A proposal to modify a ‘unique’ water feature would cause ‘substantial harm’ to its historic value, a planning appeal has heard.

Yorkshire Water hopes to redesign Butterley Spillway to prevent Butterley Reservoir overflowing and flooding Marsden below.

But the ornate water management feature – built between 1891 and 1906 by esteemed engineers Thomas and Charles Hawksley – has become popular with villagers and tourists.

Although all parties agree the spillway needs modernising to prevent flooding, objectors say Yorkshire Water’s (YW) redesign will damage the look of the grade II listed structure which includes cascading steps.

How the spillway would look under the YW proposal

YW’s £6m redesign is now the subject of a public inquiry after it was rejected by Kirklees Council.

The inquiry at the Media Centre in Huddersfield town centre, chaired and adjudicated by Government planning inspector Jennifer Vyse, heard from heritage consultant Andrew Harris who prepared a report on behalf of Kirklees Council.

The council hopes the appeal will be rejected.

Mr Harris said YW’s plan to replace the stone spillway mainly with concrete would cause ‘substantial harm’ to the spillway’s heritage.

He said: “It will be substantially altered from its historic form. It will be different and as a heritage asset the difference will significantly reduce its heritage.

“It will be in a substantially modified form that will have lost its connection to the past.”

Mr Harris added: “Where you (YW) intend to go would constitute substantial harm.”

Snow on the Butterley Spillway
 

The appeal also heard from Diane Ellis, of Save Butterley Spillway (SBS) campaign group.

Ms Ellis, a Marsden resident and town planner, told Ms Vyse that the spillway was built in a ‘flamboyant’ style at great expense to reflect Huddersfield’s importance on the world industrial stage at the time.

Nottingham-born Thomas Hawksley and his son Charles were leading civil engineers who designed water works across England.

She said: “There is a high level of craftsmanship which makes it a spillway of exceptional quality.

“The grace and elegance of Hawksley’s design will be lost in the proposal.”

Ms Ellis added that SBS and Marsden residents felt the proposal had been presented to them as ‘fait accompli’.

The public inquiry is ongoing