Monday, 25 July 2011

Public Inquiry Update

Llanishen Reservoir Public Inquiry

This re-opened Llanishen Reservoir Public Inquiry has been hearing evidence on issues which were not considered at the start of this inquiry which was in the Spring of 2008. The dust has now settled on the first two weeks with the process now having been adjourned until Monday the 15th August at 2:0 pm in Committee Room 3 County Hall. The Reservoir Action Group is grateful to all those who attended the hearing and confirm there was a presence in the public seats by RAG members, and others, at all times.

Listed Building considerations
A critical issue now is the fact that the entire reservoir embankment structure was declared one of Wales’s largest listed historic buildings, mainly for its pivotal role in the 19th Century gravitational water supply system for Cardiff. Designed in 1881 by Cardiff Corporation Water Engineer John A.B. Williams Llanishen Reservoir was the culmination of the water system which collected water falling in the Taff Fawr Valley and piped it the 32 miles to Cardiff. The three upper dams, Beacons, Cantref and Llwyn Onn are also listed buildings.

RAG’s listed building expert Neil Burton and barrister Anthony Dinkin QC argued that to allow Western Power’s development would destroy the special character of the listed building and its setting, which was described by the Welsh Government as a reservoir structure on the Taff Fawr system which “has survived virtually intact”. WPD, predictably, produced their own experts who said that to build 324 dwellings with all the roads and other infrastructure in the ‘drained down’ basin would actually enhance and improve the special interest of the protected structure. The Inspector, Mr Richard Poppleton will have to, once again, balance the differing views and make his recommendation.
Protection of the Nant Fawr Corridor public open space
Again, the argument on the need, under Council Planning Policy, to preserve the unique open character of the Nant Fawr Corridor was hotly argued but since the Nant Fawr public open space now forms part of the setting of an important listed building the arguments for its protection are even stronger.
New plans to bring all the traffic onto Lisvane Road or is it Cyncoed Roundabout again?

The current proposed access for 100% of the 500 plus cars generated by their scheme is at the narrowest part of Lisvane Road at the sailing club’s lane. However even though they are promoting this single alternative access WPD’s barrister John Steel QC confirmed that ALL other access options remain open, in other words if the Lisvane Road entrance is found unacceptable, they will seek to return to one of the other options such as the road across the meadows onto Cyncoed Road roundabout, even though they made much play in having dropped this option to avoid damaging the tranquillity of this strategic open space.

Restoring the Council owned Sailing tuition club at Llanishen Reservoir

One of WPD’s main arguments for destroying and developing the reservoir is that they confidently claim that the Council will never resolve to set up sailing once again because they have no money and resources to do so.

It would take up to 4/5 years for the water levels to rise to three metres below top water so that sailing could once again start. No council in the land or even central Government would commit itself to expenditure some five years hence! The Council has a legally binding lease from WPD for sailing and canoeing on the reservoir once water levels permit, they have current planning permissions for the replacement of the club premises, and they have formerly confirmed to WPD that they are reserving all their legal options in respect of the lease and resumption of sailing at some future date.

The Council and the inquiry have already received promises of financial and other help ‘in kind’ to assist the Council in paying for replacement sailing club accommodation at Llanishen.
There IS a future for clean water sailing tuition and canoeing at Llanishen; we just need more public support to partner the Council to ensure it becomes a reality as soon as it is practical.
Dam engineer confirms that reservoir structure is safe

Dr Andrew Hughes, who produced the 2008 Reservoirs Act report which lead to the draining of the reservoir for survey purposes, gave evidence again and produced another technical report. Firstly he confirmed that all the recent inspections of the reservoir, including two by him, declared the reservoir to be in good condition and safe to hold water up to top water level; it has rarely been it this level in recent years anyway. He also said, in evidence, that it would be unlikely to need any remedial works, other than normal maintenance, for 50-60 years, and that even if left empty or nearly empty for a number of years,the reservoir would not suffer damage to its clay core, and could be safely refilled. This is good news, coming from an eminent dam engineer, as some people had feared that if left empty for a while it would not be able to be safely refilled.

Dr Hughes also said, in evidence, that to monitor the slow refilling by natural rainwater alone would cost £280.000, over eight years. We say, firstly, that this may be grossly excessive and we will bring evidence to challenge their figures, and secondly it does not need to be actually full for sailing to be possible again. Filling it to three metres below full may take as little as four years.

Legislation governing listed buildings says that the best use for a listed structure is the use for which it was constructed, and in this case it is for the structure to hold water, therefore, there is a future. The dam is in good structural condition and is safe to refill, the Council hold a sailing lease and they have planning permission for replacement sailing club accommodation. In addition there are already offers of help from the public and local businesses to make this happen as soon as water levels allow. The Council has confirmed that it has a budget in place to provide for replacement buildings at the sailing centre once water levels permit.

Political support for a public appeal for practical help in restoring sailing tuition at Llanishen Reservoir
Local politicians, from all parties, Julie Morgan AM, Jenny Rathbone AM, Jonathan Evans MP, Jenny Willott MP and Baroness Randerson who, until recently, was the AM for Cardiff Central, have this week pledged their support for the setting up of “The Friends of Llanishen Reservoir Sailing Centre".
Before sailing restarts at Llanishen there will still be a need for improved launching facilities, repairs to the floating pontoon, health and safety measures and improved facilities for non ambulant pupils. Temporary club accommodation in the form of replacement cabins and boat storage facilities will also be needed.

This initiative is seeking pledges of support from residents, and businesses of Cardiff, and beyond, who have had past contacts with the sailing school or indeed would like their children to learn to sail, or surf or canoe in these safe waters, and wish to see it continue into the future. Offers in kind, such as building contracting services, supply of concrete or timber, donations of Portakabins or similar whether new or pre-used, and financial support would all be welcomed and would be passed on to the Council who may find such offers of community help useful in supplementing their current funding arrangements.
The initial contact for offers of help is:
Baroness Randerson 2 Nant Fawr Crescent, Cyncoed, Cardiff CF23 6JN