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‘Our hydro plant could even become a tourist attraction'
PLANS to turn Abingdon’s weir into a hydro-electric power generator have been backed by residents.
The scheme at Abbey Meadow weir is the brainchild of a group of seven residents who formed the company Abingdon Hydro in 2010.
They plan to install two pumps, known as Archimedes’ screws, to generate renewable energy as water passes through the weir.
A planning application submitted last month has so far prompted 23 of 24 people to back the project in writing.
The development would give the river a new public walkway and viewing platform across the weir.
Secretary of Abingdon Hydro, Richard Riggs, said: “We are relieved the plans are in, but we will be more pleased when we get the permission.”
Plans were submitted to the Vale of White Horse District Council last year, but the application was withdrawn in January because planners warned it lacked detail.
This is the second application.
One resident, Nigel Cribb, of Picklers Hill, Abingdon, said: “It is environmentally friendly, will be of educational value and may even become a minor tourist attraction.”
The two 3.4m diameter screws would process about 5.5 tons of water per second, which could generate up to 100kW of electrical power – enough to power about 120 homes for each year for its 50-year lifespan.
It would cost about £1m to build and the energy could be sold to the National Grid for £120,000 a year.
The group was granted a licence for the project in May last year by the Environment Agency.
It was granted on condition they reached agreement with white-water canoeists and paddlers for them to continue using the river.
Chairman of Pathfinders Youth Canoe Club, David Surman, said: “The weir is usable for white water from April through to about July when river levels are going down. We can only use it in a certain window so our concern is the scheme will take away from that time.”
An agreement has been proposed to motorise some weir gates to allow kayakers to operate them.
Anglers are also worried the project might ruin a fish spawning ground below the weir – called the weir pool.
Angling Trust Head of Freshwater, Mark Owen, said: “Our concern is that there has been no investigation into whether spawning will be impacted and there are no plans to monitor the changes.”
Mr Riggs said there was no evidence fish would be harmed and a pass is being built to allow fish to swim through safely.
A target date for the decision has been set at August 8 with work planned to start next summer.
Work at a similar hydro scheme at Osney Lock in West Oxford started on Monday.
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