire Water planning application at a meeting next Thursday – but campaigners are taking nothing for granted and are preparing to issue a last-minute plea before the committee.
The Victorian Society, the Council for British Archaeology and Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney are pressing for the scheme to be rejected, arguing that the spillway is a unique historic structure.
Yorkshire Water says the spillway needs to be modified to meet safety standards.
The company put forward seven options to the council but has discounted all but one, known as 5B.
This option would involve:
Replacing some masonry on the base of the spillway with reinforced concrete, which will be stepped.
Existing stepped cascades to be replaced and reprofiled in concrete.
Existing spillway walls to be retained upwards of the stepped cascade.
Right-hand wall upwards of the stepped cascade to be raised using masonry and concrete.
In the stepped cascade section, walls to be replaced and raised using masonry and concrete.
Existing stone turrets to be retained where possible.
English Heritage says option 5B is an improvement on a previous scheme, “although in our view it will still result in substantial harm”.
The Victorian Society is urging the rejection of the “damaging scheme” in favour of further investigations into a new spillway on the west side of the embankment.
More than 180 objections have been received by the council, with MP Jason McCartney saying: “Yorkshire Water has not fully explored the options to maintain the existing structure and the options have not been robustly considered.”
A spokesman for Save Butterley Spillway said: “The applicant’s dismissal of some of the options is far from satisfactory and relies on anecdotal evidence and failed to commission a full ground investigation survey.”
A planning officer’s report admits that option 5B will harm the spillway.
“There is no doubt that the preferred option 5B will cause substantial harm to the significance of the Grade II listed spillway.
“The stepped cascades will be lost and the lower portion of the wall will be removed.”
On the subject of tourism, it adds: “The changes to the architectural features of the spillway will make it less attractive as a place to visit.
“The impact on tourism to the area has a knock on effect on the rural economy by the possible reduction in visitor numbers to the area.”
The report says that visitor numbers should not be affected in the long term.
It concludes that the public benefit of the works – a safe water supply – overcomes the harm caused to the spillway and its original features.
Yorkshire Water says the scheme is needed to ensure the spillway can cope with flooding. The company says mitigation measures will protect as much of the structure as possible.
Yesterday members of the Save Butterley Spillway group said they would not be giving up their fight to preserve the structure.
A spokeswoman said she found it “unbelievable” that council officers were recommending approval for the application.
Key members of the protest group were due to meet last night to discuss their next move.