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Whaley Bridge Cover Up

November 11, 2019

By Paul Homewood


Despite attempts to blame the failure of the Toddbrook dam at Whaley Bridge in August on extreme weather, many experts claimed it was caused by poor maintenance.

Last month, in news apparently not widely reported,


The Canal and River Trust has been accused of a cover-up after it released heavily-censored reports about a dam which partially collapsed.

Residents in Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, were evacuated amid fears Toddbrook Reservoir would burst and flood the town.

The trust released inspection reports with large sections blacked out, citing concerns over national security.

But critics said they believed this was just an excuse.

People in the town spent almost a week away from home when part of the dam’s auxiliary spillway collapsed in August.

The reservoir and dam were inspected by the Canal and River Trust in November 2018, and separately by an independent inspecting engineer.

‘Ludicrously heavy-handed’

Residents have previously raised concerns about the condition and maintenance of the reservoir and dam, after photos emerged of vegetation growing from the spillway.

Both reports were sent to the BBC and others following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

Large sections of the copies received by the media contained large blacked-out sections.

Chinook over dam 

Matthew Forrest, who has been among a group of residents to have called for a public inquiry and criminal investigation, said the redactions seemed "ludicrously heavy-handed".

"The population of Whaley Bridge had very little confidence in the Canal and River Trust as things stood after the near disaster in August that could have potentially killed thousands of people," he said.

"This nonsensical black hole of a document does little to build upon any remaining confidence and faith in the Canal and River Trust to internally investigate the causes, let alone replace the neglected Toddbrook Dam."

Information left in the Canal and River Trust report includes dates when the reservoir was inspected, but measures that were taken "in the interests of safety" and "matters specified to be watched by the supervising engineer" have been redacted.

The independent report includes a description of the reservoir and the geology of the area, but even parts of these sections have been redacted.

The trust said it had redacted information on the basis of "national security and public safety".

There was "a high level of public interest in not releasing information that would result in a threat to public safety", it said.

‘Acts of sabotage’

"If the trust were to release copies of these reports, which were not redacted, it would be releasing key details of the infrastructure and potential vulnerabilities of the Toddbrook Reservoir.

"This would prejudice the protection and safety of the public through potential damage or disruption to the national infrastructure by acts of sabotage."

In response to accusations of a cover-up, the trust said: "We are following the regulator’s – the Environment Agency’s – policy on any disclosure given the sensitive nature of inspection documents.

"For security and safety reasons, they don’t release information that could expose a vulnerability with a reservoir."

The BBC has challenged the Canal and River Trust’s FOI response after being advised it appeared the trust had redacted material not related to public safety.

Residents have pointed out that the reservoir has been drained, which meant there would be no flood risk even if someone was to sabotage it.

"Surely they [CRT] must have realised the farcical nature of distributing a 90% blacked out report?" Mr Forrest said.

"Some may speculate that they have done it in order to quash any further inquiry."

The whole thing stinks of a cover up, and it does not take a genius to guess what it was they are covering up. There is absolutely no reason why the dam should not have safely stored the amount of water behind it, and as we know the rainfall over that period was not unprecedented.

As for Sir James “It’s the climate emergency stupid” Bevan , head of the Environment Agency, perhaps he should be spending more time making sure our dams and other infrastructure are safe and properly maintained, rather than waste his time making speeches about the climate.

  1. mjr permalink
    November 11, 2019 7:04 pm

    Protecting the public from acts of sabotage? I am impressed that the trust has such a creative thinker who can come up with an excuse like that.. Maybe the ISIS horticultural section would see the report and come and plant a couple more trees in the mortar. I am even more impressed with the BBC actually doing some proper journalism.

  2. JerryC permalink
    November 11, 2019 7:28 pm

    I believe this is the dam that had various shrubs and trees growing through the concrete spillway.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      November 12, 2019 8:28 am

      Badly maintained, and badly designed.

  3. November 11, 2019 7:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate-

  4. john cooknell permalink
    November 11, 2019 7:47 pm

    My observation is the authorities have an “enquiry” when they don’t want the truth to be told.

    The Environment Agency have no interest in trying to explain how a dam under their control had a history of failure and leakage going back almost 100 years.

    When they drained the dam in a hurry they suspected that failure had occurred on the upstream face in exactly the position failures had occurred in 1931 and 1975. I have a picture of the 1975 failure crater.

    “In November 1975 when the reservoir was low, a depression was
    noted in the same position on the upstream face as the 1931
    depression. In Autumn 1977, 120 mm of subsidence was measured
    since 1975. The reservoir was emptied to inspect the full extent of
    the depression and revealed a crater approximately four metres
    across at the upstream toe partly infilled with silt and into which a
    tree appeared to have been sucked.”

    Click to access scho0811buba-e-e.pdf

    The paradox of their “security risk” excuse, is if you care to read the report above it shows the vulnerabilities of all the dams in graphic detail and pictures! perhaps they have gone mad!

  5. Athelstan. permalink
    November 11, 2019 8:51 pm


    Old dams and dames.

    The strolling amateurs Canal and River Trust, truly caught with their knickers round their feet and trousers down.


    Jobs for common purpose minions, slack procedure added to malfeasance = end of pension and fat salary.


    Cover it up gals and claim national security panic if questioned!

    and cue curtains drawn.

  6. November 12, 2019 3:59 am

    Not only was the auxiliary spillway poorly maintained. It was/is a inherently dangerous design. I suspect this might be related to what has been redacted.

    The original spillway was/is aligned such that it was kept separated from the vulnerable earth embankment dam. (In my opinion it should have been kept even further away.) But in the 1960s the discharge capacity of the original spillway was reviewed and found to be inadequate. And the need for an additional spillway was identified. (So far, so good . . . .)

    But the adopted concept for the retrofitted additional spillway was disastrous. It’s easy to say in hindsight, but there is no way anyone should have allowed a spillway to be routed over the earth embankment of the dam.

  7. November 12, 2019 9:10 am

    Maybe the national security excuse is telling us there are other dams with similar weaknesses that could be exploited by troublemakers?

    • dave permalink
      November 12, 2019 9:57 am


      Perhaps sheep:

      Once there was a silly old ram
      Thought he’d punch a hole in a dam.
      No one could make that ram scram,
      He kept buttin’ that dam.

      ‘Cause he had high hopes
      He had high hopes
      He had apple-pie-
      In-the-sky hopes.

      So any time you’re feelin’ bad,
      ‘Stead of feeling sad, just remember that ram.
      Oops, there goes another billion kilowatt dam!
      Oops, there goes another billion kilowatt dam!
      Oops, there goes another billion kilowatt dam!

  8. Bertie permalink
    November 12, 2019 2:07 pm


  9. It doesn't add up... permalink
    November 12, 2019 3:51 pm

    Perhaps someone should publish an alternative report. There was a lot of excellent investigative reporting at the time which appeared in various blog sites including this one. Indeed, really the BBC ought to pursue some of those sources. The videos made by the chap in the US who had monitored the Oroville spillway disaster from day 1 were particularly good. The dam maintenance guide from Severn Trent was also quite explicit about the dangers of vegetation growing in and around spillways. Then there are the historic pictures showing the inadequate maintenance. If there is any sign of a Select Committee tackling the issue, its members should be briefed on how to de-brief the redacted report.

    • TomO permalink
      November 12, 2019 8:36 pm

      iirc the redaction was done at the suggestion and with the active connivance of Environment Agency officials – who, it must be said having been almost wholly schtum about the extents of their statutory duty in this matter.

      Having actively wrestled the EA now for more than 10 years I would bet that there is something career-ending in the redactions – yes … you can be sure of that.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        November 12, 2019 10:09 pm

        Are there no MPs with a reputation to make by bringing down the EA idiots?

        I’m waiting to see whether they will tackle the August blackout: I note the final E3C report has been conveniently buried by the election – i.e. not published

        6 November – deadline for final E3C report, including an implementation plan, to the Secretary of State

        I’m keeping a daily watch here:

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        November 12, 2019 10:11 pm

        Think I’ll email BEIS again – that did seem to encourage them to publish the interim report eventually, albeit way after it was received.

  10. Dibnah permalink
    November 12, 2019 6:01 pm

    National security?! Weasel words and feeble excuses.

  11. martinbrumby permalink
    November 13, 2019 9:36 am

    This is truly farcical.

    Having been responsible for the technical management of two reservoirs even older than Whaley Bridge (and including the appointment of and assistance to All Reservoir Panel Engineers), I struggle to imagine any information that might be included in an Inspection Report which would materially assist a terrorist or even a casual vandal.

    Which flower-pot is used to hide the valve chamber key?

    Isn’t it ludicrous that a community who has had their lives turned upside down and whose lives were clearly put in immediate danger are just fobbed off, whilst virtue signalling ignorant toffs like Extinction Rebellion, interested only in disrupting people’s lives, has funding (and covert support from Media and Government) to appoint top silks and go to the High Court?

    Obviously, I’m not aware of the details of this FOI application and can’t say if they have any wealthy backers. An application to the High Court would likely be helpful.

    Assuming that this isn’t possible (and it is clear that the Media isn’t bothered), I would try an appeal to the Information Commissioner. It would also be sensible to send FOI request directly to the Environment Agency who must have copies of the reports and who are statutorily responsible for ensuring that recommended works are properly undertaken.

    Bearing in mind the present election brouhaha, I would try to get support (in writing!) from the local candidates!

    Good Luck!

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