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Abingdon Hydro resubmits controversial planning application

27 October, 2015 0 Comments

Increased size of river scheme threatens greater disruption to local wildlife

Wildlife by the weir

One of the delights of my regular walks and runs across Abingdon weir over the past few years has been to observe the pair of grey wagtails that nest in the vicinity. Despite their name, grey wagtails are pretty, yellow breasted birds that love to be near running water.

I was dismayed, therefore, to see notice of a further planning application for Abingdon Hydro posted by the weir on Wednesday. I had hoped that this idea had been quietly dropped and we would hear no more about it. I sincerely doubt the scheme will ever be a fully operating concern but the team behind it, although very well-meaning in their intentions, have already shown a narrow-sighted disregard for the environmental welfare of this stretch of the river (see the tweet below) and I fear they may cause further damage before the scheme finally folds.
Slash and burn in February

The area around the bridge and the weir is full of wildlife and a delight to both regular walkers and occasional visitors who stop to watch families of swans and other water fowl, the wonderful grey wagtails and the rarer but marvellous blurred blue vision of a kingfisher darting over the water. Quite a lot of otter The area is also home to thriving populations of otter and water vole according to the Abingdon Weir Otter and Water Vole Survey Report of September 2015 which noted a “sharp increase in otter sign, compared to historic records, in the area”.

Due to the high levels of otter activity within the proposed development area, works may potentially have a detrimental impact on otter at the local level unless mitigations are implemented. That is, without mitigation there is the potential to disturb or injure otters, damage or destroy their resting places, and/or obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places. – Abingdon Weir Otter and Water Vole Survey Report September 2015

What do you mean by green?
For those less concerned about the wildlife and the natural beauty of the area, here are a few reminders of why this is a bad scheme irrespective of our grey wagtails, swans and otters.

Construction of the scheme is environmentally costly. Many tonnes of engineered metal would need to be transported by land and most probably sea to bring the turbines to Abingdon where they would be encased in a concrete structure topped by the large, steel-framed turbine building. The relative inaccessibility of the site means that there would be considerable carbon outlay on transport, installation and infrastructure works before the first watt of power is generated.

Will it turn my lights on?

Any power generated would not be for the benefit of the town. None of the electricity from this project would actually go to any particular houses in Abingdon or elsewhere. Any electricity generated by the Abingdon Hydro turbines would feed into the national grid through Scottish and Southern Electricity at the feed-in tariff, a rate determined and subsidised by the government.

No net benefit

Whether we benefit as a nation or as a global community is also unclear. There are big fluctuations in the demand for electricity throughout the day and the grid brings reserves in and out of service to match them. It is difficult to calculate whether the arbitrary trickle from the turbines at Abingdon Hydro, dependent on variable river flow and canoeists, would play a role in this. For it to have any impact on global warming, power generation by Abingdon Hydro needs to cause a reduction in carbon emissions elsewhere in the system and until we are shown that this is the case, we should be sceptical.

Follow the money

Renewable energy has to be a significant part of the way forward in tackling climate change but micro-generation schemes such as Abingdon Hydro only make sense when they are providing direct power to a suitably matched community or business. It is far from sure that they make any genuine contribution if simply plugged into the national grid although they do serve as a means of extracting subsidies from the government. However, even in the short term, it is uncertain that the scheme will generate enough money to pay its shareholders once ongoing costs are taken into account. As well as servicing the large initial debt required to top-up the scheme’s financial shortfall, money will also need to be laid out on ongoing management, maintenance and repair costs (potentially considerable in flood years). What is certain is that in the longer term there will come a time when the government brings to an end its support for projects that are not making a genuine contribution to the nation’s power needs. At that point, there will be no money. My fear is that if the Abingdon Hydro scheme does, against the odds, go ahead, its legacy will be an abandoned eyesore on the Thames, a very visible advertisement for how not to do renewable energy.

You can view and comment on the new planning application on the Vale of White Horse planning website.

Weir along the River Thames (Mat Fascione) / CC BY-SA 2.0
[Grey Wagtail by MortimerCat (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGrey_Wagtail_160504W.jpg)
[Otter by Catherine Trigg (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons](https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AOtter_in_Southwold.jpg)

Article first published on The News Hub

Campaign group 38 Degrees responds as farmers union tries to overturn ban on bee harming pesticides

21 May, 2015 0 Comments

The National Farmers Union has put in a request to end the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides and 38 Degrees has raised a petition in response

Online campaign group 38 Degrees has said it will fight last week’s National Farmers Union (NFU) application to the government to have the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides lifted …Read more at The News Hub…

Abingdon Votes

7 May, 2015 0 Comments

Conservatives hold Oxford West and Abingdon

Nicola Blackwood has been returned as Conservative MP for Oxford West and Abingdon with a significantly increased majority of 9,582 over her Liberal Democrat rival Layla Moran …Read more at The News Hub…

The Westminster poverty trap? My Contributoria article

1 May, 2015 0 Comments

My first article for Contributoria was published today.

MPPovertyHeadline

Does Sir Christopher Geidt, the Queen’s Private Secretary, hold the keys to Number 10?

30 April, 2015 0 Comments

The possibility of a hung parliament brings the role of the Head of State’s diplomat-in-chief to the fore

In Germany, Sweden and other countries that elect their representatives using proportional representation, coalitions and minority governments are the norm – it’s just what they do. Here in the United Kingdom …Read more at The News Hub…

National Health Action Party candidate is top of the tweets

30 April, 2015 0 Comments

Oxford West and Abingdon National Health Action Party candidate Dr Helen Salisbury is one of the best performing tweeters of the 2015 election campaign

National Health Action Party candidate Dr Helen Salisbury has stolen a march on her rivals in Oxford West and Abingdon by becoming one of the top placed election candidates in the Daily Mirror’s election Tweetometer.

The Tweetometer measures …Read more at The News Hub…

Farage again storms ahead in South Thanet

24 April, 2015 0 Comments

The UKIP leader now has a 9% lead in the 3 way race for South Thanet

According to a Survation telephone poll published late yesterday evening Nigel Farage is set to take 39% of the vote in the Kent constituency of South Thanet on May 7th, opening up a 9 point lead over his closest rival Craig Mackinlay of the Conservative Party …Read more at The News Hub…

Politics without Cameron (not to mention Clegg) – reaction to the BBC challengers debate

17 April, 2015 0 Comments

Labour’s Ed Miliband rises to the challenge when grilled by possible post election partners. UKIP’s Nigel Farage slips further

In a bizarre courtship ritual, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood and Green leader Natalie Bennett attacked Ed Miliband on Labour’s performance and policies while pleading with him to bring them into a post-election anti-Tory embrace …Read more at The News Hub…

Candidates in marginal Oxford West and Abingdon feel the heat in Chamber of Commerce business hustings

16 April, 2015 0 Comments

Five out of seven candidates for the May 2015 UK general election answer questions from the local business community in Abingdon’s ancient Roysse Room


The radiators remained on in Abingdon Guildhall’s Roysse Room for the whole of this warm spring evening as candidates for the 10th most marginal seat in the May 2015 UK general election presented themselves to a poorly attended business focused hustings …Read more at The News Hub…

STATEMENT OF PERSONS NOMINATED

9 April, 2015 0 Comments

David Buckle, the Acting Returning Officer for the Oxford West and Abingdon parliamentary constituency, today published the official list of those nominated to stand in May’s general election. Nominations closed at 4pm today so if you were thinking of getting the required 10 supporters together and throwing your hat into the ring you’ve missed the boat but saved yourself the £500 deposit!
There are seven nominations and they are listed as BLACKWOOD Nicola Claire (The Conservative Party), COPLEY Sally Louise (Labour Party), FOSTER Mike (The Socialist Party of Great Britain), HARRIS Alan (UKIP), MORAN Layla Michelle (Liberal Democrat), SALISBURY Helen Rachel (National Health Action Party), SANDERS Larry (Green Party).statement of persons nominated

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