Unwanted reservoir offers Lakeland idyll

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A water-tight bargain that will put paid to worries about droughts, hosepipe bans and bathing restrictions, has come on the market.

A 225-million gallon reservoir in the Lake District is seeking a new proprietor. The current owner of the Kentmere reservoir in Cumbria is offering to hand over the reservoir for free to new owners because it no longer needs the water supply for its papermaking business.

In return for picking up the pounds 100,000 repair bill and annual maintenance costs of between pounds 2,500 and pounds 3,000 the new owner could enjoy the contents of the reservoir, namely water.

Due to modern recycling technology, James Cropper, of Burneside, Cumbria, does not need so much water and no longer has any manufacturing requirement for the reservoir it has owned for the last 150 years. The reservoir has been allowed to drain and has only recently filled up slightly following a few weeks' rainfall.

The company's chairman, James Cropper, fears that unless someone is forthcoming the reservoir will have to be breached. "I would be delighted to hand over the reservoir for free to anyone who wants it," he said.

"Obviously they would have to maintain it and get it inspected by an engineer once every six months at a cost of pounds 700 to pounds 800 as well as every 10 years, in accordance with the 1975 Reservoirs Act."

North West Water and the National Rivers Authority (NRA) have both declined invitations to resurrect the reservoir following its drainage for inspection last March.

Lancashire Education Authority, which rents the reservoir keeper's cottage as an outdoor centre for pupils, was offered the reservoir as a gift, but turned it down.

Apparently, Mr Cropper cannot even give away the blighted beauty spot.

A spokeswoman for the NRA said: "We investigated whether the Kentmere reservoir would be of use to pollution control, flooding, fisheries, water resources or recreation. We concluded that the cost of actually maintaining the reservoir would outweigh any benefits that we could get financially. When someone owns a reservoir the responsibility for maintenance lies with them. We simply can't do it. We have to work to taxpayers' demands."

Dismayed at the news, Mr Cropper said: "The NRA hasn't confirmed this to me in writing but it sounds to me like it would welcome the reservoir being breached. Any empty reservoir is not a pretty sight."

Until recently locals and visitors walked around the lonely shores, enjoying the reflection of the horseshoe of fells in the sparkling water.

The route was particularly popular with people who did not dare go on the high fells. Now they are greeted by a scene of desolation, a blot on the beautiful landscape of the Lake District.

Ian Brodie, secretary of Friends of the Lake District, said: "Mr Cropper's company is obviously a successful one. It would be nice to see it maintaining important landscape features on the land that it owns. This reservoir is part of the industrial archaeology of the area and if it is left empty obviously it will drastically alter the landscape."