Restoring Toddbrook Reservoir

We are currently working on a major project to restore Toddbrook Reservoir after the dam auxiliary spillway was damaged in August 2019 after a period of intense rainfall.

Picture of half empty reservoir Work is ongoing to restore Toddbrook Reservoir

Update 21 October

Planning application submitted for permanent repair plan

We've submitted a planning application to High Peak Borough Council for the permanent repair plan for Toddbrook Reservoir in Whaley Bridge.

The proposal features construction of a new overflow side channel weir, ‘tumble bay’, spillway channel and stilling basin on the northern side of the dam. This then links into the existing bypass channel, which joins the River Goyt in the town’s Memorial Park.

The visual impact of the concrete structures will be reduced by natural stone cladding on most of the exterior side walls above ground level and wall heights will be kept as low as possible.

The planning application also includes a proposal to replace the current sailing club facilities, which will be impacted by the new spillway. Plans feature a new clubhouse, boat storage, slipway and car parking, located on a site behind the proposed tumble bay.

The 1970s overflow spillway overlooking the park, which was damaged in summer 2019, will be de-commissioned, the concrete panels removed and the dam slope grassed over. The original 1840s spillway, near the existing sailing club, will also be removed and some of the stone reclaimed and re-used as cladding on the exterior walls of the new structures.

The Trust has been working closely with engineering and consultancy firm Arup to prepare the detailed plans after carrying out extensive technical investigations and design work. If the application is approved, the construction project will be delivered by the Trust’s main contractor Kier.

Artist impression from Memorial Park Artist impression from Memorial Park
Artist impression of Toddbrook dam Artist impression of Toddbrook dam
Artist's impression of the 'tumble bay' Diagram of the proposed side channel weir and tumble bay
Artist impression of new sailing club Artist impression of new sailing club

Temporary site compound on the Memorial Park

In order to carry out the essential repairs, the Trust intends to set up a temporary site compound at the northern end of the Memorial Park, next to the dam. Following feedback from local residents, a footpath will be retained across the park, connecting Wharf Road along the river to the Memorial Park bridge, providing a viewing point for the construction site.

During the works the playground will unfortunately have to be removed but will be replaced with alternative temporary play equipment at the top of the dam next to Whaley Bridge Athletic Football Club. A new playground, similar to the existing one, will be rebuilt at the same location in the Memorial Park at the end of the project in 2024. The park will be re-landscaped, with extra footpaths and a new footbridge over the bypass channel.

Access for construction vehicles into the site compound will be along Reservoir Road. There will be no temporary traffic lights at weekends or evenings and the Trust will arrange for weekday construction traffic to be managed by having staff on duty with ‘stop’ and ‘go’ signs and radios to provide a more personal and interactive traffic management service.

What next?

This major repair project is estimated to cost £12 - £16 million and work is due to start in spring 2022, subject to planning permission. A number of trees will need to be felled to make way for the construction of the new spillway but the Trust has worked closely with the council to discuss replacement planting and habitat creation, which is predicted to achieve a net biodiversity gain of more than 10%.

The major construction project on the dam will be followed by works to the inlet cascade, at the far end of the reservoir, to increase its resilience to high flows from the Toddbrook stream. The whole project is expected to take about two years to complete and the reservoir re-opened to the public in summer 2024. High volume pumps will remain in the reservoir to manage water levels until the end of the restoration project.

The planning application will be available for view on the High Peak Borough Council website, once uploaded.

For more information, email, call 0808 196 8809 or write to Freepost CRT Toddbrook.

Update 28 June

Public Consultation into the repair plan for Toddbrook Reservoir

Many thanks to everyone who responded to the recent public consultation into the repair plan for Toddbrook Reservoir. We are very grateful to all residents, businesses and organisations who took the time to share their views with us, either online or at the face-to-face events at the Transhipment Warehouse in Whaley Bridge.

Our project team and consultants Arup will now carefully consider all responses and feedback before a planning application for the work is submitted to High Peak Borough Council later this year.

Update 12 May

Following recent enquiries, we are implementing further measures to manage the level of noise coming from our on-site generators. We do appreciate that the generators cause noise and we are keen to minimise this where practicable.

The need for on-site generators

The site compound generators provide power for the operation of the high volume pumps, ensuring we are always ready to safely manage the reservoir water level and remain resilient to unexpected storm events until the project has been completed. In addition to providing power to operate the pumps, the generators also power the pump set up telemetry (data recording equipment) and welfare facilities. This means that units are required to run even when water is not being pumped from the reservoir. These measures are in line with a robust Water Assurance & Management Plan, which has been agreed between the Environment Agency and Canal & River Trust.

Managing generator noise

While all systems in use are fully compliant with the relevant standards and legislation, through our ongoing engagement with the Council and their Environmental Health department, we will be:

  • Improving the acoustic barriers around the compound
  • Installing new battery-hybrid generators in place of the previous generators powering the welfare and telemetry equipment. As a result, while these generators will still run continuously, they will operate more quietly overnight through battery power
  • Installing a separate containerised generator, which will now only run when reservoir water levels rise and the pumps are therefore required to start.

Collectively, we are confident these measures will reduce the level of noise being caused by our required ongoing works to manage the reservoir. We recognise that Toddbrook Reservoir has close neighbours, and we appreciate the feedback we have received on this.

Update 23 March 2021

The proposed reservoir repair plan

Last year we consulted on two shortlisted spillway options for permanently restoring Toddbrook Reservoir. Since then, our team has been working hard to identify and progress the design for an optimal solution. This has involved considering a range of factors, including the good level of consultation feedback we received and further technical assessments which have been undertaken.

This work has informed our decision to develop a new spillway off the left (north) side of the dam.

Our plan for the permanent repair of Toddbrook Reservoir features the construction of:

  • a new side channel weir, where water will overflow into a ‘tumble bay’
  • a new spillway channel off the left (north / sailing club) side of the reservoir dam
  • a stilling basin at the end of the spillway to receive water
  • a channel through the park to connect to the River Goyt in the existing location

This will then allow us to de-commission the existing auxiliary spillway, and grass over the reservoir dam, as well as filling sections of the existing bywash channel to return as usable space.

We have produced a Non-Technical Summary that explains more about our proposals, including how we reached this decision and how we have considered the feedback we received.

View the Non-Technical Summary

We are also publishing a more detailed technical note, which contains information on the engineering assessments we have undertaken to develop our proposals. This Technical Note has been compiled by our specialist engineering design consultants Arup.

View the Technical Note

Plan of the new route for a side channel weir, 'tumble bay', spillway channel and stilling basin, connecting into the River Goyt.

Toddbrook spillway scheme sketch Toddbrook spillway scheme sketch

Repairing the reservoir is a huge engineering challenge and safety is our top priority. The new spillway will unfortunately require the relocation of the Sailing Club clubhouse and slipway. We appreciate this will have a substantial impact on the club but we are committed to working with them to ensure we provide suitable replacement buildings, boat storage and slipway to safeguard their continued use of the reservoir once the project is complete.

Our work will require changes to the northern area of the park. The play area will ultimately have to be moved slightly, and we will carry out landscaping works to ensure that when finished, the park remains an enjoyable and open public space. We are working with High Peak Borough Council to develop our proposals to ensure this happens as sensitively as possible.

During the construction phase, part of the park will unfortunately have to be closed, but we hope to be able to move some of the play equipment to an alternative location.

The use of a side channel weir allows us to connect the existing reservoir bywash into the top of the tumble bay, which will mean water flows down the spillway at all times, and then connects into the River Goyt via a channel through the park. We were guided in this design modification by public feedback indicating that a continuous flow of water down the spillway was preferable to having a predominantly dry channel.

Artist impression of the view towards the reservoir from the Memorial Park. Concrete panels on the current spillway will be removed and replaced with a grassy bank.

Artist's impression, view from Memorial Park Artist's impression, view from Memorial Park
Artist's impression looking across the dam towards the new side channel weir. Artist's impression looking across the dam towards the new side channel weir.

What happens next?

The long term repair design has been guided by modern engineering best practice and was shaped by feedback from residents who took part in the public consultation last September.

Our specialist engineers and project team have carried out extensive technical investigations and design work, considered all of the feedback we received and tried to accommodate the best engineering option within the landscape. We are continuing to develop our proposals, particularly in regards to how we interact with key local areas and facilities, such as the play area of the park and Toddbrook Sailing Club. A second public consultation into the proposed plan will be organised for late spring/early summer, in advance of a planning application to High Peak Borough Council. The consultation is likely to be online due to the coronavirus restrictions and more details will be posted here shortly.

High volume pumps will remain in the reservoir to manage water levels until the end of the restoration project.

Update 6 November 2020

Thank you once again to everyone who took part in our public consultation in September. Over 1,000 people visited our virtual consultation room online, 151 attended one of our drop-in events in Whaley Bridge on 18 and 19 September, and we received 325 responses across our digital, feedback form and email channels.

Your comments matter to us and we appreciate the strong response that you took the time to share. We are now taking the time to carefully consider all feedback received.

An initial summary of consultation feedback received is now available here. We wanted to share these early findings as we continue to consider this feedback in detail to inform the development of a preferred solution for repairing the reservoir.

During the consultation we presented two possible options for restoring the reservoir:

  • 60% of people told us they preferred Option A (A new ‘bathtub’ weir and spillway channel on the left hand end of dam)
  • 30% preferred Option B; (A new ‘tumblebay’ weir and spillway on the right hand end of dam)
  • and 10% of responses had no preference.

We also asked what local benefits you would like to see from the restoration:

  • 59% of people supported keeping the new spillway open and transforming this into a water feature where it passes through the park;
  • the most popular suggestion for other community enhancements was for a circular walking route around the reservoir using the new inlet footbridge, which 30% of responses preferred;
  • 21% of people told us they had a preference for tree planting and more flowers;
  • 19% of responses wanted to see a woodland walk with improved footpaths and information boards on ecology, with 16% of people also preferring improved footpath surfaces;
  • the most popular artistic interpretation to be included as part of the new footbridge was for information on environmental features such as reservoir wildlife (29%);
  • and other popular suggestions for information boards included local reservoir/canal history (22%), or the story of the 2019 incident (21%).

This feedback is now being carefully considered alongside a range of environmental and technical criteria, such as how best to ensure reservoir safety and manage potential local impacts, as we work to develop a preferred repair option. As part of this, you may notice members of our team and machinery undertaking ground investigations around the site as we gather more information to develop our proposal.

Once this process has been completed, we will publish further information to explain the progress we have made in developing a solution. This will include our response to your feedback and how this has helped shape the preferred option.   

In the meantime, we committed to provide detailed information on how the two options we consulted on were selected from the long list of possible options we initially considered. We have now published our full Options Report. This details the process undertaken to identify the long list of options for the restoration, the criteria used to assess these, and the reasons other options were discounted. 

We look forward to continuing the conversation on this project in the coming months. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions regarding the information in our Option report or Initial Consultation summary; the repair project, or our ongoing management of Toddbrook Reservoir. See below for contact details. 

Why do we need to restore Toddbrook Reservoir?

Toddbrook Reservoir normally provides just over a third of the water supply needed to keep the beautiful Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals operational. It is essential we repair the reservoir to secure the long term future of the canal network in High Peak and East Cheshire.

Waterside footpath reopened temporarily

The footpath along the northern side of the reservoir, next to the bywash channel, has been temporarily reopened to the public. No construction work will take place until late 2021, allowing this part of the site to be de-restricted. Due to safety concerns, it will be necessary to keep the footpath over the dam bridge closed throughout the project until the reservoir is reopened to the public in early 2024.

June 2020: waterside path along bypass channel and reservoir June 2020: waterside path along bypass channel and reservoir

Auxiliary spillway - resilience repair project completed

As part of the first phase of restoring Toddbrook Reservoir, an important repair project to the dam’s damaged auxiliary spillway was completed in late summer 2020, greatly increasing its resilience against extreme weather events.

A protective, waterproof nib or short wall has been added to the crest of the dam wall above the damaged spillway. This reaches down to create a seal with the dam’s clay core and ensures no water from inside the reservoir can penetrate beneath the concrete slabs at the top of the spillway.

The spillway crest has also been increased in height by just over one metre with the installation of a sturdy waterproof concrete wall. Engineers completed the job with the installation of new pressure relief holes and joint repairs on the spillway.

Summer 2020: Works to increase the resilience of the dam wall were completed. Summer 2020: Works to increase the resilience of the dam wall were completed.

Improving the Todd Brook inlet and bypass channel

Toddbrook Reservoir is fed by a stream, Todd Brook, which is diverted at the head of the reservoir to either feed into the reservoir or along a bypass channel. The bypass channel runs along the northwest edge of the reservoir before feeding directly into the River Goyt.

After the emergency in August 2019, the masonry weir at the inlet channel was raised with the installation of mesh baskets filled with sandbags.

The plan is to replace these with a new structure, incorporating a footbridge, to provide a greater degree of control over how much water flows from the brook into the reservoir or around it via the bypass channel.

During normal weather conditions, while the reservoir remains drained, all flow is sent down the bypass channel ie. none into the reservoir. Expert hydrologists are constantly monitoring localised weather forecasts and water levels in the reservoir and bypass channel via a series of remote sensors. They can then alert colleagues if the on-site pumps need to be activated or sluice gates opened.

Toddbrook inlet and bypass channel Toddbrook inlet (left) and bypass channel (right)

About the emergency

Following intense heavy rainfall at the end of July 2019, several concrete panels on the Toddbrook dam spillway collapsed. Around 1,500 residents of Whaley Bridge were evacuated from their homes for up to six nights as a safety precaution. Trust staff and volunteers worked around the clock with the local emergency services, including Derbyshire Fire & Rescue, Derbyshire Police and the Environment Agency, to stabilise the dam wall.

Over a billion litres of water were pumped from the reservoir during this emergency phase and water levels continue to remain nearly empty while the dam is repaired. This is likely to take several years.

Want to get in touch or need more information on Toddbrook?

You can contact the Trust by:


Phone: 0808 196 8809

Post: Freepost CRT Toddbrook

Toddbrook Reservoir fast facts

  • Construction: Built in 1830s. Opened in 1840 as a feeder for the Peak Forest and Macclesfield canals
  • Length: 1.1km
  • Volume: 1,238 megalitres – equivalent to 495 Olympic-sized swimming pools
  • Dam wall height: 23.8m
  • Environmental status: Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) 

Last date edited: 21 October 2021