GSSG is pleased to announce that it has established a Community Benefit Society – Goring and Streatley Community Energy Ltd (GSCE). This is the vehicle through which the hydro project will be progressed, and if all of the challenges are addressed, including resolving the current challenge to the planning permission and raising the necessary funds, then it will be responsible for the implementation of the scheme and its operation.
As has always been the declared aim, this is a community owned, asset locked organisation that will feed the surplus profit from the operation of the hydro plant directly into the local community.
GSCE has already been able to engage Spaans Babcock Ltd to optimise the design of the Archimedes screws, and prepare preliminary drawings that enable the design of the civil engineering works to proceed. A separate contract has been signed with Buro Happold Engineering to develop the civil works design up to tender stage. A preferred tender for the civil engineering works has also been identified.
We regret to say that on 4th April 2016, Goring Parish Council, after many years of supporting the scheme, decided to initiate a judicial review regarding South Oxfordshire District Council’s decision to grant planning permission. Please see here for further information.
A sustainability group was established in 2006 by Kay and Martin Baker, longstanding members of the Streatley community (who have now moved to Goring) as an initiative arising from the publication of the Streatley Parish Plan which include polices relating to engaging the challenge the impending effects of and subsequent damage caused by Climate Change.
One of the initiatives being thought about was the development of Hydro Electric Power from the River Thames. At the same time, in Goring a Feasibility Study was completed driven by Parish Councillor Dave Holt – co-funded by Goring Parish Council and the South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC). The feasibility study indicated that up to 200KW of electricity could be generated from the weirs at Goring Gap. The two initiatives from Streatley and Goring joined together and Goring and Streatley Sustainability Group was formed with Nikki Swan (a founding member of the Streatley sustainability group and Streatley Parish Councillor) as its first Chairman.
A planned way forward was proposed but it was all to cost money. Funding applications were made, many of them successful and other fund-raising efforts by the GSSG members helped progress the plan to the next stage.
The next stage of the hydro project was to organize a design study, which was completed in April 2008. The main outputs from this were that we now had firm information on how to maximise output with the various equipment options. It was agreed from this study that three Archimedes screws would be better than the originally designed Kaplan turbines as had been specified in the feasibility study. The design study also outlined the length and diameter of the three screws, angle of inclination and other key information.
In June 2008 a flood risk analysis was completed. This study was carried out to determine if there was any potential for increased flooding if the hydro scheme were to be implemented based on current and historic flow data. From this GSSG were asked to incorporate an extra overfall weir into the designs, which would more than compensate for any change in flood patterns experienced above or below the proposed hydro scheme.
The environmental impact study was completed in July 2009 . This covered:
- A Landscape and visual survey
- A Protected species survey – flora and fauna
- An Invertebrate survey
- A River corridor and in‐stream macrophyte survey
Having completed the environmental impact study it was evident that any potential environmental impacts were minimal and all could be mitigated. (Please see here for more information). At this stage the Environment Agency asked for further flood risk modelling and this was completed in July 2010. This flood risk assessment was completed in order to accompany a planning application. It gave information on the impact of climate change, the impacts over the lifetime of the project, mitigation measures and residual risk.
The consultants were asked to model the Hydro Power Project and run the model for the 1 in 5 year annual probability, the 1 in 20 year annual probability, 1 in 100 year annual probability and 1 in 100 year annual probability plus 20% design events to assess the impact on:
- Flood risk to existing properties
- Flow distribution through the weir
- Operation of the weir
- Potential for blockage
- Access to the plant during times of flood
- Flood resilience, resistance and risk to critical equipment
The flood risk model was designed and the model and hydrology were accepted for use in the Flood Risk Assessment by the Environment Agency in their letter dated 16th February 2010. In making an assessment of the impacts of climate change on flooding from the land, rivers and sea as part of a flood risk assessment, the sensitivity ranges were used to provide an appropriate precautionary response to the uncertainty about climate change impacts on rainfall intensities, river flow, wave height and wind speed.
Between 2010 and 2014 there have been ongoing discussions with the Environment Agency to establish the licensing arrangements for the Hydro Power Project which are in the final stages of agreement.
GSSG submitted a planning application in late 2012. The planning application was withdrawn to enable further work to be undertaken by the EA and GSSG to demonstrate compliance with The Water Framework Directive. After a further environmental study in 2013 and completion of a WFD Compliance assessment in 2014, the scheme moved ahead with a planning application submitted in late 2015 That application met with critical local comment on the aesthetics of the proposed wok in the river, and in direct response to that criticism, the scheme reverted to one almost identical to that submitted in 2012. Following unanimous support from the planning committee, this scheme received planning consent from South Oxfordshire District Council in March 2016.
Unfortunately a legal challenge has been raised by Goring Parish Council on the process by which the planning decision was reached. This is currently the subject of a judicial review in the High Court and it is expected to be heard in November 2016. Only then will we know if the planning permission will be upheld or overturned. Only when we have certainty about the planning permission will we revisit the financial model for the project and prepare the share offer to raise the funding for the works.
So the project is currently on hold and will be until we are able to promote the scheme further until planning permission has been confirmed and we revise our financial model to reflect the latest circumstances. The reductions in Feed In Tariff payments over recent years makes things more difficult, but the delay will allow us to take advantage of new technologies that will allow us to sell more of the electricity generated directly to consumers, thus increasing the income stream over that which would be generated by having to sell only to the National Grid. This change will also make investment in the scheme potentially more attractive. Things are finely balanced, and will be carefully reviewed after the judicial review.