A new Cheddar reservoir is not a foregone conclusion and could be shouted down by public opposition, Bristol Water has admitted.
When asked if the move was going to happen regardless of what the public said, the water firm stood by the notion that the impending consultation was “absolutely genuine”.
Spokesman Jeremy Williams told Cheddar Parish Council last week: “If there’s opposition we will try to meet these objections and mitigate against them. This is not a scheme we can foist onto a community.
“But we do need a new supply of water. If it does not come from a reservoir it has to come from elsewhere. If that’s more expensive then that’s a price we all pay.”
Mr Williams repeated Bristol Water’s message that a new water supply was essential for future demand and 53 sites had been looked at before returning to engineers’ original vision to build two reservoirs in Cheddar. Bristol Water’s licence to draw water from Cheddar Gorge was also a major consideration, with the same pipes connecting the two places to be used.
Land south of the reservoir is currently being drilled, scoured, dug and ecologically surveyed to provide date for a planning application to go in circa December 2013.
Households in Axbridge, Cheddar and Shipham are to get leaflets outlining progress on the reservoir bid. The leaflets will also spell out the timetable for public consultation which begins early next year. Not a lot of detail will be available to show, the exercise being a sounding out of people’s wishes and concerns.
The second stage of the consultation will have exhibitions and a dedicated website around July.
Once the application goes in it will take months for Sedgemoor District Council and others to mull over, probably until April 2014.
An estimated cost for the reservoir is £100 million. Bristol Water expects to be given £260 million to see them through the next five years so if permission was given building would not start until 2018. It would take three to four years to build.
Mr Williams understood Cheddar was probably feeling consultation fatigue but said: “Without knocking Tesco, Sainsbury’s or any other developer, this is not quite the same.
“This is about a water supply for a lot of people and wider Somerset.
“There’s an opportunity there and could be a major recreational tourist facility.”
Do you have any thoughts on the proposed reservoir? Perhaps you have a name for it. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Editor, Cheddar Valley Gazette, Southover, Wells, BA5 1UH.