Environment: Reservoir dogged by controversy as rebuilding threatens Peak landscape

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The Independent Online
Plans to reinforce the Ladybower Dam, the largest earth dam in Britain, are causing consternation in the Peak District. Stephen Goodwin, Heritage Correspondent, reports.

Severn Trent Water are anxious to make a start reinforcing the massive earth embankment of the Ladybower Dam, holding back 6,300 million gallons of water in the Derwent Valley west of Sheffield.

The dam is due for a statutory inspection in April when the water company would expect to be told that in the interests of safety remedial work has to be carried out.

The dry summer of 1995 accelerated problems and Severn Trent decided not to wait until ordered to do the work and has submitted proposals to the National Park authority for work this year. The dam height will be raised by 3 metres and a 10m thick layer of crushed rock added to the vast embankment.

However there is concern about where the 400,000 tons of gritstone needed for the pounds 4m job will be quarried and about disruption for the hamlet of Yorkshire Bridge where the works compound would be.

Severn Trent want to create a new quarry on the flank of Win Hill - a prominent part of the panoramic view across the 500-acre reservoir from the A57 Snake Pass road. The quarry is on company land, but would be a major scar in the National Park where there is a policy against new excavations.

"Win Hill or Win Hole?" ask the conservationists and some Yorkshire Bridge residents who are opposing the scheme. "A feature of great natural beauty would be destroyed forever ," said Anne Robinson, a local campaigner.

If the dam has to be strengthened, Ms Robinson would prefer the rock to be quarried from the shoreline of the reservoir or for it to be brought in by rail. This would require rebuilding an old track now used as a footpath but could, in the long term, alleviate some of the park's traffic problems.

There is also unease about Severn Trent's haste. The park authority is due to consider the planning applications next month, but conservationists want any decision deferred until after the statutory inspection.