Saturday, 21 July 2018

“Power plant would spoil views along the river”

PLANS for a £1.5million hydroelectric power plant at Goring weir have been opposed by the parish council.

PLANS for a £1.5million hydroelectric power plant at Goring weir have been opposed by the parish council.

It says the plant would spoil views along the River Thames and would be inappropriate development in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It also wants to see more evidence that the scheme would not increase the flood risk or generate intrusive noise.

About 40 villagers attended a meeting of the council's planning committee last week and most spoke against the idea.

Goring and Streatley Community Energy, an offshoot of the Goring and Streatley Sustainability Group, wants to build three 12ft-wide Archimedes screws by the western bank of Goring lock island, about 500m upstream from the village bridge.

It says each screw could produce 850 megawatt-hours of electricity a year, about £100,000 worth or enough to power almost 300 homes.

It would sell power to the National Grid under the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme and a share of the proceeds would go to green projects in the area. The screws would be surrounded by a concrete structure while the generator would be housed in a neighbouring single-storey brick building.

Objector David Beck, of Cleeve Road, told councillors: “The UK’s total demand is 40 million megawatt-hours a day and this would produce only 0.3 so it is utterly irrelevant. It’s like standing on Goring bridge trying to fill the Thames with a hosepipe.

“Goring would be saddled with damaged views and get nothing in return. And the group’s website says it would increase weekend tourism. Good luck with that.

“The group says it will reduce carbon dioxide emissions but who is going to close a coal-fired power station just because Goring comes online? It’s unsubstantiated eco-babble and will not happen.

“This is nothing more than a vanity project with no justification. Quite frankly, it needs strangling.” Malcolm Allport, of Station Road, said: “The group says noise won’t increase but I imagine they’ve measured that in decibels. It’s not just about the overall volume but the particular frequencies that a power plant produces. I’ve never heard of a quiet generator that doesn’t produce an offensive frequency.”

Former parish council chairman Alan Strong said: “The size of the proposed housing structure would clearly have a detrimental effect on the beautiful views of the Goring Gap.

“The parish and district councils are temporary custodians of the site, which should be protected so that future generations of visitors and local people can enjoy it.”

Dr Tim Chatterton, a spokesman for the sustainability group, said it had studied larger hydro schemes in other parts of the country and found they produced no extra noise.

He said a study carried out by Reading consultants Peter Brett Associates and approved by the Environment Agency had shown the flood risk would in fact be minimised as an extra sluice gate would be added to the weir.

He said: “We’re listening very carefully to all the comments on the aesthetics of the structure and if this is approved we will undertake  further consultation to see whether the look can be improved to people’s satisfaction.”

But Councillor Matthew Brown said: “The expensive magnets in the generator will need replacing and will create less power as they degenerate. If the project fails financially, will it be left to rot?

“In terms of the overall output, the phrase ‘weeing in the ocean’ springs to mind. It isn’t going to be free power.” Councillor John Wills said: “I understand the flood risk assessment is based on data from 2010 and we all saw what happened in 2014. The reach of river around Cleeve is highly susceptible to flooding.”

Councillor David Brooker, who chairs the committee, said:

“We’ve had some serious rainfall recently and that isn’t addressed in the submission documents.

“If flooding brings debris downstream, who is responsible for clearing the screws out? The paperwork is sadly lacking, with too many  weaknesses.”

South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee will make the final decision.

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