THE owners of a 300-year-old mill pool are considering plans to partially drain the waterway after being threatened with enforcement action.
The latest twist in the saga involving Oulton Mill Pool in Cotebrook emerged this week following continued pressure put on the pool owners - Oulton Estate - by Cheshire County Council.
The authority issued an enforcement notice to deal with the pool's flooding problems some years ago under the 1975 Reservoir Act.
The council, which is responsible for the safety of reservoirs and conducts regular inspections, has now issued a new notice warning the Oulton Estate that work to address the pool's flooding risk must be carried out within 28 days.
The landowners have been instructed to reduce the level of the shallow lake by half a metre.
A representative of the Oulton Estate said the landowners were considering plans to drain the pool, which would bring it in line with waterway legislation.
His comments follow a fresh statement issued by Cheshire County Council which warns it will drain the pool if immediate action is not taken.
An authority spokesman said: 'The council, in its statutory duties under the Reservoirs Act 1975, has issued an enforcement notice stating that safety work at Oulton Mill Pool, stipulated by an inspecting engineer appointed on behalf of the owner, William de Malpas Egerton, must be carried out.
'In two separate reports in 2000 and 2002, the inspecting engineer recommended, in the interests of safety, either the lowering of the water level at Oulton Mill Pool by 0.4 metres or the building of a new overflow culvert.
'The county council has been forced regrettably to undertake enforcement action by the serving of a notice requiring the works to be carried out, since the time period recommended by the owner's engineers has now long since expired.'
Michael Scott, a senior partner in Chester-based Denton Clark, which acts as agent for the Oulton Estate, said the estate would not break the law and draining was being considered.
In a statement, he said: 'The water will be lowered. That's one of the alternatives.
'The pool will be preserved. When you pull a plug out of a bath some water remains. It's a flexible situation.'
Mr Scott said talks were ongoing with Vale Royal Borough Council and declined to comment further.
All parties are waiting for the results of a survey being conducted this week by Vale Royal.
If the depth of the pool proves lower than the original estimate, which led to the initial enforcement action, then the mill pool would not be drained to the extent of 0.4m.
The results of the survey, which could rule that the pool needs to be drained by only a couple of inches, will be published next week.
But if the pool is lowered by 0.4m, villagers fear it will resemble a muddy pond. Managers of the Mill Pool Restaurant, which overlooks the pool, are also concerned.
Angler Neil Boaz of Tarporley Fishing Club is among those waiting for the results of the survey. He says the pool contains a range of good fish including carp, bream, tench and pike.
The five-acre lake is a thriving habitat for wildlife, including swans, ducks and coots.
Helen Watson, chair of Tarporley Parish Council, said 'draining it by 18 inches will virtually kill it off.'