Toddbrook Reservoir: Structural integrity disclosure 'would risk national security'

The damaged spillway of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam in Whaley Bridge. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.
The damaged spillway of the Toddbrook Reservoir dam in Whaley Bridge. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

The trust that manages the reservoir dam in Whaley Bridge that sparked a major evacuation when it suffered a partial collapse has cited national security concerns in its refusal to disclose its risk assessments and emergency plans.

More than 1,500 people were ordered to evacuate the High Peak town in heavy rain last month over fears the Toddbrook dam could collapse and threaten the lives of residents.

An RAF Chinook helicopter flies in sandbags to help repair the dam at Toddbrook reservoir. Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP.

An RAF Chinook helicopter flies in sandbags to help repair the dam at Toddbrook reservoir. Photo by OLI SCARFF / AFP.

The incident brought a national emergency response and led to Downing Street holding a Cobra meeting, while the Environment Agency ordered safety checks at 2,000 reservoirs across the country.

READ MORE: Independent review to be carried out after Toddbrook Reservoir incident

The Advertiser's sister title, i, asked the Canal and River Trust, which manages the dam for a copy of its correspondence about flood risk, structural integrity, safety, maintenance or effects of the weather on the reservoir, as well as a copy of any risk assessments and emergency procedures and reports on the potential effects of a breach.

But the trust, replying to the request for information under the Environmental Information Regulations, said providing the information “would adversely affect national security and public safety”.

It said: “If the trust were to release copies of this information, it would be releasing key details concerning the infrastructure and potential vulnerabilities of the Toddbrook Reservoir. This would prejudice the protection and safety of the public through potential damage or disruption to the national infrastructure by acts of sabotage.”

It said a request for any reports on the structural integrity of the dam and any need for repairs was too broad.

Residents in Whaley Bridge were allowed home after nearly a week when it was deemed the dam was no longer at risk of collapse. Police had warned the danger could have “destroyed homes and livelihoods”.

Earlier this month, the Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said a review would be commissioned to examine what caused the damage to the dam spillway and whether it could have been prevented.

She said additional inspections had been carried out on eight reservoirs with concrete spillways similar to Toddbrook but at that stage there were no safety concerns. An interim report is expected to be completed before the end of this year.

READ MORE: Toddbrook Dam crisis cost Derbyshire County Council £700,000

A spokesman for the Canal and River Trust said that, given the “sensitive nature” of the inspection documents, it was following the Environment Agency’s policy on disclosure in refusing to release them.

He said: “For security and safety reasons, they don’t release information that could expose a vulnerability with a reservoir. That is true of Toddbrook Reservoir, as it is of any other reservoir in England.”

This article originally appeared on our sister site inews.co.uk.