Hartlepool residents warned to stop trying to save wildlife at Hart reservoir due to safety risks

The Environment Agency has intervened to help rescue animals from a reservoir which is being drained and is urging well-meaning animal lovers not to trespass to try and help trapped fish and eels.

By James Barker
Friday, 05 July, 2019, 11:55
Hart Reservoir viewed from the Hart Lane. Picture by Frank Reid

It is understood that the land owners put a plan into action on Tuesday, July 2, to drain one of the lower pools and transport the animals. However, due to the increased mud, they only managed to retrieve around 95% of the population. Leaving the rest without water and struggling to survive.

This prompted the local residents to take matters into their own hands and try and rescue the remaining wildlife, however the mud on the drained banks acted as quick sand for anyone trying to venture out into the reservoir. People used boards and ropes to assist them, but were quickly informed that it was too dangerous to continue.

One local resident, Stuart Brown, said that he went down to the site at around 5.00pm on Tuesday to see if he could help. He had heard about the plight on Facebook. He said: “I went down with a friend to see if we could help. We had buckets and boards and collected a good few fish and eels before someone from the land owner turned up.

“They were very polite and, at first, thought we were trying to steal the fish. But we explained that we were wanting to help move the fish and we were told that they were going to move them to one of the other ponds.”

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The site, near Hart Lane, is privately owned and planning permission was submitted in 2015 for a housing development to be built upon it. The owners are hoping to build at least 52 new homes on the site and the planning permission had set out guidelines for transferring the existing wildlife to an alternative site. The Hartlepool Mail reported on the issues raised regarding the site in February of this year.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We understand the concerns from members of the public and their desire to help rescue the animals but we would urge people not to try and enter the site as the safety of residents and the fish are paramount.

“Other issues of bio-security have to be taken into consideration, which looks to protect habitats against the entry and spread of pests and diseases. We have been assured that the condition of the animals is good and that they will be relocated to another site in the area. This location will not be disclosed to prevent poaching and illegal activity.

“The Environment Agency put a provision in the planning conditions for the site that upon draining the reservoir the landowner would need to safely rescue the fish and find a suitable alternative location for rehousing. In light of this week’s incident with the eels and other species of fish at Hart Reservoir, we were able to provide the landowners with emergency authorisation to help resolve their situation.”