Plan to double size of Peak District reservoirs would drown 'sensitive and special' countryside

A giant new reservoir could be built in the Peak District drowning treasured countryside and causing disruption for years.
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Severn Trent Water has drawn up £300m plans to double the capacity of Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs due to ‘unprecedented demand’ and water lost to leaks. Two plans have been put forward: a fourth reservoir on the moors above Howden or higher dams downstream of existing structures, which would be submerged as the waters rose.

The existing dams were built between 1901 and 1945, drowning the villages of Ashopton and Derwent.

Severn Trent says it would lead to the loss of footpaths, recreational facilities and habitats, potentially including ancient woodland within 1km of current water levels.

Howden dam could be 'drowned'. Pic by Severn Trent Water.Howden dam could be 'drowned'. Pic by Severn Trent Water.
Howden dam could be 'drowned'. Pic by Severn Trent Water.

It acknowledges a major development and heavy lorries in such a sensitive landscape are likely to meet ‘notable opposition’ - but could override them using powers under the ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning’ system. The firm is aiming for permission by 2027, build from 2030 and finish by 2033.

Tomo Thompson, boss of countryside charity CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire, said they were 'very concerned' by the proposals and water companies should tackle the ‘incredible amount’ of leaks first.

He added: “This is a hugely sensitive area in landscape and environmental terms and steamrolling this plan through under the auspices of a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Plan would be likely to have widespread impacts on the special qualities and biodiversity of the area, on the wider National Park, and on the ramifications for protected landscapes nationally.

“We are disappointed that there has been little reference given to a thorough examination of the feasibility of alternatives. We believe that the first base in securing adequate and sustainable water supplies is tackling the incredible amount of waste and leakage, and a renewed national focus on the better management and use of existing supplies. We remain engaged with STW and are due another meeting with them this month.”

Ladybower reservoir, October 2022. Picture by Chris PickeringLadybower reservoir, October 2022. Picture by Chris Pickering
Ladybower reservoir, October 2022. Picture by Chris Pickering

CPRE is working with local residents and communities, the Peak District National Park Authority, parish councils and the Campaign for National Parks, he added.

The combined full capacity of Ladybower, Derwent and Howden is 464 billion litres. Severn Trent Water loses 151.3 billion litres a year, while Yorkshire Water loses 103.3 billion.

A Severn Trent spokeperson said: “With a further 12 million people expected to be living in the UK by 2050, we are working on ways to manage demand on our water supply network in the long term. We’re already delivering on plans to reduce demand, tackle burst pipes and develop new sources of water, including the possible increase of water storage capacity at the Upper Derwent Valley. We are still at a very early stage in this process and will be continuing to work with all parties involved to shape these plans.”

A report by the firm states: ‘We believe the Upper Derwent Valley Reservoir Expansion Strategic Resource Option represents a robust, reliable, and resilient source to help deliver resilience to the 1-in-500-year extreme drought’.