The private owners of a reservoir have absolutely no plans to sell the site and have said it is a "family heirloom".

Liberty Lake Leisure Ltd has told us it has received "several approaches" to buy Aldenham Reservoir but is adamant it is not for sale.

There is plenty of community concern at the reservoir at the moment following action taken by owners Liberty in recent months.

This includes a one-metre reduction in water level, which has not only drastically changed the look and feel of the reservoir, but has also caused Aldenham Sailing Club to terminate its lease after more than 80 years of sailing.

Liberty says the drop in water level since January has been necessary to ease pressure on a 225-year-old dam wall - but a Freedom of Information request submitted by Elstree resident Dan Ozarow revealed that a dam inspector did not think any "immediate action" was required on the dam, following a visit he made to the reservoir last year - although the inspector did have "concerns" over the movement of it.

Borehamwood Times:

Pictured on the left is the dam wall. Previously, water went right up to this wall. People can walk along the top of the wall.

When Liberty bought the reservoir in 2015, co-owner Mahesh Gosrani says they knew the "responsibilities and liabilities" that came with purchasing it.

Previously, the reservoir was leased for 42 years by Hertfordshire County Council from previous owners Safari - the county council reiterated this week it ended the lease due to the "cost and liability involved" with the management and maintenance of the reservoir.

'The reservoir could have been thriving by now'

When Liberty bought the reservoir and surrounding land, it submitted plans for 150 homes on land it owns off Watford Road, close to Centennial Park, Elstree, by the reservoir.

But Hertsmere Borough Council refused the plans, primarily because Liberty wanted to build the homes on green belt land.

Liberty says the scheme for 150 homes would have provided £5 million for the reservoir - the owners say this money would have gone towards building a new dam, creating a dedicated footpath around the reservoir, and further facilities both on and off the water, including pedalo's canoes, a zip wire, a cafe, and an outdoor gym.

This map shows the proposed site for 150 homes in 2016 with the reservoir on the other side of the road

Borehamwood Times:

This diagram shows the 150 proposed homes. The road is Watford Road and the water behind is Aldenham Reservoir

Mr Gosrani told us this month, had this scheme been approved, families would be living in the homes already, Elstree village shopping would have got a "big boost", and the reservoir would be "thriving".

Instead, the reservoir appears to be deteriorating and people will not be able to walk around the whole reservoir after this weekend with Liberty constructing a new fence which they say is for health and safety reasons.

Liberty is allowed to do this as the west and south side of the reservoir is not currently a public right of way.

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A fence has been put in at the reservoir and is set to be completed by the end of this week

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This public notice has been put up by Liberty informing people that the footpath has been closed

Clare Newton, a campaigner who has been following the going-on at the reservoir for years, said: "We have moved from a facility that offered glorious walks and the opportunity to embrace nature in a borough fraught with over development, to a fenced off building site as the water is drained to leave a foul-smelling bowl of dirt and dust."

Margaret Considine, a dog walker of 36 years, says she is "devastated" by the new fence, adding: "This was a jewel, a precious and much loved area of beauty, wildlife, pleasure and teaching for our children. It is fast becoming a barren, smelly and unsightly area."

And Elstree & Borehamwood Residents' Association say the "beauty" of Aldenham Reservoir is now "tarnished" and said it will continue its campaign to 'save Aldenham Reservoir'.

'We realise we don't have very special circumstances'

Mr Gosrani has told us Liberty has "never had any intention to profit monetarily from the beautiful scenic reservoir" other than receive a "decent return" on its investment - Liberty will not say how much it paid for the reservoir.

Last year, Liberty returned to the council with a new scheme - this was for 50 log cabins on the eastern bank of the reservoir.

But the owners withdrew their plans after Hertsmere Borough Council officers made it clear it would not support the scheme, because it was deemed to be unacceptable development on green belt land - to build on green belt land, an applicant must display a development has "special circumstances".

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Liberty wanted to build 50 holiday pods on the eastern bank, but the sailing club would have lost lakeside boat storage. The club have since left.

And the council has said "no significant repairs or construction works have been required" for the dam when it was considering both of Liberty's planning applications.

Mr Gosrani said: "Our latest application for log cabins on one side of the reservoir would have generated enough revenue to keep everything open in the short term and reserves for the longer term with an investment of £3 million.

"But we were advised that this application was going to be recommended for refusal so we just withdrew."

It is after the withdrawal that Liberty began draining the reservoir.

Mr Gosrani continued: "We now fully understand that the council is only able to work within its planning policies rather than to suit an individual organisations community spirited, philanthropic, aspirations.

"The council has perhaps never deviated and always listened to the people’s wishes.

"We have therefore decided not to put the council through such challenges anymore and therefore we rest our case as finally we have no choice but to accept that we do not have very special circumstances."

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Aldenham Reservoir in May

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Aldenham Reservoir in May

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The reservoir in May

Owners urged to revisit proposals

Hertsmere Borough Council has urged Liberty to reconsider more "appropriate proposals" but say Liberty will not engage with them.

Councillor Harvey Cohen, responsible for Planning said: "We, as a council, understand and appreciate the value of Aldenham Reservoir and its surrounding countryside as an important local amenity and woodland haven for our residents and visitors.

"However, while the freehold for the surrounding area is owned by Hertfordshire County Council, the reservoir is a privately-held asset. Therefore, though we are keen to be part of any dialogue regarding its future, we can only act within the regulatory framework available to us as the local planning and licensing authority.

"The site is located in the green belt and very special circumstances will need to be demonstrated to justify the level of development previously proposed by the site’s owners.

"Both myself and our head of planning have written to Liberty about this issue, but they have declined our offer for further discussion. We would urge them to revisit their proposals and work with us to come up with an appropriate scheme for the site which can secure its future as an important local beauty spot and recreational area."

Council says it cannot buy reservoir

In an attempt to find a solution, Hertsmere Liberal Democrat councillor Jerry Evans has called for the reservoir to be returned to public ownership.

Cllr Evans said: "It's desperately sad to witness this crisis escalate and see the reservoir in this dreadful state.

"The problems are complex and feelings run high, but that's no excuse for us failing to work together to save this precious site for future generations. We now believe the best option is for the reservoir to return to public ownership."

Cllr Evans's colleague, Cllr Andrew Melville, wrote to Hertsmere Borough Council on June 4 about the idea in an attempt to "break the deadlock".

But council managing director, Sajida Bijle, has responded stating the council's interest in securing the future of the reservoir will "not be at the expense of the proper discharge of its legal duties as the local and planning licensing authority, nor will the council saddle the local taxpayer with liabilities that are properly the responsibility of the reservoir's current owners".

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Fellow Lib Dem councillor Paul Richards and Hertsmere Liberal Democrats chairman Saif Al-Saadoon pictured recently at the reservoir

'It's not for sale'

Mr Gosrani has echoed that Liberty, which we're told has spent £600,000 on fees relating to planning schemes over the last five years, has no intention of passing the costs of the reservoir onto taxpayers.

He said: "As a privately held asset, we do not require any funds from the council purse for the reservoir maintenance or approvals for any revenue generating schemes.

"Fortunately, we are not in a dire situation where we need state handouts to run our households or properties.

"We have absolutely no intention to shift the burden of our privately held, loss-making asset to the Hertsmere taxpayer.

"We have had several approaches to buy the reservoir but it is a family heirloom which is not for sale.

"It will stay in our family ownership and as we get older, our children will continue to own and manage and enjoy our legacy."