Credit: Alfie Reynolds

Long-awaited return of watersports to reservoir delayed by visitor centre setbacks

The Llanishen and Lisvane site was due to re-open in May, having been closed since 2010

WATERSPORTS enthusiasts in Cardiff will have to wait a little longer to return to Llanishen and Lisvane Reservoir after the new visitor centre saw its planned opening delayed.

The hub was set to open at the end of May this year but that plan has been pushed back until the summer with Dŵr Cymru, the reservoir’s leaseholder, refusing to set an exact date for the unveiling. 

The resevoir was closed for sailing and walking in 2010, though it was re-opened to walkers in 2016.

The closure was the result of a long-running dispute between residents and an American company, Western Power Distribution (WPD), which bought the land with the intention of draining the lake to build houses on the site.

The resevoir was returned to the ownership of Dwr Cymru in 2016 and at that point, plans for the new visitor centre were hatched.

Construction at the visitor centre site started a year ago.
Credit: Alfie Reynolds

The plans include a cafe with panoramic views across the water, along with showers and changing facilities to enable watersports to take place once again.

The activities proposed include stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking and electric picnic boats – as well as the return of sailing – with the plans aimed at transforming the site into a hub for health and wellbeing.

After winning their battle to get the site returned to local ownership, residents are understanding about the delays, which are due to bad weather and supply chain issues. 

New paths and roads are being laid, as well as the area being landscaped prior to it reopening.
Credit: Alfie Reynolds

Sarah Hamilton, 72, used to walk her dog Pippin along the reservoir before it was fenced off and is looking forward to it being reopened.

“It is quite annoying that it’s been delayed as we wanted it to be open before summer but that’s the norm for these projects, they always end up behind schedule,” she said.

“I hope the centre is worth the extra wait but I can’t lie, I’m just looking forward to us being able to walk around the water again.

“I’m probably a bit too old for all that watersports malarkey but my grandson can’t wait!” 

Richard Gurney, 48, a school bus driver from Llanishen, regularly jogs around the area in the summer. 

“Delays-wise there’s no surprise there,” he said. “Their contracts never complete on time and there are always unforeseen issues that are never taken into consideration in the planning stage.

“As for the reservoir centre and watersports, I think it’s a great idea for the area. It was used like this over 30 years ago by, I think, Cardiff Sailing Club, as my sister learned there.”

The site’s complex history explained

The reservoirs are a popular destination among walkers and joggers.
Credit: Alfie Reynolds

The watersports and visitor centre project is part of Dŵr Cymru’s efforts to restore the reservoir to its former glory, following more than a decade of uncertainty over its future.

Acquired in 2001 from Welsh Water by American company WPD, the site was soon earmarked for the building of more than 300 homes, which triggered a 12-year battle between the company and local campaigners and politicians.

In 2005, as part of these plans, public access to the reservoirs was closed off as WPD fought to get permission to drain the site and plan for the build. 

Five years later, permission was finally granted to drain the basin of the reservoir causing Llanishen Sailing Centre, which produced Olympic gold-medalist Hannah Mills, to relocate to Cardiff Bay. 

Sailing boats will return to the water here for the first time in over a decade.
Credit: Reservoir Action Group

However, planning permission for the houses was harder to achieve and in 2013, after the Welsh Government rejected an appeal from WPD, the plans were finally abandoned.

By 2016, the site was back in Dŵr Cymru’s hands, with public access allowed again and plans for the visitor centre and return of sailing and other watersports announced soon after.

Richard Cowie, Chairman of the Reservoir Action Group – which led the campaign against WPD – understands the supply-chain issues behind the delays and remains conscious of the bigger picture following the long fight to save the reservoir.

“Members of the Reservoir Action Group are eagerly anticipating the re-opening of the reservoirs and having waited since they were closed in January 2005 by the previous owners Western Power Distribution, a delay of a few more weeks won’t make much difference,” he said.

The opening of the site has been delayed until Summer 2023.
Credit: Alfie Reynolds
The area has been fenced off from the public for some time.
Credit: Alfie Reynolds

“Dŵr Cymru have done a good job of keeping the local community informed during the period since they took over the reservoirs, and we are confident that they are doing all they can to complete the project as soon as possible.”

Regarding the delays, a Dŵr Cymru spokesperson told The Cardiffian: “Our team are working hard on the construction of the new visitor hub.

“However, due to challenges such as the demand and supply of materials, we have encountered some delays and now anticipate opening the site this summer.

“Once opened, this brand-new exciting destination in the heart of Cardiff will give everybody the opportunity to reconnect with water and our beautiful environment as well as enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that getting outside can bring.”