Two public consultation events were held in December to present Heather Parker Projects’ Hydro power scheme at Sunbury Lock Island, one at the Xcel leisure Centre in Walton-on Thames, and at the Riverside Arts Centre in Sunbury. Both event s were well attended by local residents who were concerned about yet another development on the green belt and by other interest groups: anglers, rowing clubs, yacht clubs etc.
The developers claim the turbines could generate 500kw of green energy – sufficient to power 600 homes. No local homes will directly receive power generated at Sunbury Weir, as it would be sold to the national grid to take advantage of the government’s Feed-In-Tariffs, which are funded through consumers’ energy bills. The developers have promised to make a community fund contribution but have not yet specified how much might be offered, or when.
By keeping the amount of electricity generated below 501kw, the developers controversially benefit from a loophole in the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 1999 which allows them to avoid producing a full assessment of the impact of the scheme on wildlife, the ecology of the river and the local area.
Many Sunbury residents are concerned that the developers have not yet produced detailed drawings of the scheme, and are underestimating the impact of major civil engineering works on the western end of Sunbury Lock Island. They question how many of the 84 large and medium size trees can survive, what impact that will have on wildlife and the beautiful views from Sunbury village.
Others are concerned about safety for the navigation, and the impact on the leisure amenity of the Thames. Michael Chambers, a member of the Middle Thames Yacht Club and the Thames Motor Yacht Club and member of the Environment Agency’s hydro power sub committee believes the turbines will suction water along the narrow Lock Cut section and could draw in boats, especially unpowered craft used by rowers and canoeists.
Thames Anglers Conservancy Chairman, Dave Harvey added “None of these hydro power schemes are viable or sustainable. They cause considerable damage to the ecology of our most precious weir pools and will have a severe effect on migratory fish including Salmon and the European Eel.
At the Sunbury Christmas Market on the 13th December campaigners collected 150 signatures against this hydropower scheme. No formal planning application has yet been submitted, so watch this space.