MORE than 60 per cent of those who took part in consultation over the future of Cannop Ponds want to see them retained in their current state, Forestry England (FE) says.

FE hosted public engagement events at Speech House back in the spring, which gave locals a chance to have their say on how issues surrounding flood risk due to the integrity of the existing dams should be addressed. 

Four options for the future of the site are being considered by FE, and people were asked to complete a survey detailing their preferences during the consultation.  

Supporters of the Save Cannop Ponds campaign, who want to see the existing dams replaced and the ponds retained, turned out en masse at the events.

The ponds' retention by replacing the dams is Option One of four, while Option Two includes the creation of smaller ponds by removing the upper spillway; Option Three “a cascade” of ponds held by “leaky, woody” structures; and Option Four the removal of the dams and spillways, “re-naturalising” the Cannop Brook resulting in the loss of both ponds. 

And it was Option One that was the best supported by the public, with 61 per cent choosing it as their first preference and 11 per cent as their second, third or fourth. No order of preference was recorded by 28 per cent of responses.

A total of 736 responses were collected from the survey both in person and online. 

FE says the survey has also told them more about people’s concerns surrounding the works, which include the impact of the changing climate on flood risk; the impact engineering works will have on existing wildlife at the site; and improving access to the area and the use of local stone.

It says more information is being gathered so no public debate will be held on the feedback yet, but that it would help to inform the final decision. 

Deputy Surveyor for the Forest of Dean Kevin Stannard says FE has already made some commitments based on the feedback received. 

They include: 

- Keep working to keep communities safe now from a dam failure by maintaining the existing structures and managing water levels. 

- Keep the community informed of the scheme’s progress and engaging the community again to test and improve the final option.

- Use local stone where possible to improve the look of the scheme. Local stone is unlikely to be able to replace reinforced concrete as the main material for strengthening the dam or replacing the spillway. 

- Improve access to the ponds and valley for everyone in line with our commitments in the Our Shared Forest land management plan. 

- Provide interpretation appropriate to the site and each option to increase understanding of the history and wildlife of the valley.

- Continue to implement works to moderate storm water flows in the Forest, slowing flows and holding up water in the Forest for longer, to mitigate against extreme rainfall and prolonged droughts.

Kevin Stannard, Deputy Surveyor for Forestry England, explained:“Thank you to everyone that came to our public events or responded online. We have seen a strong passion for Cannop Ponds and people have given us their concerns and ideas for the site’s future.

“We are being open about the information we are gathering to help us choose the best option from the four available, so we have made the analysis available to everyone on our website.

“We still have more information to collect on flood modelling, ecology and the recent ground investigations before making a choice, so we won’t be debating these specific results in public at the moment."

To view the analysis in full, click here.