CHARD Reservoir will be enhanced as part of a wider programme of flood prevention work across the county.

The reservoir was originally constructed on the River Isle in 1842 to provide water for the Chard Canal, which closed in 1868.

South Somerset District Council purchased the reservoir in 1990 and turned it and the surrounding land into a nature reserve, which has become popular with dog walkers and anglers.

Now, the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA) plans to work with Somerset Council (which inherited the site in April 2023) to protect the surrounding area from flooding and thus guarantee its future.

The council originally committed to spending £99,000 on improving the reservoir’s dam to extend its lifespan, with £78,000 being spent in by April 2024.

This scheme within the capital programme has been delayed and downgraded in light of the council’s precarious financial position, with only £21,000 now expected to be spent by April 2026.

The revised scheme will “reinforce the downstream toe” of the dam near the stilling basis, with a low spot on the “auxiliary overflow chute side wall” being raised.

Chard & Ilminster News: The reservoir seen from Anglers Car Park.The reservoir seen from Anglers Car Park. (Image: Daniel Mumby)

As part of its own work programme, the SRA plans to install an additional structure along Chaffcombe Lane to provide additional protection from flooding.

SRA manager David Mitchell said: “SRA funding would allow for a concrete wall to be built along the upstream embankment crest of the reservoir next to Chaffcombe Lane.

“The main purpose of this wall – up to 1.1 metres high – would be to reduce the risks of water overflowing from the reservoir during periods of heavy rain.

“The council’s flood and water management team also hope to secure funding from transport sources for a path behind the wall, which could be used by walkers, cyclists and anglers.”

The reservoir lies just off the Stop Line Way cycle route to Ilminster, which follows the route of a former railway line which was dismantled in the mid-1960s as part of the infamous Beeching cuts.

The council and Sustrans (which manages the national cycle network) have been exploring ways to extend and enhance the route, including an unsuccessful attempt to upgrade the Ilminster to Donyatt section of the route under approved plans for 360 new homes on Canal Way in Ilminster.

Mr Mitchell added: “Chard Reservoir is popular with many visitors as an 88-acre local nature reserve.

“The work outlined here would all help to maintain its value for people and wildlife, while reducing flood risks predicted to get worse because of climate change.”

The SRA has not disclosed how much money would be committed to the reservoir improvements, citing commercial sensitivity.

Its enhanced work programme, along with its wider budget, is expected to be approved at its next board meeting in Shepton Mallet on March 8.