PLANS for a hydro-electric power plant at Goring weir have been recommended for approval despite residents’
PLANS for a hydro-electric power plant at Goring weir have been recommended for approval despite residents’ objections.
South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning officers say the benefits of the scheme, put forward by the village’s sustainability group, outweigh the potential impact on views of the River Thames.
The group wants to build three Archimedes screws, each about 3.5m wide, across a stretch of water just north of the bridge between Goring and Streatley.
They would be to the west of Goring lock island along with a turbine and generator while the former lock-keeper’s cottage would be converted into a control room.
It is claimed that the scheme could produce 850 megawatt-hours of electricity a year, which is about £100,000 worth or enough to power almost 300 homes. This would be sold to the National Grid under the Government’s feed-in tariff scheme and the proceeds put towards “green” projects in the area.
Dozens of villagers and Goring Parish Council have objected, saying the development would be inappropriate in the conservation area and the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
They also say it could increase the flood risk and would create a noise nuisance for neighbours.
Opponents are also concerned that if the plant proved to be financially unviable, the metal screws could be left to rust.
In a report to the district council’s planning committee, officers say that even small-scale projects provide “a valuable contribution” to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and should be approved if their impacts can be offset.
They say: “The proposal provides an opportunity to respond positively to development which generates renewable energy and therefore the principle is supported.
“Although the level of public interest generated by the proposal is large, it is categorised as ‘minor’ in planning terms and therefore does not conflict [with planning laws] in terms of being within the AONB.
“The proposed development should be viewed in the context of the existing weir structure and is not considered to have an adverse effect on [the river’s] visual appearance over and above that of the existing weir.
“Throughout history, the river has been used to generate power both in Goring and throughout the district. The installation of the Archimedes screw is considered a modern progression of an historic tradition.”
They said that planning conditions could be imposed to ensure the scheme “harmonises” with the landscape and recommended a ban on lighting at the site.
Officers said the scheme would have an “insignificant” impact on flood levels and pointed out that the Environment Agency had expressed no concern.
They accepted noise levels couldn’t be measured before the plant was built but the applicants could be required to install measures to reduce them.
The officers said the financial viability of the scheme was not a material planning consideration.
The committee was due to make a decision on Wednesday evening.