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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
John Scheerhout

More than two years after Whaley Bridge's near-disaster, £15m work finally starts on its ailing dam

Work on a £15m permanent repair to Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge has finally begun. More than 1,500 people were evacuated from the Derbyshire town in August 2019 when torrential rain led to fears the dam wall could come crashing down, causing major flooding.

Following a temporary repair that involved Chinook helicopters dropping sandbags onto the breached spillway, the long-awaited permanent repair has started and will last an estimated two years. It was able to start after High Peak Borough Council granted planning permission for the works to Canal & River Trust, which is responsible for the reservoir and 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales.

A new overflow structure will be constructed to the north of the dam which involves building a side channel weir, a ‘tumble bay’, a spillway channel and stilling basin which will link into the existing bypass channel flowing into the River Goyt in the town’s Memorial Park at the foot of the dam.

READ MORE: Disaster tourism and a can-do spirit: How Whaley Bridge brushed off a near catastrophe

The concrete panels from the 1970s-built overflow spillway, damaged in the 2019 flooding, will be removed. The dam will then be repaired and grassed over. To make way for the new spillway works, the sailing club will be relocated behind the new tumble bay.

The current clubhouse will be taken down and replaced by a new sailing club slipway, clubhouse, boat storage and car park. Another building close to the works, the former Victorian reservoir-keeper’s house, Toddbrook Lodge, has been acquired by the Canal & River Trust and will initially be used as the site office for the works and will then be preserved.

Over the next few months, the trust and its contractor Kier will set up a temporary site compound at the northern end of the Memorial Park, by the playground next to the dam. Preparation work will include installing new fencing and hoardings, essential tree felling, creating new access routes to the compound and tumble bay area, diverting drainage and feeder channels, and essential site clearance.

Toddbrook Reservoir near the village of Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire after it was damaged in heavy rainfall (Danny Lawson/PA Wire)

A footpath will be retained across the park, connecting Reservoir Road along the river to the Memorial Park Bridge and will feature a viewing point for the construction work.

New play equipment is being installed as a temporary measure at the top of the dam, next to Whaley Bridge Athletic Football Club. At the end of the project in 2024, a new playground, similar to the existing one, will be built at the same location in the Memorial Park.

The new park will also be landscaped with replacement trees, wildlife habitats, extra paths and a new footbridge over the bypass channel. The project will achieve a 'net biodiversity gain' of more than ten per cent, according to the trust.

Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge in July 2020 (Canal & River Trust)

Daniel Greenhalgh, Canal & River Trust North West director, said: “We are pleased to be moving forwards with the complex permanent repair project. We are very grateful to everyone for their continued patience and support, as we appreciate that the works will inevitably cause some disruption for Whaley Bridge residents, particularly those living nearby.

"Following two public consultations and discussions with local residents, we have adapted our plans and designs to respond to feedback and to cause the least inconvenience. We will do our very best to mitigate noise and disruption as far as we can.

"Our contractor Kier will provide a dedicated traffic liaison officer who will be onsite throughout the works to help with any issues. Construction access will be along Reservoir Road and we very much appreciate the cooperation of those residents in particular as we make preparations for the main works.

An artist impression of how Memorial Park will look at Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge (Canal & River Trust)

"Restoring Toddbrook is vital to ensure the long term viability of the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals. We look forward to completing this challenging engineering project so we can again rely on its essential water supply and for the beautiful reservoir to be re-instated for the benefit of the local community. The reservoir will be restored to the most stringent 21 st century engineering standards - keeping everyone safe is our top priority."

The main construction phase around the dam is likely to start in the autumn and take around two years to complete, with the aim of re-opening the reservoir in 2024. This will be followed by works to the inlet cascade, at the far end of the reservoir, to increase resilience to high flows from Todd Brook stream. High volume pumps will remain in the reservoir to manage water levels until the end of the restoration project.

The trust has more information here.

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