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Whaley Bridge Dam Collapse Due To Poor Design & Maintenance, Not Climate Change

April 29, 2020

By Paul Homewood

h/t John Cooknell


  You will no doubt recall the Whaley Bridge dam collapse last summer, which Sir James Bevan, Chairman of the Environment Agency, predictably blamed on climate change:

We are seeing impacts on national infrastructure as it comes under greater pressure from climate change. A few weeks ago Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge nearly failed after heavy rainfall. A disaster was narrowly averted – and the Environment Agency was at the heart of that operation. But like Toddbrook, much of our infrastructure is Victorian: it’s aging and it wasn’t designed for the more extreme weather climate change is causing. That is bringing greater and greater risks

Well, it appears that Bevan and his chums at the EA were asleep at the wheel, because a full independent review into the near catastrophe, published a couple of months ago but seemingly not well publicised, puts the blame firmly on a combination of poor design, exacerbated by inadequate maintenance.

The Report by Sir David Balmforth finds that the rainfall, though extremely heavy, was a 1 in 100 year event, and was well within what the spillway should have been able to accommodate. Also that it had dealt with significant floods in the past:




Balmforth goes on to describe the design failures





Overall responsibility for the safety of England’s reservoirs lies with the Environment Agency. Perhaps the clown Bevan should concentrate on his day job, instead of pontificating about climate change.

  1. Martin Howard Keith Brumby permalink
    April 29, 2020 5:28 pm

    Absolutely spot on.
    I wonder whether those with specific duties under the Reservoirs Act (including owner, undertaker, Panel Engineer and, of course, the Environment Agency (the body specifically charged with ensuring that the Panel Engineer’s recommendations are properly carried out) will face consequences?


    I thought not.

    No doubt just like Grenfell Tower. (Or Aberfan, for that matter.)

  2. Thomas Carr permalink
    April 29, 2020 6:00 pm

    I sometimes wonder about Quango Chairmen.
    Too much water is what the spillway is for i.e. to relieve the reservoir. Nothing to do with the weather.

  3. Grant Manheim permalink
    April 29, 2020 6:49 pm

    Dear Mr Homewood
    I hope you’ve noticed that the Bad Guy in the two largest grossing movies ever is an environmentalist captive to the logic of “SAVE THE PLANET, KILL HUMANS”…… see Marvel Studios/Disney: Avengers INFINITY WARS and END GAME.
    Best Regards
    Grant Manheim

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    April 29, 2020 6:52 pm

    First comment while I read the rest, but I just have to say, James Bevan should resign for misleading (ie: lying!) to the public about an environmental issue for which he has responsibility and LEADERSHIP!

    • April 29, 2020 11:30 pm

      I disagree …
      James Bevan should NOT resign !!

      He should be sacked for gross dereliction of duty & have all pension benefits removed,

      But we all know he will be found blameless & receive a bonus

  5. Harry Passfield permalink
    April 29, 2020 7:09 pm

    Bevan has the precise definition of a ‘cushy job’. Do nothing; take the handsome salary; and blame any upsets on CC – and get the ‘government’ (the taxpayer) to bung in extra funds.

    I face the same where I live: since Severn Trent gave up responsibility for the river that runs through the bottom of my (long) garden to the EA the maintenance has been abysmal – more reactive than proactive. When flooding occurs, they blame CC and continue drawing their salaries!

    • Duker permalink
      April 30, 2020 3:48 am

      Hes a former diplomat, last top job at FCO was High Commissioner to India. If you wondered ‘where do they find these people’ , now you know

      his wikipedia page gushes about his work at the Agency ..clearly out of date

      • Mike Jackson permalink
        April 30, 2020 9:52 am

        “… gushes …” would appear highly appropriate in this context.

  6. It doesn't add up... permalink
    April 29, 2020 8:19 pm

    I think that many of us who researched and found older photographs of the spillway in poor condition, historic reports of maintenance at the reservoir, and the excellent guide to dam and spillway maintenance published by Severn Trent, or saw the excellent reporting from Mr Ororville a.k.a. blancolirio. This site, ably assisted by a number of local people who contributed comments, should have been essential reading for Balmforth and his team. We more or less drafted it for him.

  7. john cooknell permalink
    April 29, 2020 9:50 pm

    This bits straight out of a “Yes Minister” script

    ” CRT have remained compliant with the legislation for the entire time they have had responsibility for the reservoir. The EA have not had to issue any enforcement notices. However, both CRT and the EA have stated that compliance is not the same as safety. This can mean that a reservoir and its Owner can be compliant with the legislation without the reservoir necessarily being safe. This does not appear to be entirely satisfactory and will be investigated further in Part B of this Review.”

    • StephenP permalink
      April 30, 2020 7:10 am

      I.e. we’ve ticked all the boxes so we don’t carry any of the blame for anything that might happen.

  8. tom0mason permalink
    April 29, 2020 9:55 pm

    There is just one thing wrong with this story — BBC News. No it does not exist, there is only BBC misinformation, socialist opinion, and hyperbolic emotionalism.

    The Whaley Bridge dam was build down to a price, and not up to a adequate specification. Coupled to poor management and maintenance, this (near-miss) disaster was bound to happen, it was only a matter of time.

  9. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    April 29, 2020 10:14 pm

    Just like the Somerset levels flooding. Bloody politicians.

  10. DICK R permalink
    April 29, 2020 10:31 pm

    The climate crazies will never give up spreading their nonsense until every industry in the west is bankrupt and we are living in mud huts .

  11. john cooknell permalink
    April 30, 2020 12:34 am

    Published on 16th March, well buried bad news! lots of bodies around by then!

  12. Old Grumpy permalink
    April 30, 2020 5:16 am

    It is clear from the photograph that water has undermined the concrete facing to the spillway.
    As can be seen from the lack of steel reinforcing bars, this concrete facing is not structural but is designed to protect the earth filling of the dam from erosion.
    Clearly, if the joints between the concrete panels are not properly maintained, erosion will take place leading to the collapse of the spillway.

  13. MrGrimNasty permalink
    April 30, 2020 9:09 am

    Probably a rehash of recent claims but this sort of stuff is total transparent BS.

    • David Virgo permalink
      April 30, 2020 11:40 am

      I laughed out loud at 1.3 million fewer workdays lost…

  14. Teaef permalink
    April 30, 2020 11:43 am

    I wait in anticipation BBC.

  15. Archie H permalink
    May 1, 2020 7:40 am

    I thought it worth pointing out that the EA are, for once, blameless in this instance. Toddbrook Reservoir and the accompanying dam are solely the responsibility of the Canal & River Trust and they alone are therefore responsible for its maintenance.

    • May 1, 2020 9:50 am

      Don’t they have overarching responsibility?

      • john cooknell permalink
        May 1, 2020 11:12 am

        What I find amazing is they all conspired to cover this up! because they knew it was systemic failure. Nothing to do with Victorian engineering just boring lack of care!

        Right from the start the EA and CRT covered up the truth.

        The BBC eventually discovered this but did not follow through because it did not fit with their editorial stance that it was climate change, David Shukman just parroted the views of the EA because he is a believer! Even when I complained to the BBC is all I got back was “The EA said it was extreme weather”.


    • john cooknell permalink
      May 1, 2020 11:20 am

      The EA are the “enforcing authority” under the regulations, they knew from the inspecting engineers report the Dam spillway was at risk but did nothing!

      The CRT themselves graded the Dam as category D the lowest category “Structurally significant defects leading to loss of stability in the medium term (generally 5 to 10years)”

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