THE recent emergency at Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire, where 6,455 people were evacuated due to possible collapse of the dam, brings into focus what is wrong in Britain today: far too many cases of lack of foresight and maintenance.

The Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency were found wanting prior to Storm Desmond on the Lancaster Canal, where lack of maintenance brought down the Stainton Aqueduct. Flooding in Kendal, as around the country, is subject to planning and consultation, rather than action.

Bridges and roads throughout the country built for horse and cart now take 44-ton vehicles in the hope 'everything will be all right', which is an example of how we close our eyes to reality.

The Victorians, with picks and shovels and lack of heavy machinery, managed to achieve things in less time than we do now, yet we have the capacity and know-how to achieve great things.

Perhaps this latest disaster at Whaley Bridge will be a wake-up call and action will follow, rather than words.

Frank Sanderson


Editor's note: the Gazette contacted the Canal and River Trust and the Environment Agency, and here are their responses.

Stewart Mounsey, the Environment Agency’s flood risk manager for Cumbria, said: “There is a robust regulatory regime in place requiring reservoir owners to carry out regular inspections, backed up by independent inspections.

“The EA has emergency powers to enable us to intervene where a reservoir is unsafe and action is needed to protect people and property against an escape of water. The EA also has reserve powers to intervene where a reservoir owner fails to carry out works in accordance with the timescales set by the independent inspecting engineer.

“As the enforcement authority, the EA has a duty to ensure reservoir owners comply with the requirements of the Act. We take enforcement action, such as enforcement notices, formal warning letters and occasional formal cautions.

“You can read more from the EA’s chief executive, Sir James Bevan, about managing reservoir safety in Britain at

“With respect to our work to reduce flood risk in Kendal, we are working on detailed designs for a £55 million scheme that will protect 1,437 homes and 1,151 businesses across Kendal, Staveley, Burneside and Ings that will reduce flood risk to a one per cent chance in any one year.

"We have now appointed contractors and pre-work, including ground investigations and tree planting, is due to start this autumn. You can read our latest newsletter at”

The Canal and River Trust said: "We are all very relieved the 1,500 Whaley Bridge residents evacuated by the dam emergency are now safely back in their homes after what was a very difficult and distressing week for them.

"The Canal and River Trust charity operates our reservoirs to strict, rigorous, independent inspection regimes set down by law. We will leave no stone unturned to understand the cause of the failure.

"Thanks to a fantastic joint effort with the emergency services, we managed to save Toddbrook Dam wall. There was no breach and the wall will be repaired or reconstructed.

"Stainton Aqueduct was similarly affected after a freak weather event - Storm Desmond. Thanks to a £1.3 million Heritage Lottery grant, the aqueduct is well on the way to being repaired.

"We care for a network of 2,000 miles of waterways and canal infrastructure that was mostly constructed around 200 years ago. Thankfully these failures are rare."