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Upper Derwent Valley Reservoirs

Tom Quinn
By Tom Quinn
23rd September 2022


You may have heard that Severn Trent Water (STW) have started to explore options for increasing the amount of water stored in the Upper Derwent valley reservoirs complex. Put in plain language this means plans for a new reservoir in the Ladybower and Fairholmes area.

Back in the day, the flooding of the upper Derwent in the twentieth century was controversial but most now agree that the reservoirs also are an amazing place to visit, walk, bike and picnic. In April we and local communities received a letter from STW announcing survey and monitoring work in the Upper Derwent to investigate options for storing more water – in essence either a new reservoir or enlarging one of the three current dams (Ladybower, Derwent and Howden).

The main options are:

  • increase the capacity of the current reservoirs, probably by building new and bigger dams in front of the current dam walls (two of which are listed) which would then be lost underwater;
  • Build a new (fourth) dam, most likely near Slippery Stones above Howden which would flood the valley above.

STW are now consulting with the National Park Authority, other relevant authorities, and local stakeholders (such as us), as they narrow their main options. They will make further proposals to water regulators in spring 2023 but meanwhile many local communities are very concerned as to what the impacts will be, either for homes and land close to the current reservoirs or on wildlife and habitats if new land (all internationally important for biodiversity) were to be flooded.

In terms of timescales, it would take a couple of years to submit a planning application, with the likelihood that STW will apply direct to the Government using the ‘national significant infrastructure projects’ process (which bypasses a decision by the Peak District National Park Authority) because they claim the project is in the national interest. This remains to be seen and we will be forensic in analysing whether the proposals can meet the gold standard for National Parks – known as the ‘major development test’.

We in direct dialogue with STW and will continue to closely monitor the situation. We will be very happy to liaise with anyone affected by the plans. Please email us on if you have concerns or need further information.

The full technical proposals by STW can be seen  here

Update – on 2 November we were interviewed in the Upper Derwent Valley by the producers of the BBC East Midlands Politics programme about the potential changes to water storage in the Valley. The interview was shown on the BBC on 6 November and can be viewed here (from 18 mins).
NB a BBC iPLayer account is required