Thursday, 24 May 2018

Opponents’ last chance to stop hydro scheme

OPPONENTS of a proposed hydro-electric power plant on the River Thames at Goring hope to get a second shot at blocking it.

The £1.5million scheme was awarded planning permission in 2016 despite opposition from residents and the parish council.

The council asked the High Court to conduct a judicial review of South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision to allow the scheme but the court declined and also refused to let the council contest its judgement.

However, last week the council went to the Court of Appeal, where it argued that the High Court should reconsider its ruling.

If it is successful, the appeal court judges will decide whether High Court judge Mr Justice Ross Cranston was correct to use his discretion in upholding the district council’s decision despite acknowledging it hadn’t followed correct procedure. If it overturns his decision, the parish council would be given another chance to persuade the High Court to quash the planning permission.

This wouldn’t mean the scheme was refused but the district council would have to decide again.

The Goring and Streatley Sustainability Group wants to build three 12ft-wide Archimedes screws near Goring bridge with a turbine and generator to the north-west of Goring lock island. This could generate enough electricity to power about 300 homes per year.

Power would be sold to the National Grid with a share of the proceeds benefiting the community.

The parish council believes there would be an increased flood risk and the scheme would reduce oxygen levels in the water, making it harder for fish to breed. It also claimed the plant could pose a noise nuisance.

The Environment Agency said it did not believe there was an increased risk.

The district council said schemes generating sustainable energy were to be welcomed and the benefits outweighed any harm.

Mr Justice Cranston said the planning authority failed to consider the impact on Goring’s building conservation area but this wouldn’t have affected its decision.

The parish council says he should have ruled solely on whether correct procedure was followed.

Councillor Bryan Urbick, who attended the latest court hearing, said: “It was fascinating and the first time we truly felt the judges were trying to grasp the issues at hand.

“We don’t know what the timeframe will be from here but we’ve been told it will take some time to deliberate so we shall have to wait and see.”

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