I love where I live. Here, on the southern edge of the North York Moors National Park, I have access to some of the most beautiful landscapes in England, the UK, the world even. This is photo is of Farndale, taken from the northern end. Isn’t it just gorgeous? But, this view could have been very different indeed…
The Farndale Reservoir Plan
Plans for a damn in Farndale were first conceived in the 1930s. By the 1960s there was an even grander plan to flood the valley by the building of a new reservoir. The scheme was proposed by the Corporation of Kingston upon Hull. The plan was regarded as inevitable by the locals and Yorkshire folk in general. People were consigned to believe that it was essential for water the supply of water to the industries of South and West Yorkshire.
Despite local opposition and a petition with 10,000 signatures going to Parliament, the scheme appeared to be unstoppable. Various agencies and authorities bowed to the pressure and accepted the plan. North Riding County Council, the Countryside Commission, the Council for the Protection of Rural England and others all bowed to pressure and accepted that the reservoir would go ahead.
So where is the reservoir?
The plans for the damn were voted through in the House of Commons. So how, with Parliament and all the support, did the reservoir never get built?
Because of an MP from Northern Ireland – Sir Samuel Knox-Cunningham.
How did an MP from Northern Ireland stop a reservoir being built in North Yorkshire? He played a blinder, that’s how. You see, Sir Samuel chaired a parliamentary select committee whose job it was to check the small print on the Parliamentary Bill required to get the damn built.
On the day the approval was set to be given in May 1970, Sir Samuel declared that a number of members of the committee were ineligible to vote. This was on the grounds that these members had already publicly expressed their support for the project.
Although the legality of this was questionable, it worked. Sir Samuel, a member of the National Trust, had the casting vote and used it to veto the scheme completely.
What might have been
I’m sure you may have seen in the news recently the remains of the villages of Ashopton and Derwent reappearing due to the water level of Ladybower reservoir being very low.
These villages were lost in the 1940s when that reservoir was built and the valley flooded. It’s amazing to think that this same fate could have befallen Farndale and changed this beautiful landscape forever.