|Pershore's weir: a distant memory?|
The plan has been proposed by the landowner, Mr C Hudson, and appears to have got the full backing of the Wychavon District Council. Indeed the development is now under construction. From an angling perspective there have been many concerns with regard to how the development will affect the flow and in turn how this will alter fish spawning grounds.
Indeed, the Angling Trust's Alan Butterworth said, “I have commented on over 70 schemes on behalf of the Trust in the past year and this is by far the worse I’ve seen. The way that the EA has dealt with the proposal and acceptance of this scheme is nothing short of shocking.”
In reply, the Environment Agency defended its stance by issuing the following statement: “In summer 2010 we issued an abstraction licence in Pershore with strict terms and conditions to protect fish, their migratory passage and the wider environment. These include ensuring a certain flow of water over the weir, especially during the fish spawning period, and a screening requirement to stop fish entering the turbine.”
The landowner's initial application to Wychavon District council is available online [here]. As part of the plan, a fisheries assessment was requested [here] and Fishtek Consulting carried out a detailed analysis together with computer aided models to predict and compare the effect of the hydro power scheme on the river's flow and its likely effect on the existing spawning grounds.
|An aerial image of Pershore weir showing the location of the hydro turbines|
|The 1990s survey used in the planning process|
Before works commenced, Pershore weir obviously contributed to increased flow of the river Avon in this area. This in turn resulted in increased oxygenated water and clean gravel areas which provide excellent spawning grounds and habitat for juvenile fish. The following diagrams show the current depths and flow speeds.
|Projected flows below the weir after turbine installation|
The brown areas below the weir itself do not represent good spawning sites due to their depth and an unsuitable layer of fine substrates. This remains unchanged by the proposed hyrdo power turbines. You will notice that the tail of the weir provides some of the best spawning sites due to shallower, gravelly areas. Again, the proposed changes should not alter the effectiveness of these locations.
Fishtek Consulting (2012) offered the following key recommendations:
The turbine discharge is sited as close to the toe of the weir as possible maintaining the maximum distance from the region of spawning habitat identified.
The turbine discharges into the area of deep water in the left hand corner of the weir (looking downstream), forming an effective stilling basin to dissipate velocities.
The spawning habitat is mapped annually post installation to ensure that there is no reduction. In the unlikely scenario of a reduction occurring, mitigation in the form of gravel addition or altering the flow should be considered.
The fish pass entrance should be located 1-2 m downstream from the turbine discharge point in order to reduce the potential masking effect that the turbulent outflow may have.
Compressible bumpers should be fitted to the turbine leading edges to eliminate fish damage.
It remains to be seen if Fishtek's recommendations have been implemented in full. However according to the study, negative damage as a result of the installation of hydro power turbines is negligible. Although it is worth noting that there were assumptions made on the species inhabiting the river following the use of old data that is not reflective of today's Warwickshire Avon. Therefore, the Angling Trust do have a point when they say a thorough study was not carried out. It does beg the question as to why a new survey was not carried out in the immediate area especially when the Environment Agency are supposedly the guardians of our waterways. Despite the fisheries analysis suggesting it's not all doom and gloom, only time will tell. The Birmingham Anglers Association (BAA) who lease the fishing rights from the landowner were not notified of the scheme. Since planning was granted, they are still waiting for any communication. As for how this will alter the access to the club's fishing rights, BAA's John Williams stated, "We will not know anything until the scheme is complete. Access to the fishing will be determined by the landowner's wishes." Not great news when the landowner has already demonstrated a lack of consideration for river users by failing to take part in any meaningful consultation. Basically, a landowner can do what they like regardless of what lease agreements have been previously put in place, or at least that's what is being suggested. It is a pity, in my opinion, that the landowner, the council or the Environment Agency could not have had a discussion with interested parties such as the BAA and the Angling Trust. The BAA have seemingly lost fishing access to one of their prime spots without consultation and only future studies will determine whether the area's fish friendly habitat and attractive spawning grounds remain unharmed. I must admit there is something fishy (pardon the pun) with the ease in which this scheme found favour. Could it be that since the scheme will provide electricity for the nearby leisure centre, run by Wychavon District Council, it assisted in gaining full support? After all, this could cut the council's electricity bills so there is a slight conflict of interest. Did government incentives for green energy ensure this scheme was always going to be given the green light? There have been alleged accusations of money changing hands given the EA's lackadaisical attitude but of course this will only ever be rumour and conjecture. However remember, hydro power could be coming to a weir near you and you'll probably be the last to know!
Pershore's locals have an online petition which you may wish to support [here].
What is your opinion on such schemes? Would you be happy with the assurances made in the fisheries assessment? Would you welcome a scheme on a river near you?