Hydropower planned at Stanwick Lakes

A decision will be made next week about whether East Northants Council gives a loan to an environmental charity to help the scheme go ahead.

Monday, 10th February 2020, 3:56 pm
Updated Monday, 10th February 2020, 3:56 pm
Hydropower could help pay towards the running costs of the popular venue.

Hydropower is planned for Stanwick Lakes.

East Northamptonshire Council is proposing to loan £179,000 to environmental charity Rockingham Forest Trust (RFT), which leases the popular tourist attraction from the authority, so that plans can move forward to repair the sluice gate and install hydropower on site.

Currently the sluice gates, which control water levels, are maintained by the Environment Agency but it wants to hand over that duty to the council which already owns the gates.

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However the council is proposing to take it over and then immediately transfer the legal responsibility to the RFT, which as a 100-year lease still left to run on the site.

It is predicted the hydropower scheme, which would involve installing an Archimedes screw device, would generate £30,000 each year and help with the running costs of the venue.

However a report going to the council’s finance and sub committee next Monday (February 17) says RFT has not yet secured enough funding to take on the scheme.

It was originally proposed to cost £522,000 – with £265,000 coming from the Environment Agency (EA) – but the cost has now risen to £616,000 leaving RTF with a £179,000 shortfall.

The environmental charity had secured £173,000 and wanted to crowdfund the remainder, but had wanted to have ownership of the gates before doing so.

However it was already been agreed that the money has to be in place before the council hands over and with the clock ticking, the authority’s officers are now proposing the council loans the charity the shortfall instead.

A report that went before the council last February explains the background to the situation, with the EA approaching the council with the proposal. If the council does not agree then the EA is proposing to installed a fixed weir instead.

It said: “RFT and the Council, via the Stanwick Management Board, have for some time been looking into the benefits of installing a hydropower unit on the back channel of the River Nene as it flows through Stanwick Lakes. This would fit with the site’s environmental ethos, and both organisations’ aspirations for sustainable development: a flagship renewable energy project, which would also reduce or eliminate the site’s current electric bill (currently c£30,000 pa and rising).

“This proposal is attractive to RFT as it presents an additional opportunity. The money can be used to help implement the hydro power through the installation of an Archimedes Screw and secure the support of the EA to do this.

“If ENC does not take on responsibility for the sluice gates, the EA has proposed installing a fixed weir, and as such the ability to control flood risk to the site would be lost, along with the opportunity to utilise the hydropower solution. A fixed weir would be expected to last 50 years with limited maintenance requirements based on advice from the EA engineer. The responsibility would remain with the EA if the fixed weir option was chosen.

This would mean we would take on the risks associated with the gates and flood management for the site and maintenance responsibility. ENC does not have the skills to undertake these responsibilities.”

The members of the committee will be asked on February 17 to agree the loan.