The national representative body for angling, the Angling Trust, has this week put its weight behind the legal challenge mounted by Goring Parish Council against South Oxfordshire District Council planners in a judicial review which is seeking to overturn the planning permission recently granted for a hydropower scheme on Goring Weir.
The Trust has been highly critical of attempts to install hydropower schemes on lowland rivers without paying due regard to the likely impacts on fish habitat and spawning grounds. In a formal objection to the proposal to install three large Archimedes Screws on the main body of Goring Weir, Dr Alan Butterworth, Technical Adviser to the Angling Trust, wrote:
“The river immediately downstream of the site is complex and includes two large weir pools which are renowned for the diversity of fish and quality of the fishery. There are also small distributaries on either bank. Weir pools on low gradient impounded rivers such as the Thames offer great diversity from the otherwise uniform habitats of the slower reaches. They contain the only suitable spawning substrate clean gravel with flowing water – for various flow-dependent fish species such barbel, chub, dace and minnows. The scheme is likely to be detrimental to the wildlife both above and below the weir. The energy of water flowing over the weir sill is needed to oxygenate the water and scour the river gravels. Fish need oxygenated water and clean gravel for spawning. The turbines will reduce the flow of oxygenated water and therefore increase siltation.”
Local campaigners claim that the Goring scheme flies in the face of the wishes of the majority of the local community in terms of visual impact within two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and conservation areas, noise, flooding and biodiversity including the fish population and structure of the river.
The river at Goring, praised as being ‘a charming place to stay’ by J.K Jerome in Three Men in a Boat is also a renowned angling spot.
Mary Carr of Stop Goring Hydro said:
“At Stop Goring Hydro we welcome the support from the Angling Trust and their kind donation towards the costs of our judicial review. It’s good to have on our side a national organisation with experience in fighting unacceptable schemes such as this. Quite rightly the Angling Trust experts have objected to the scheme on grounds of damage to the river and fishery and we hope that it will add weight to our case.”
Martin Salter, the former Reading West MP who has fished the Thames at Goring for many years and who now works for the Angling Trust added:
“This is a beautiful and famous stretch of the Thames which is now at risk of being blighted by these monstrous turbines which not only look awful but have a track record of mincing up fish and damaging the river. It is clear to us that the effect on fish and their associated habitats has not been adequately determined and there is a high likelihood that the important fish populations of the river will be compromised in the pursuit of an insignificant amount of electricity.”
The level of feeling is so strong that local people have joined forces to form an action group – Stop Goring Hydro, to fight the plans. They will emphasise just how damaging this scheme would be, highlight the deficiencies of SODC’s planning decision and raise money to contribute towards the legal costs of the Judicial Review and the fight to stop this installation. In addition to technical support the Angling Trust is making a £200 donation to the fighting fund.