Plans for a hydro electric scheme at Teddington Lock are set to go ahead, after the High Court dismissed demands for a judicial review of the decision taken by Richmond on Thames planners.
The scheme will see three Archimedes screws installed alongside the weir on the river, delivering 1.6GWh of energy – sufficient for around 600 homes. The project is being promoted by Teddington & Ham Hydro, a community-backed organisation that plans to fund the development with a share issue. To date, the backers have secured over £700,000 to support progress of the development.
The scheme received the backing of the Environment Agency, which owns the site and opened up the possibility of a hydro scheme in 2010. The Ham Hydro team bid and won the right to bring forward a scheme. Their design will see the three screws built into the river, from the existing bank, and within a partially revised weir structure.
The scheme received planning permission in September 2015, but two objectors took the project to court, arguing the council “failed properly to consider the impacts of the proposed development on heritage assets”. Pinenorth Properties, which has a residential development on the Teddington Studios site, and Lensbury, operator of the nearby Lensbury club, both launched objections.
The heritage assets concerned include the nearby listed Teddington footbridges, while the site itself sits within the Teddington Lock conservation area. Legal representation from the objectors claimed “the officers did not assess the significance of any heritage assets affected, including in particular the conservation area and the listed footbridge”.
However, in a judgement, Justice Supperstone declared the council’s decision making had been correct, with “comprehensible and sufficient” reasoning; and that there would not be a harmful impact on heritage assets, were the scheme to go ahead.
The Ham Hydro team have now promised a new share offer, to fund the next stage of development.
Elsewhere, a scheme to harness the Thames upstream at Abingdon was abandoned late in 2015. The project there was established by a local community society, who ultimately blamed regulations, high build costs and a low return for giving up on the project. Other schemes at Marlow and Maidenhead have also been shelved, blaming a government move that refuses to guarantee a minimum electricity price.
There have been some successes. A small scale project at Osney Lock in Oxford is up and running, delivering 49kW. Schemes on the Thames at Runnymede and Culham are also in planning.
LPA Perspective: The objections raised by locals to this initiative have been an unnecessary hold-up to an idea that appears to have little wrong with it. The surprise is that more such schemes are not being brought forward, creating as they do a completely green energy supply. At a time when massive projects such as Hinkley Point power station are being mulled over, how much better would it be, for more of the UK’s power to be generated from hydro schemes?
Strangely, energy businesses appear to have little appetite for pushing such projects, with many of them backed by social enterprises. Elsewhere, for example in Cardiff, local authorities are backing hydro projects. But, with the government once again running first hot, then cold, over the level of financial support it will give such long term energy projects, there is little wonder businesses find it hard to commit to any investment.
Hydro could become a much more important energy provider to the London region, over time. How long will it be, before the Thames Barrier is rebuilt as a tidal energy power station?