Friday, 6 September 2013

Law prevents safety measures at Mill Dam



Following the tragic deaths earlier this month of two young men in the waters of the Mill Dam north of Ardrossan, the3towns has discovered that calls for the reservoir to be made safer could be thwarted by a law introduced to give public access to the countryside.

Saltcoats man Sean Marshall (20) and 17-year-old Ross Munn from Ardrossan drowned after entering the reservoir’s water at around 8:00pm on Monday, August 5. Emergency services recovered the bodies of the two men four hours later.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, devastated friends and family took to social networking sites Facebook and Twitter to post condolences and share memories of the two men. Three Towns residents also began petitions calling on Scottish Water, owners of the reservoir, to implement measures that would prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again.

However, a representative of Scottish Water has told the3towns that legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament actually prevents the company from erecting fencing around the reservoir or from even putting-up ‘No Swimming’ signs.

The legal prohibition is an unintended consequence of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which was introduced to stop private landowners from preventing public access to large swathes of the Scottish countryside and hills. The legislation provides public access rights to all land and inland waterways, with a few stated exceptions, which means that Scottish Water would be breaking the law if it erected fences that prevented the public from accessing the area around the Mill Dam.

Scottish Water offered its condolences to the families of Sean Marshall and Ross Munn immediately following the deaths of the two men, and has indicated it will make available a member of staff to receive petitions raised by local people. The company spokesman added, “Following the recent tragic deaths at the reservoir, a meeting of various agencies has been held and discussions are continuing about what can be done within the confines of the Land Reform Act.”

Ardrossan’s Independent councillor, John Hunter, told the3towns he is disappointed that legislation generally regarded as being in the public interest had inadvertently placed a stumbling block in the way of basic actions such as erecting fencing and ‘No Swimming’ signs at the Mill Dam. Cllr Hunter said, “At a recent meeting of the Three Towns Area Committee we discussed the tragic deaths of Sean and Ross and the situation at the reservoir. The Committee agreed to write to Scottish Water, asking that they remove the metal jetty from which people have dived into the water in the past.”

The Mill Dam reservoir is no longer part of the public water-supply system.

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