The building which has been chosen for preparing this conservation statement is the Reservoir Spillway, located in Butterley Reservoir, Marsden, in West Yorkshire. It looks similar to an immense staircase and is one of the most endangered buildings in the United Kingdom. It is at a risk of being covered by concrete. The initial design aimed to permit the flow of extra water during times of heavy rainfall, with this spillway being the only one in the United Kingdom.
The owner has been identified as Yorkshire Water, and he has aimed to replace the sandstone walls with coloured concrete. The reason he puts forward for that is that safety standards are not being complied with by the spillway, and the management of the specific types of flood which it looks after happen only once every 20,000 years.
The construction of Butterley Reservoir and the spillway was authorised by the Huddersfield Corporation Waterworks Act of 1890. The first sod was cut on Thursday, 27th August, 1891, by Alderman James Crosland, Deputy Chairman of the Waterworks Committee. It was completed in 1906.
The spillway was given Grade II Listing status on 11th July 1985. It is described in the Listing as “rock-faced coursed stone with ashlar dressings. Overflow with stone weirs and stepped stone cascades. Sidewalls are of rock-faced stone with squared ashlar piers with moulded pyramidal copings. Copings to walls are stepped.”
The portal at the outflow of the compensation water is also Grade II Listed (this is the stone arch 'gateway' looking feature at the bottom of the embankment), as is the bridge over the stream at the bottom of the embankment. So the 'setting' of these structures also needs to be preserved.
The reservoirs are inspected by Yorkshire Water for safety every year and every 10 years by an independent auditor. The last independent audit identified safety work which is required at the reservoir. The work required is to ensure that excess flood water can flow from the reservoir without putting the dam banking in danger of collapse. The likelihood of such a catastrophic flood occurring would be around 1 in 20,000 years. In other words, we would have to have days of torrential rain, falling onto soil that couldn't hold any more water, with the water flowing into a completely full reservoir and for everything possible to fail and go wrong so that the spillway would be subject to the greatest hydraulic forces.
The distinct characteristics that defined a sense of place in West Yorkshire in the past were based largely around traditionally occurring industrial activities and consequently since the decline of West Yorkshire's 19th century status as an industrial hub, the city has suffered from a lack of identity. Even specific areas that have retained their unique architectural features, such as the historic Lace Market quarter, are now under threat from increasingly generic, modern developments that sterilize the sensorial phenomena that has characterized the city in the past.
Like many cities, over the past decade the Butterley Spillway has been forced to ...