Reeling

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THE use of two Grimsargh reservoirs as a fishing club for the past 65 years looks set to come to an end after owners United Utilities refused to renew the club's lease.

The 200 members of the Red Scar Angling Association are appalled at the thought of losing the facilities, one stocked with 40,000 worth of carp, the other used for coarse fishing.

Secretary Sid Morley said: "Grimsargh is one of the top carp angling sites in the north west, we have a very keen membership, youngsters paying just 1 a time to learn the skills.

"At a meeting last Friday with United Utilities over concerns at a drop in the water level, and also expecting to renew our lease, we were told this would not happen and that they are going to drain the reservoirs.

"This was appalling news to take in - it would be truly an absolute disaster to lose the amenity after so long."

And, having won protection two years ago for the area as a valuable biological heritage site - backed by Lancashire County Council's Environment Directorate and the Wildlife Trust - local environmentalists led by resident David Hindle, are extremely worried that this could be lost, and the adverse effect the move would have on 60 breeding and wintering birds recorded on the site, plus a huge range of flora and fauna.

"This is a very valuable amenity for the people of Grimsargh, those who use the fishing club and love wildlife," Mr Hindle stressed.

"It is outstanding in terms of the botany recorded, particularly after the report by an eminent north west botanist - it must not be allowed to disappear."

A spokesperson for United Utilities stressed that discussion on the reservoirs were at a very early stage.

She said: "UU is one of the largest companies in the north west and large proportions of our land are designated as British Heritage Sites or Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

"We are acutely aware of our environmental responsibilites and any plans for the Grimsargh reservoir sites will take this designation into account."

She added in a statement on the fishing rights: "United Utilities has a policy of providing access to our land for recreation wherever possible and permits fishing on more than 40 reservoirs and lakes in the north west.

"However, the primary purpose of reservoirs is to collect and store water for the supply network and this means that the water levels in them will vary with the demand for water from our customers.

"Some older reservoirs, like those at Grimsargh, become redundant as treatment works are built and upgraded.

"Because the reservoirs at Grimsargh are not required for the water supply and are too old to be brought up to modern safety standards, their future is under consideration and we have advised Red Scar Angling Club that we will not be renewing their lease.

"Moving the club to one of our reservoirs at Alston is not a practical option as the steep banks and varying water levels of this active reservoir have proved unsuitable to fishing in the past.

"We sympathise with the club and we have offered assistance in their search for alternative waters."

At the time of going to press, comments were not available from the county's Environment Directorate or the Wildlife Trust.