A fence preventing members of the public from completing a circular walk of a reservoir has been completed.

Contractors for the private owners of Aldenham Reservoir in Elstree spent a couple of weeks building a fence and gate, which has blocked off access on the western side of the water and restricted views over the reservoir.

For years and years, dog walkers and families have been able to take a walk around the whole reservoir but action taken by Liberty Lake Leisure Ltd has put a stop to that.

Dog walker Margaret Considine who lives in Elstree says the fence is "devastating" for those who enjoy a stroll.

The fence, which includes a locked gate, has been put in for a number of reasons, with Liberty admitting that the consequences of lowering the reservoir water by a metre, which it argues eases pressure on a dam wall, has played a part in building a fence.

Borehamwood Times:

A locked gate blocking public access which is not a right of way

However, it has emerged that Hertfordshire County Council, which leased the reservoir up until 2015, asked the owners last month to stop putting up a fence.

In correspondence shared to this paper by Liberty co-owner Mahesh Gosrani, the rural estates manager at the county council wrote to Liberty on June 25 requesting any evidence which led to the owners taking the decision to lowering the water level.

Freedom of Information request submitted by Elstree resident Dan Ozarow last year revealed a dam inspector did not think any immediate action was required on the dam wall at the reservoir - but did say there were "effective means to lower the reservoir water level".

Borehamwood Times:

This is the dam wall pictured recently. Water has completely receded and now there are barriers

The rural estates manager wrote to Liberty again on July 1, once again asking for evidence, but to also tell them the county council’s position was that the erection of the fence is "in breach" of a covenant on the reservoir, and that with "immediate effect", construction of the fence must "cease" and any existing fence should be taken down.

The covenant, which this paper has not seen in full, is within clause 2(i) of the Deed of 5 October 1938 which states "no building or erection shall at any time be erected on any part of the property".

The letter also stated that the county council would not give Liberty or its contractors permission to access the land it owns next to the reservoir to enable them to complete the construction of the fence.

Borehamwood Times:

This is a map of the reservoir. The purple lines depict where the public right of way is. This runs out near The Fishery where access has been blocked

Borehamwood Times:

A fence now restricts public access around Aldenham Reservoir. These areas are not designated public rights of way

Mr Gosrani responded to the county council's July 1 letter on July 3, listing a number of reasons why the fence needs to be built.

The reasons listed in the letter are briefly:

  • The public "disregarding" danger signs and walking on "dangerous" silt slurry where water has receded due to the lowering of the reservoir water - firefighters have attended to rescue people and dogs
  • To allow its tenant, Aldenham Angling Club, to fish peacefully, safely, and keep spawning areas safe from litter
  • To stop litter from being washed into the reservoir which in turn is impacting the water and wildlife
  • Dogs going into water and dog fouling
  • To keep people on the footpaths
  • To stop people go into the water in their own boats - there are no rescue boats or lifeguards at the reservoir
  • Private property
  • Reports of anti-social behaviour and drug taking
  • To stop travellers

Liberty, which bought the reservoir in 2015, also used the response as an opportunity to remind the county council why the council felt it did not want to extend its lease in 2015.

But the county council already reiterated to this paper last month the decision was taken not to renew the lease due to the "cost and liability involved with the management and maintenance of the reservoir".

Borehamwood Times:

The partial draining of the reservoir has left the scene looking completely different

Borehamwood Times:

Liberty, which says it has no plans to sell the reservoir despite struggles with planning applications, also confirmed in the letter that the water level will be remaining as it is and preventing them access onto council land would not stop them building the fence.

They also requested more details and clarification about the deed.

Following Liberty's response, a spokesperson for the county council told this paper: "A deed from the 1930’s contains restrictions relating to the reservoir and surrounding land. 

"It is the council’s view that the actions of Liberty Lake Leisure Ltd in lowering the water level at the reservoir and erecting a fence is in breach of these restrictions. 

"As such, the council has not granted access over their land for the continued erection of the fence. 

"Hertfordshire County Council has sought to address the matter directly with Liberty Lake Leisure ltd and hopes these discussions will continue with a view to seeking a resolution."

For more information about why the reservoir water has been lowered and the consequences of this, and about Liberty's planning applications, click here.