Jason McCartney (Colne Valley, Conservative)
Butterley reservoir spillway is located in the beautiful Yorkshire Pennine village of Marsden in my Colne Valley constituency. This stunning, stepped, stone spillway—not easy to say—was built by the Victorians between 1891 and 1906, and is a unique example of their engineering skill and endeavour. Overflow water from the reservoir flows down the stepped cascade, creating a wonderful visual image.
Yorkshire Water is poised to submit plans to rip out that stone-built, grade II-listed reservoir spillway and replace it with a concrete version. I have joined a rapidly growing group of local residents and heritage campaigners, backed by the cross-party support of local councillors, to form the Save Butterley Spillway campaign group, which has urged Yorkshire Water to repair and maintain the existing grade II-listed Victorian spillway, keeping it operational for regular water flows and to consider other options for containing unpredictable volumes of floodwater.
The Save Butterley Spillway group is not convinced that all options have been fully explored to preserve the unique heritage of this nationally significant Victorian structure. Indeed, Diane Ellis, one of the key members of the group, said:
“The village is popular with tourists, particularly walkers and cyclists, and visitors marvel at and admire Butterley spillway. The spillway looks like a grand staircase you might find at Chatsworth House or similar. As locals, we are very proud of it and we will do everything we can to save it”.
Yorkshire Water says that improvements to Butterley spillway are legally required to ensure that it is operationally fit for purpose and meets the very highest safety standards under the Reservoirs Act 1975. Yorkshire Water has reviewed and scrutinised its plans. The review involved members of Yorkshire Water, its contractors—Mott MacDonald Bentley—an independent panel engineer, local planners, and English Heritage. They looked again at solutions and said that they took into account criteria including reservoir safety legislation, health and safety legislation, heritage concerns and community feeling.
The outcome of the review, which was guided predominantly by the independent panel engineer, led to the same option that Yorkshire Water had originally proposed—to replace the existing listed spillway with a concrete structure. Yorkshire Water plans to use mouldings in an attempt to recreate the 100-year-old-plus stone look, but as one Marsden resident said, “Why would you be happy with a fake themed Irish Pub when you’ve just had the original thing destroyed?” To be fair, Yorkshire Water has consulted the local community and stakeholders, and it held a live webchat about this very subject this lunchtime. Later this month, Yorkshire Water intends to make an application for planning permission to Kirklees council, which will refer the matter to English Heritage, as it relates to a listed building.
The Save Butterley Spillway campaign group has three requests. First, we want full transparency of all documentation, including access to an unedited version of the panel engineer’s report. Yorkshire Water says that this is not possible, citing “The Control of Sensitive Water Company Information—Advice Note 11”, which apparently prevents it from making public certain information relating to details of strategic locations for reasons of public security. Will Ministers provide clarification on that?
Secondly, will the spillway remain listed? The position of English Heritage is that the existing proposal would involve the demolition of a listed building, and constitutes “substantial harm”, which must be fully justified, as set out in the national planning policy framework. Thirdly, how do the Government intend to protect Butterley spillway from a water company that has the freedom, under its general permitted development rights, to undertake inappropriate development?
The construction of Butterley reservoir and the spillway was authorised by the Huddersfield Corporation Waterworks Act of 1890. The first sod was cut on
“rock-faced coursed stone with ashlar dressings. Overflow with stone weirs and stepped stone cascades. Sidewalls are of rock-faced stone with squared ashlar piers with moulded pyramidal copings. Copings to walls are stepped.”
We urge Yorkshire Water to look again at its plans and find a way to save Butterley spillway as an operational and iconic listed Victorian structure.