Small scale Dartmoor hydro power plan given green light

Dartmoor National Park Authority has supported a small hydro-electric scheme on the River Walkham, at Huckworthy Mill, Sampford Spiney.

Permission was granted subject to a number of conditions including visual appearance, ecological and historic recording matters.

The scheme comprises the building of a small power house at Huckworthy Mill, near Walkhampton, reuse of a historic leat running through Dittisham Wood to provide the water to power the turbine, and the construction of a new fish pass at the existing historic weir.

The new fish pass is required to offset the impacts on migratory salmon and sea trout of water abstraction from the river for the hydro scheme. The current fish easement at the weir is not designed to current standards.

The Environment Agency and Natural England have raised no objections to the proposal.

The existing weir dates back in part to the 16th century and together with the leat is of historic and archaeological importance. As such both the weir and leat are regarded as local historic assets. Objections to the proposal were received particularly regarding the effects of the new fish pass on the fabric and visual quality of the weir.

To minimise the visual effect of the new fish pass planning permission has been granted on condition that granite boulders are used to ameliorate the appearance of the new concrete structure. In reaching its decision, the Authority had to balance a number of considerations. The leat itself is of historic interest and its use fell into decline within living memory.

Providing flowing water to the generator house will now help safeguard its maintenance and future. The weir has a history of alteration and repair but its future was also at risk, due to lack of maintenance and potential damage through flood river surges. The new scheme contributes significantly to safeguarding the future of the whole heritage asset and at the same time provides a new source of renewable energy.

Stephen Belli, director of planning, Dartmoor National Park Authority, said: "Dartmoor’s water environment has been used over many centuries – for drinking water and as a source of water for industrial processes and power supply. Appropriate, small-scale hydro schemes can add to this sense of place and Dartmoor continuing to be a living and working landscape."

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