Welsh Green Dragon


Is the fight lost to save Llanishen Reservoir? by Chris Halpin

Is this the end?

It seems after months of draining Llanishen reservoir in North Cardiff is finally empty.

Welsh Green Dragon was there back in February when Western Power Distribution, who own the water body, started draining down the water for a reported safety inspection.

Although at the time the water level was falling, young sailors were still having lessons and it continued to be a valued recreational amenity for people living in northern Cardiff.

However after a local resident recently sent the photograph at the top of this piece to us,  it seems the pumps have been turned off and the stark reality of the drain down has been revealed.

What was once a large open mass of water is now a boggy bowl of mud.

Agencies have ‘not done enough’

Campaigners fighting to save the reservoir have always contested the need to drain down the reservoir and that it amounted to ecological and environmental vandalism.

Local anglers have also accused the Environment Agency of not doing enough to protect the fish whose habitat has been destroyed.

Argument that a recent move by Cardiff City council to officially make the area around the reservoir a nature reserve will save it from being redeveloped into a housing estate is optimistic.

Not much protection has been afforded so far by the listing of the structure by CADW or by the minimal intervention from the Environment Agency. Nor have objections by local MP’s or councillors.

Now it’s empty it really does look like there’s no going back.

A piece on the Lisvane News last week asked ‘Is the fight to save Llanishen reservoir almost won?’. I’d have to argue otherwise. Put simply – what is a reservoir without any water?

When will the inspection of the pipes start?

Western Power have always maintained they must drain the water to examine pipes they said sat on the bed of the reservoir.

They don’t seem to be there and as Llanishen RAG‘s surveyors said all along it seems the pipes must be encased in concrete underneath the bottom layer of the structure.

We’ll just have to wait and see how long it takes for this ‘inspection work’ to happen.

What next?

If the reservoir stays empty a number of things will most certainly change.

Damage could be caused to the linings of the clay lined walls as the Victorian banks of the reservoir dry out.

This means it could become structurally unsafe and not be strong enough to ever hold water again.

Despite South Wales rainfall being heavy – it’s thought it could take as long as a decade to refill naturally.

And local residents will no longer be fighting for a reservoir, they’ll be fighting for a swampy brown pit. One wonders how long it will be until support for the Reservoir Action Group will start to wane.

It seems this could be the end for the reservoir, and instead of being a triumph for the locals, they’ve been trampled on by a multinational company who favour profit over the environment.

Let’s hope this isn’t the end for Llanishen and the Lisvane News is right.

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Drainage is well underway at Llanishen Reservoir by Chris Halpin

Video Report by Chris Halpin and Jennie Clark

Llanishen Reservoir Action Group have been campaigning tirelessly for almost ten years to save one of North Cardiff’s largest green spaces from the developers.

In what some campaigners have called a battle of David against Goliath, the action group (or RAG for short), are taking on the reservoirs owners, Western Power Distribution, who want to build hundreds of new houses in its place. Western Power are the UK subsidiary of American firm Pennsylvania Power and Light (PPL), thought to be worth £7.5 billion.

Brief history

Constructed in 1884, Llanishen was part of a network of freshwater reservoirs that brought water down from the Brecon Beacons to be used as drinking water in the ever expanding city of Cardiff.

It ceased to be used for this purpose about 35 years ago, and was sold off by Margaret Thatcher in the eighties when water companies were privatised.

Despite not being used for drinking water now, over the years it has become a valued recreational amenity for walkers, fishermen and aspiring sailors.

However, over the past decade its owners Western Power have gradually restricted access to the public, and soon its final users, Llanishen Sailing Centre, won’t be able to use it either.

Once the water level is too low, about 3 metres below normal, the sailors simply won’t be able to get their boats in and out of the water.

The dispute about draining down

Western Power claim they’re emptying the reservoir in accordance with a survey they had commissioned in 2008. They say they need to inspect underwater pipe work for safety reasons – these pipes lying on the bottom of the reservoir and can only be accessed through drainage, according to the report.

In light of newer evidence and an original copy of the Victorian reservoirs building specification, RAG have since had their own survey commissioned. This says the pipes are not where Western Power maintain, and in fact are encased in concrete underneath the reservoir. RAG are therefore arguing that this completely negates any reason to be draining down the water.

Although Western Power have been denied planning permission for this redevelopment twice, campaigners fear that once the water is drained it will never fully refill, as water levels are only kept stable through rainwater. They are concerned the empty reservoir will become an eyesore, and the council will eventually give in to redevelopment as a lesser of the two evils.

Silt and the threat to Roath Park Lake

Western Power are allowed to drain off the top three metres of water but the Environment Agency say they are monitoring the levels closely to make sure they do not exceed this. If Western Power drain off more than this there is the risk that over a century of underlying silt could be disturbed and enter the Nant Fawr stream, which is where the reservoir’s water is being pumped into. This flows into Roath Park lake and campaigners also fear wildlife there could be affected. The Environment Agency called on Western Power not to empty, but drainage began at the end of February.

Protected Status and Government support

The structure of the reservoir has been listed by CADW as historically important, the banks are protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the area surrounding it which is owned by Cardiff Council has been made a nature reserve.

Western Power is trying to refute each level of this protected status, and RAG estimates the company have spent around £10 million pounds on legal fees trying to get each of them overturned and appealing the rejected planning applications.

Cardiff Council and the Welsh Assembly are supporting campaigners, with MP for Cardiff North Julie Morgan and Assembly Member Jenny Randerson personally involved. Julie Morgan also recently voiced her frustrations to Welsh Secretary Peter Hain in the House of Commons, which allowed previously confidential information about findings in the engineers surveys to be reported in the press, under parliamentary privilege.

How to join in the campaign

If you want to join the fight to save the reservoir, you can sign the online petition here,  follow regular updates on the Wales Online blog, or discuss it on this forum.



Crackdown against fly-tipping in South Wales by Chris Halpin

Fly-Tipping Action Wales Campaign – Radio Feature

You know what they say, where there’s muck there’s money. However in this case its leaving local authorities in South Wales a deficit to the tune of three million pounds per year, and in the end we’re the one’s who pay through higher council tax bills. Tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish is left at roadsides and wasteland each year, and now there is a new drive to tackle the problem.

The Environment Agency are once more trying to convince businesses and families that fly-tipping is not on, with partnership agencies like Keep Cardiff Tidy and Cardiff City Councils Prosiect Gwyrdd (Project Green) on board.

Notorious areas for fly-tipping are the lanes which run between Caerphilly and St Mellon’s where you can find dozens of dumping grounds. The usual suspects include old furniture, settees and large white goods like fridges and washing machines, but alarmingly also a lot of trade and industrial waste like building materials and toxic asbestos. People may think places like this are out of sight so out of mind, but it causes considerable disruption as many sites block farmer’s gates and of course have a devastating impact on the environment.

Duty of care

The new campaign which is backed by the Welsh Assembly Government is designed to remind homeowners and businesses that it’s their responsibility that waste gets disposed of properly. If you’re using a tradesperson like a builder or plumber you must check that they’re registered with the Environment Agency as a waste carrier.

This latest crackdown has been timed for January as it’s the worst month for illegal dumping when people have their annual new year clear out. Surprisingly almost two-thirds of waste found is actually normal household waste in black bin bags which could be left out for the dustbin man.

Hi-tech police crackdown

As technological advancement races on, South Wales Police are developing cunning ways in which to catch illegal fly-tippers out. Forensic techniques like SmartWater and aerial surveillance are being employed to chart illegal dumping sites and track down the culprits.

With the risk of landing a fine of up to £50,000 or even a prison sentence is it really worth the bother?  The scale of the problem is only demonstrated by the fact that out of 55,000 cases between 2008-1009 only 72 arrests and prosecutions were made. Some people argue that the council need to make it easier for people to get rid of waste, especially large electrical items. With the opening of smaller local tips, or Civic Amenity sites like Waungron Road in Fairwater, legimate ways to chuck away waste are being made more accessible – the only stipulation is you can only take waste that will fit in your car; larger vehicles must go to the Recycling site at Lamby Way. Alternatively you can ring Connect 2 Cardiff, Cardiff City Councils helpline and they will arrange collection of larger white goods free of charge. For more information visit the Fly-Tipping Action Wales or Cardiff City Council website.

The root of the problem?

From the people I spoke to it seems part of the problem comes down to disposal cost and people tightening their belts because of the recession. This is especially the case for small tradesmen and businesses disposing of composite or dangerous materials like plasterboard or asbestos. When it comes to waste they often operate at a loss and if they do jump through the right hoops it’s seen by many as a lengthy bureaucratic nightmare.  One builder I spoke to challenged me to try and dispose of some asbestos myself, just to see how hard it really is.

This is no justification for flagrant littering, but unfortunately the age-old dilemma rings true once again; the environment is not everyone’s main priority – time and money are more important. Despite the threat of a hefty fine or time behind bars, the blight that fly-tipping causes looks set to stay. One must hope this new campaign attempts to get to the root of why people lack a conscience when it comes to driving out to the middle of nowhere under the cover of darkness and using the countryside as a dumping ground.