A COUPLE are waging war on North West Water after claiming the company ruined their fly fishery business, sending £140,000 of their hard-earned cash down the river.

But Gordon and Maggie Paterson, of Plantation Road, Blackburn, are still facing financial demands from NWW for unpaid rent on the Churn Clough Reservoir, Sabden, even though they have gone out of business.

The couple ploughed more than £50,000 into setting up Churn Clough Fly Fishery in March, 1990, after NWW offered them the £900 per annum, seven-year lease on the 16 acre water.

The fishery was awarded the prestigious Trout Master status and every week was being stocked with up to £400 worth of trout.

But in March 1994, they saw their business washed away when the water company reduced the reservoir's level by six metres, exposing an extra 150 metres of bank. The couple claim a valve was opened which did not have a guard or fish plate on it and thousands of trout swam away into Sabden Brook and River Calder.

But NWW claim a valve was opened for only one eighth of an inch from March 29 to April 17 1994 and the fish could not have escaped. They also claim they told the couple they were reducing levels by 1.5 metres to paint a station housing the reservoir valves.

Even when levels fell more than six metres, Gordon said he still hoped the fishery could survive.

But Sabden villagers told him that large rainbow trout had been spotted in nearby streams and members of the fishing club and daily visitors began to accuse him of not stocking the fishery when they failed to net a catch.

Gordon said: "I put four and a half years of blood, sweat and tears into that place.

"We even remortgaged our house to put stock into the reservoir."

"We know we owe NWW rent, but when they compensate me for our loss we will pay their bills." Gordon and Maggie have been unable to secure legal representation for their claim because they do not qualify for legal aid.

Maggie said: "NWW have been incompetent from day one. They didn't even send us a draft lease for the reservoir until 14 months after we opened.

"All we want is to be compensated for what we have lost.

A plea to Sir Desmond Pitcher, NWW chairman, proved to no avail.

"Mr Paterson has not paid any rent for the reservoir, but we have offered a reduction on the period until the levels were restored in October 1994.

"I don't see what else we could have done under the circumstances."

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