Cardiff reservoirs soon to be restored to former glory thanks to protest group

Two 19th century reservoirs have received Welsh Government funding as Dwr Cymru hopes to give them new life

AFTER 20 years of campaigning, the residents of Lisvane have finally got their reservoir back, with a new leisure park set to open in the spring.

Since 2001, the communities of Lisvane and Llanishen have been united against plans to build 320 houses on the site.

When the Reservoir Action Group (RAG) formed in 2001, it set out to preserve the historic bodies of water, that up until the 1970s, provided clean drinking water for Cardiff.

Peter Fullerton, resident of Lisvane since 1993 and now deputy chairman of Friends of Cardiff Reservoirs, said there was “animosity and concern” during the planning phase.

The plans for 320 new houses were proposed by Western Power Distribution (WPD) in 2004, and would have seen both reservoirs drained, and the surrounding green space concreted over.

“It was a really big deal at the time,” said Mr Fullerton. “The campaign was huge with over 800 members signed up to RAG in protest of the plans.”

A 10-year planning battle began, as WPD slowly began “deconstructing” the reservoir according to Mr Fullerton. This included fencing the area off and forcing residents to apply for a permit to walk around it.

It also meant that fly-fishing was stopped, and the sailing school, where Olympian and two-time world champion Hannah Mills first learnt how to sail, could not renew its licence on the water.

Water sports came to an end after permission to sail was refused

Mr Fullerton said: “RAG were very clever in the way in which they dealt with WPD. They identified protected plants and wildlife which made things difficult when it came to planning.”

Although this effort allowed CADW to list the area as grade II, and name it a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), this did not stop WPD from draining Llanishen reservoir in 2010, sparking outrage from the community and RAG.

The pressure eventually forced WPD to sell up. And after a brief spell with steel supplier Celsa, the reservoirs were returned to Dwr Cymru in 2016 to the delight of all involved.

Friends of Cardiff Reservoirs has since worked with Dwr Cymru, which is set to unveil a new visitor hub. This will see the return of watersports as well as educational workshops to study wildlife. It will also bring 60 new jobs to the area through staff and rangers at the hub.

In a statement, Dwr Cymru said: “We are making great progress in our work to bring this cherished community asset back to its former glory. The main building is starting to take shape and in recent months we have also been busy installing our brand new fence and footpaths which will allow people to enjoy the reservoirs in a safe and secure environment whilst protecting the sensitive ecology.

“Since we took over Lisvane and Llanishen reservoirs, we have been working closely with the community to keep them informed about our plans for the reservoirs. We regularly meet with the local Reservoir Action Group, the Friends of Nant Fawr and local ecological groups, as well as hosting community weeks for schools and community groups to come and see the progress being made for themselves.

Friends of Cardiff Reservoirs have played a key part in over seeing the creation of the new leisure park

“We have also supported the set up of a Friends of Cardiff Reservoirs group who will work with our rangers to help look after the site. The group will be having their first ranger led activity on-site for the first time next month.

“Our team are working hard to be able to open this brand-new exciting destination in the heart of Cardiff next year. Once opened, it will give people the opportunity to reconnect with water and our beautiful environment as well as enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that getting outside can bring.”

Mr Fullerton is confident the work will bring about positive change: “It has increased the profile of the area, which is a good thing.

Dwr Cymru hopes to have the leisure park open by Spring 2023

“There are naturally some concerns from some residents who are worried about parking and noise, but I think overall people will be pleased.

“We’re looking to set up a dementia friendly walking trail so that everyone can get involved.”

For more information, or to become a member of Friends of Cardiff Reservoirs, click here.