Whaley Bridge dam: Some evacuated residents allowed to return

Some residents evacuated from Whaley Bridge can return to their homes immediately after water levels in a reservoir dropped quickly, police told a community meeting.

By Sam Cooper
Tuesday, 06 August, 2019, 18:21

Derbyshire Police said earlier those evacuated from the town must wait until experts decide that the Toddbrook Reservoir's damaged dam is ‘absolutely safe’ and most residents face waiting until after an inspection on Wednesday.

More than 1,500 people have been evacuated from the Derbyshire town since Thursday following heavy rain, although a small number refused to leave their properties.

Police said a safe water level at the reservoir had been reached and engineers would be assessing the damage to the wall before making a decision on allowing more people to return.

Work continues to shore up the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir near the village of Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, after it was damaged in heavy rainfall. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Swann told a public meeting at a school in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith on Tuesday that residents of the Horwich End area can return home.

She said: “I have got a meeting at 12pm tomorrow where I am expecting we will have good news.

“We have obviously been pumping the water out and it has gone down at a fast speed. It is now beyond 9.5 metres.

“We will keep draining the water until it is safe to stop.

Residents from Whaley Bridge queuing at a school in Chapel-en-le-Frith, where they will be hoping to find out when they are likely to be allowed back into their homes at a public meeting. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

“What we need to do is just to check the reservoir is fit for when it rains again and we have got a yellow weather warning.”

The Met Office has issued a yellow weather warning covering much of England, including the Derbyshire town, on Friday and Saturday.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service said earlier ‘work is ongoing’ at the dam and ‘nowhere have we said that the dam is safe’ after people were hopeful of a return to their homes.

In response to a tweet which said ‘the dam is considered safe’, the fire service said: “Nowhere have we said that the dam is safe now.

“Work is ongoing, and road closures and evacuations are still in place to preserve life.

“We will open roads and let people return home as soon as we can, but we have no way of knowing when this will be.”

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At a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, residents are likely to be told there is still work to do to make the dam at Toddbrook Reservoir safe.

Commenting on the current status of the dam, the fire service said: "Derbyshire appliances are still working with partner agencies at Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge to secure the dam wall.

“We thank everyone working at the incident and in the surrounding area for their continued support and patience.”

An RAF Chinook was also drafted in on Tuesday to help the previously dropped bags of aggregate settle into place.

Giving an update on the situation in Whaley Bridge, RAF Regional Liaison Officer for the North West, Wing Commander Gary Lane, said: “At the request of the civil engineers, we had a few bits of subsidence where the bags that we put in over Friday and Saturday have settled... so we’ve been asked to fill those in.

“All it is, is the big slab that we put in, there's a small concave area that needed a few more bags in, so the engineers asked us to come back in and drop those.

“We've done 39 tonnes this morning and we're seeing how that goes on.

"The work we have done is just finding its feet. When you put a load of aggregate down it needs stamping in, we've not been able to flatten that because it has just been dropped."

Mr Lane said around 100 military personnel in total had been drafted in to help with the dam.

The Canal and River Trust also released a statement which said it had passed the target water level of eight metres.

In the statement, the trust said: "Pumping continued throughout the night and the reservoir is currently at 25% of its holding capacity with the water level down by 8.4 metres.

"The water has been pumped out at a controlled rate and good progress is being made.

"Throughout the morning an RAF Chinook helicopter will continue to drop one tonne bags filled with aggregate to further stabilise the spillway."

The statement added: "Again, our thanks go to anyone affected by the current situation for their co-operation and patience and to the many who are supporting the emergency operation."

By Josh Payne, PA