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Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals closed as reservoir threatens collapse

Hundreds of people were evacuated from Whaley Bridge on 1st August when the main reservoir feeding the Upper Peak Forest Canal appeared in danger of collapse.

After days of torrential rain the spillway of Toddbrook Reservoir began to give way, and hundreds of tons of aggregate were dropped by helicopter into the gaps.

The Canal & River Trust has suspended navigation on the Upper Peak Forest Canal and upper section of the Macclesfield Canal, closing the Marple and Bosley Locks as a precaution in case the worst should happen.

CRT chief engineer Julie Sharman said it would be several days before they could be sure if the dam would hold, and they were frantically trying to reduce the water levels with extra pumping. Meanwhile chief executive Richard Parry, questioned on BBC TV Newsnight, said the reservoir was inspected in detail every year, the last full inspection in November showing nothing untoward, and a daily inspection spotted the problem immediately.

While Toddbrook Reservoir feeds the Upper Peak Forest canal, which was opened in 1794, the reservoir itself was built in 1831 to boost supply to the newly opened Macclesfield Canal, the last major canal project of Thomas Telford.

It's not the first time the Peak Forest reservoirs have had problems. Toddbrook itself overtopped with destructive flooding in both 1872 and 1930, while the 1872 event also caused the collapse of another reservoir, Adsheads Pools.

At time of writing CRT and Environment Agency staff were frantically pumping to reduce water levels, and holding their collective breath.

Friday 2 August  | Andrew Denny  | 3.17pm, Friday 2 August 2019

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