A popular beauty spot, the Blue Lagoon may be partly filled – but at what cost for a small village?
It is both beautiful and dangerous.
Wildlife thrives there, but lives have been lost in its freezing depths.
The Blue Lagoon at Belmont, just north of Bolton, sits alongside spectacular moorland.
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It is well known to walkers and is a short distance from the popular Black Dog Pub on Church Street.
Also known as Ward’s Reservoir, work on its construction began in the early 1800s.
It was a source of hydraulic power for the Belmont bleaching and dyeing plants.
But its 200-year-old dam wall is no longer strong enough to withstand the force of a hut full of 150,000 cubic meters of water.
There is potentially a risk of violation.
The solution envisaged by its owners, however, is controversial.
Blue Lagoon Heritage Ltd, based in Bromsgrove, first took possession of the reservoir under a deal valued at Â£ 50,000 in September 2010. The company also owns surrounding land.
In order to keep the reservoir safe, they performed essential work including pumping concrete into the slipway to strengthen it to avoid a mini version of the Whaley Bridge reservoir emergency.
More than 1,500 people were evacuated from the city of Derbyshire in August 2019 when torrential rains raised fears the Toddbrook Reservoir dam wall would collapse, causing major flooding. The repairs will cost around Â£ 16million.
Another safety measure at the Blue Lagoon is that water levels are managed to keep them low with valves set to the maximum drain position. The levels were low this weekend.
North Turton Parish Council member Keith Harrison said: “To keep the tank as it is and safe and in order to meet safety standards under the Tanks Act 1975, approximately 1 million pounds sterling should be spent on improvements.
âIt won’t happen. But the owner has two options – one is to deal with the dam failure, to let the lagoon drain and the land to return to nature.
“The second option, which he prefers, is to fill the lagoon basin with several thousand cubic meters of inert rubble.
âVisually you would have the same view but the depth of the reservoir would be considerably reduced. In its deepest parts it is currently around 25 meters.
âThe rubble to backfill it would come from the quarries. It would cost the owner nothing because the quarries need an outlet for such material and they would deliver it for free.
Councilor Harrison said it was estimated that ten thousand truckloads of quarry material would be needed.
âPeople are very agitated by the disruption of our quality of life. I fully understand that. The big story will be once the planning application is made in Blackburn with Darwen Council. traffic and major highways. “
An accommodation application should be filed within the next eight to ten weeks.
“People have suggested that the Chinook helicopters could bring the material, but I don’t see enough material available,” Councilor Harrison added.
âOur concern is what the end game is. The owner talks about turning it into a fishing lodge. It seems plausible as there has been a surge in interests like fishing, especially during the lockdown. am not a fisherman, but I do know that fish do not survive in a meter of water. “
In addition to having the Blue Lagoon, the owners have property and building interests and the local community is concerned that the site will be developed for the long term.
âIn an ideal world, I would like the filling to be done and the reservoir to become a place of beauty again, but with no prospect of 10,000 heavy truck journeys through the village. But it seems like a utopian ideal that does not exist.
The lagoon is located in the West Pennine Moors, just inside Lancashire, and is a natural refuge for birds and other wildlife.
Previously, an urban planning request had been filed for a restaurant to be built on land overlooking it, but the authorization was refused.
The reservoir has been a fatal attraction for swimmers.
A brave passer-by dived to rescue a teenager who had had difficulty swimming in the water in June of this year.
In 2007, a father from Salford drowned after rescuing his son from the deep.
He was in an inflatable boat with his son when they fell into the water at a depth of 40 feet.
The father clung to the seven-year-old while shouting for help and three young men walking past jumped up. They swam 20 meters to the stranded pair and were able to grab the child and head for the bank. When they looked back there was no sign of her father.
The same year, a 17-year-old boy from Chorley also drowned there.
The Environment Agency should be consulted on any proposal to refill the reservoir.
Councilor Harrison said doing nothing was not an option.
He said: “The construction of the reservoir is 200 years old. It is too great a risk for the dam wall to have up to 150,000 tons of pressure against it when it is very full. Its construction started around 1803 and it was completed in the 1820s.
âYou can’t expect the valve gear to be as efficient as it was when it was built. There are also trees and vegetation growing on the embankment.
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