We are still glowing from the positive result from September’s Planning Decision. As a community-owned project run by local volunteers we see the planning approval as a win for the many residents on both sides of the river who support this local renewable energy scheme – one which will make an important contribution to the UK’s low-carbon energy mix.
But we are only at the start of the journey and we are now working hard to progress many elements: detailed design, fund raising, on-going engagement with the local community and ultimately planning for construction. But before I discuss that, I’d like to respond to the recent voluminous distribution of mis-information on the scheme including in the local press. I am concerned that many may have for example signed a recent objection petition on false pretences. We are keen to make sure that these members of the local communities are respected by being provided by the facts. For this reason we will shortly be announcing another public event in October to provide details on our plans.
Similarly, we are disappointed with the Lensbury’s decision to call for a Judicial Review of the planning decision. We have worked hard to deal with their concerns and provided clear evidence to show that they are not warranted. In fact, we would be really keen to work with the Lensbury to further increase the efficiency of the scheme by agreeing the installation of a private wire to take electricity generated from just beyond their back garden. It would provide the opportunity for the Lensbury company (owned by Shell, the oil and gas enterprise) to highlight their commitment to new renewable energy generation.
Now on with the task in hand! With approval from Planning, we are now in a position to begin the development programme. A key milestone has been the hiring of a Project Manager David De Chambeau. Our Managing Director Steve Jarvis says “I am delighted to have David on the team. David brings a wealth of practical experience that will ensure the scheme delivers against its design.”
Construction will begin following fundraising. The current aim is to begin the construction in the summer of next year and for it to be generating by the beginning of 2017. Fundraising will be done within the local community. Numerous local investors have already come on board through a Pioneer Share Scheme. Following planning, we are now in a position to open the main wave of fundraising. We will ensure that the minimum investment amount is set at a level that is accessible. We will be publishing our investment Share Offer in the next month and expect considerable interest.
Reflecting on the journey that the volunteer THH team have been on so far to develop the scheme, it is worth noting that there are upcoming International Climate talks in Paris this December. Many of our supporters are acutely aware of the challenge that climate change poses to all of us. The team believes that Community Renewables can play a key part in the next generation of energy generation and THH is a clear example of ‘Think Global: Act Local’. It will not only provide electricity to many hundreds of homes, but will also act as an educational aid and a statement of local residents’ ideals. I attended a Climate Change conference hosted by Al Gore last week and he asked three questions of the audience with regards to the climate change dilemma: Do we need to change? Can we change? Will we change? The first two have been answered to the affirmative by the scientific and engineering community. It looks like the Teddington and Ham Community has answered the last question affirmatively too.
Finally, I would like to thank many of you for the kind words we’ve received over the last couple of weeks. I thought I’d share a few. They certainly spirit us all forward!
• “This is a great scheme which I fully support and hope it will inspire other councils to do the same with any weirs in their borough.”
• “This exciting scheme deserves to go ahead!”
• “I have followed the scheme for a number of years now and am an avid supporter. In this age of austerity where councils are cutting back on expenditure, we need to make our local assets work harder for the greater good. To put together a project that allows the local community to invest directly in the project and also to benefit indirectly from the subsequent investments made through the community fund is a model that should be replicated across Britain. Hydro is a well proven technology and the facility has been designed to minimise any adverse impact on the environment and local community. I believe that this installation will actually have a profound positive impact on both the local community and the environment and become a landmark on the Thames for years to come.”