§ Mr. Madden
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) if he will place in the Library any material submitted, requested or commissioned by him concerning any matters relating to Horton Bank top reservoir in Bradford, since 1979;
(2) what powers he has to ensure the safety of any reservoir; and what powers he has to direct or request a water authority or a water company to retain a reservoir, emptied on safety grounds, to be refilled and kept for recreational purposes;
(3) what representations he has received concerning the future of Horton Bank top reservoir in Bradford; and if he will make a statement;
(4) if he will list the statutory provisions that govern the sale by water companies of land owned by them close to reservoirs;
(5) if he will list the statutory provisions which relate to the imposition of right and obligation on public agencies to make inquiries into the safety of any reservoir owned by a water authority or water company.
§ Mr. Howard
[holding answer 24 October 1989]: The Secretary of State appoints panels of independent civil engineers, under the Reservoirs Act 1975, to ensure the safety of all reservoirs with a capacity of more than 25,000 cu. m. County councils and metropolitan district councils are responsible for securing that owners comply with the requirements of the Act, which include having their reservoirs inspected and supervised by panel engineers and carrying out any safety measures they recommend. The Secretary of State requires reports from the local authorities every two years on any enforcement action they have had to take and he may, in the case of default, direct an authority to carry out any of its enforcement functions.
Under section 8 of the Water Act 1989, water undertakers have a general duty to take such steps as are reasonably practicable to make water or associated land available for recreation. And in considering proposals in relation to their functions they are subject to various environmental duties, including a duty to take into account any effect which the proposals would have on the beauty or amenity of a rural or urban area.
The Secretary of State is required by section 20 of the 1989 Act to enforce these general environmental and recreational duties. In taking enforcement action he could require a reservoir to be refilled once it had been made safe. But he would not take such action where the breach of duties was of a trivial nature, or where enforcement would be precluded by his general duties, for example, to secure that water and sewerage services are provided properly, to ensure that the interests of customers are protected, and to promote economy and efficiency on the part of the undertaker.
Under section 152 of the Act, water service companies are prevented from disposing of land transferred to them from water authorities unless they have the consent of the Secretary of State, or if that disposal is in accordance with a general authorisation given by the Secretary of State. The Act, the conditions of appointment and the general authorisation together ensure that no land is disposed of which is still required for water supply purposes. Special arrangements apply to the disposal of land which is in a national park, in an area of outstanding natural beauty or a site of special scientific interest.
As regards the Horton Bank top reservoir, the 558W Secretary of State has received two letters asking for copies of the report on an inspection of the reservoir carried out earlier this year. The report was made to the Yorkshire water authority, the owner of the reservoir, and a copy was sent to Bradford metropolitan district council. It is for Yorkshire Water, as successor to the water authority, to decide on the future of the reservoir in the light of the report and of its duties under both the 1975 and 1989 Acts. The Department has no material relating to the reservoir.