A sailing club which was threatened by a development of holiday pods now faces an even bigger challenge after the owners of a reservoir took action to drop the level of water.

Aldenham Sailing Club received news on Monday that Liberty Lake Leisure Ltd (LLLL) had abandoned plans for 50 pods on the bank of Aldenham Reservoir - but there's no cause for celebration for members.

That's because the owners are taking action to reduce the water level of the reservoir by one metre - based on confidential advice by a dams and reservoir engineer who inspected Aldenham Reservoir in July last year.

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Photo: Suzanne Alford

The engineer said in the confidential letter he has "concerns over the movement of the reservoir" and the owners may want to consider a "temporary/permanent reduction in water level to reduce the load on the reservoir".

But a inspection report in September by the same engineer, published after a Freedom of Information request was submitted by Hertsmere Labour chairman Dr Dan Ozarow, states that the 225-year-old dam is in a "satisfactory condition" and although the engineer said there are "effective means to lower the reservoir water level", there were no recommendations in the report that immediate action was required.

In December, public notices were stuck on trees around the reservoir by LLLL informing passers-by the water level would be reduced by initially one metre.

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A sluice has been opened and water has been gushing out. Already, the sailing club estimates more than 50cm has been lost.

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Photo: Suzanne Alford

Club commodore Bryan Forbes said: "The drop in water for us is disastrous. We can't get the boats in and out of the water. The more able can wade out but those less able can’t operate at all. We're not sure if it is going to be possible to sail at all if more water is lost.

"Given the most recent inspection and report, if the inspector has any concerns and believes actions need to be taken, it should be in the report.

"We know the dam is moving all the time, but is there any need for immediate and extreme action now?"

LLLL own Aldenham Reservoir and the company is responsible for the upkeep of the reservoir. But co-director Mahesh Gosrani says LLLL does not have the money to rebuild or replace the embankment, but the application of 50 pods would have provided the income for regular maintenance of the dam and upkeep of the reservoir.

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Some of the land the club, which pays Liberty £7,800 a year to use the lake, uses to launch the boats. This is where some of the pods would have been built. Photos taken last summer.

However, Hertsmere Borough Council's planning department has made clear it would not support LLLL's application for 50 pods, primarily because it would have meant redevelopment on green belt land.

The sailing club feared the plans too because Mr Forbes said it would have lost land to store boats and land to launch boats into the water.

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LLLL, who were also knocked back in 2016 by the council to build 150 homes just off Watford Road in Elstree, have now withdrawn their latest application following advice from their planning consultants.

Commenting on the decision to reduce the water level, Mr Gosrani said: "We simply cannot take chances with health and safety, and people’s lives.

"The engineer's expert belief is the dam movement patterns will continue and could accelerate with time and thus he believes it prudent to allow for significant capital investment to rebuild or replacement of the embankment.

"As owners of the reservoir property, we need to manage our perceived risk based on our available and limited resources. We have therefore considered it prudent to reduce the level of the water in the reservoir initially by a metre or so subject to further assessment by our supervisor at the end of this month or February.

"This is a historical jewel in Hertsmere which we have been trying to save and safeguard but our sincere efforts have been completely misunderstood."

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The dam wall pictured last week

The Environment Agency is aware of the water level being dropped at Aldenham Reservoir but at this stage have no concerns.

A spokesman said: "We are aware that LLLL are lowering the level of its reservoir and have no concerns at this time. We have not received any reports of pollution or flooding from the public due to the owner’s activities, but this is on our radar should anything come in, or we notice any issues in the area.

"As the reservoir owners, LLLL are within their rights to lower the depth of the reservoir for operational reasons. We have seen the inspection report and are aware of the current condition and suggested recommendations.

"Members of the public can report suspected environmental incidents at any time to our free 24-hour helpline on 0800 807060."

However, Hertsmere's MP Oliver Dowden is concerned.

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Oliver Dowden MP, left, pictured at Aldenham Reservoir

He said: "I’m pleased that LLLL have now withdrawn their planning application at Aldenham Reservoir. As I’ve said previously, it is vitally important that we do not damage the reservoir’s wonderful open spaces, retain public access and ensure the sailing club has a future.

"I remain concerned however, over the decision by Liberty to lower the water level. I am concerned that it will lead to more reductions in future and harm the reservoir as an asset for our community.

"I’ve been in contact with the borough council and the environment agency, and as your MP will continue to raise my constituents’ concerns with those responsible for the reservoir’s future."