HAMPSHIRE COUNTY Council will this month start repairing cracks in a road across a medieval dam which is at the centre of a row over who pays for maintenance.
Alresford dam, 16km from Winchester, is crossed by Hampshire's B3046 road.
It was closed to traffic earlier this year after cracks appeared in the road surface, indicating structural instability below.
The dam was built from chalk and faggots in the 12th and 13th centuries. Fears for its stability emerged during the 1990s when local residents reported water seepage and some minor slipping on the downstream face.
The dam is the focus of a long running row between the council and its owner over who is responsible for structural maintenance.
Hampshire only officially accepts responsibility for maintaining the highway along the top. It refuses to maintain the dam itself, which is owned by local landowner Tony Chambers.
Chambers claims the council should pay to maintain the dam as well as the road because it alone benefits from use of the B3046.
But internal documents, seen by NCE, indicate that in 1999 Hampshire was ready to accept liability for damage to houses and agricultural land if the dam collapsed.
In March 1999 senior council solicitor Edward White said in an internal memo to Hampshire's then chief executive Peter Robertson: 'Clearly it is of concern that Counsel has not exonerated this authority from liability. This means the county council could in theory be liable now for a dam failure.'
In June 1999 a safety certificate was issued following a survey commissioned by Chambers and conducted by consultant Gibb.
But concerns resurfaced this January when cracks appeared in the road surface.
Council engineers blamed the problem on vibration from lorries, the wet weather and the bank on one side.