Yorkshire Water under fire over care of Victorian heritage

YORKSHIRE Water has come under fire at a public inquiry over its care for Victorian-era features at its reservoirs.

The Butterley Spillway at Marsden. Picture: Simon Hulme
The Butterley Spillway at Marsden. Picture: Simon Hulme

Former Yorkshire Water employee John Garside was critical of his former bosses at the start of an eight-day planning inquiry to decide the future of the Butterley Spillway, a Grade II listed overflow at Marsden, near Huddersfield.

The company’s plans to use concrete to upgrade flooding safety at the spillway were rejected by Kirklees Council, which is now defending its decision after YW appealed.

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Mr Garside told planning inspector Jennifer Vyse that he had worked for 28 years on reservoirs in a “practical, hands-on” civil engineering capacity.

He claimed that standards in reservoir maintenance had dropped over the years as staff numbers had been cut.

Mr Garside said he did not believe that Yorkshire Water was committed to the upkeep of heritage features from the Edwardian and Victorian eras.

“This (Butterley) is a lovely spillway, in stone. For it to be torn out and replaced in concrete is a shame.”

He branded the YW plan for Butterley as “cheap and tacky” which was the result of an alleged lack of capital investment.

The former YW employee, who lives in Huddersfield, likened Butterley Spillway to York Minster.

“What you are doing with Butterley Spillway is pulling down York Minster and putting it back up in concrete. You are leaving nothing for future generations.”

He said many old stone spillways had been replaced with concrete but Butterley was worthy of preservation.

David Manley, QC for Yorkshire Water, said the spillway was not fit for purpose and the potential failure of the dam would lead to “loads of dead people” on the streets of Marsden.

He suggested to Mr Garside that the potential consequences for Marsden were “catastrophic”.

Alan Evans, for Kirklees Council, told the hearing that the company had not demonstrated that there are other reasonable means of providing spillway provision at Butterley reservoir.

Diane Ellis, of the Save Butterley Spillway campaign group, described the spillway as “unique” which had been designed to impress anyone who saw it.

“It is the finest, most impressive of its kind in the country. It was made by internationally acclaimed engineers.”

She described the “boastful” design had to be seen in the context of Huddersfield’s extreme wealth at the time it was created.

“It was built to demonstrate civic pride; civic pride that still exists today.”

Mrs Ellis said the spillway had the potential to benefit tourism and regeneration, adding: “These benefits have yet to be fully exploited.”

Planning inspector Jennifer Vyse said she would be weighing up the extent and nature of the harm to the spillway by the plans and the effect on the character and appearance on the landscape and scenic beauty of the Peak District National Park.

She will also consider whether the harm to the spillway - which all sides accept will occur - will be outweighed by the public benefits of the proposed works.

A Yorkshire Water spokesperson said: “We take the investment in our assets extremely seriously - which is why we’ve committed £1.3 billion to these efforts over the next five years alone.

“We have an inspection regime in place for Butterley along with regular maintenance work. Yorkshire Water will continue to support the inquiry into our appeal.”