A PLAN to install a hydro electric generator on the River Calder at Whalley could now be at risk after a survey exposed serious deterioration in the condition of the river’s 600-year-old weir.
Whalley Community Hydro group had planned to start work installing a 100kw hydro electric generator for the benefit of the local community on the river during April next year, and for electricity generation to begin in the autumn.
However, the group’s acting secretary Tim Ashworth, warned: “It may not be just the hydro scheme, but the weir itself which is under threat.”
A hydrological survey, commissioned by the founder members of the hydro group as part of the design process, revealed defects immediately below the lip of the weir of up to 1.8m. (6ft) depth.
“The recent dry spell and low water levels has enabled closer scrutiny of the weir’s structure and visually confirms the deterioration is accelerating,” Tim explained.
“Up until now it was believed the weir was in a relatively sound condition and would only require minor renovation. “Such renovation, for the benefit of the local community and the fishing fraternity, is included in the Hydro scheme budget.
“However, these more serious structural defects will need to be further investigated and possible reconstruction costed before the project can proceed.”
Existing hydro group schedules, including finalisation of land and access agreements, design calculations, specification of turbine, obtaining planning permission and a water abstraction licence, engaging a contractor, and, most crucially, raising finance for the scheme, will now have to be put on hold.
“However, of broader concern is that the weir is an important part of Ribble Valley’s and, in particular, Whalley’s cultural and architectural heritage,” Tim added.
“It is thought to date back to the founding of Whalley Abbey in around 1380 and was built to ensure a regular supply of water for the abbey kitchens, fish farm and latrines. In more recent times, from around 1840, it was used to power a water wheel at Abbey Corn Mills.
“If a breach in the weir were to occur, it would completely alter the shape and character of the river, both for local residents and for the substantial number of tourists to whom it has become a magnet over the years.
“In the words of a founder member of the group, ‘if, in the worst case scenario, the weir were allowed to collapse it would not only be the Hydro scheme which would die with it’.”
The appropriate local and county authorities have been alerted and the hydro group will be maintaining contact with them.
In the meantime, the group would like to thank the very many local supporters of the hydro scheme.
l For further information about the hydro scheme go to www.whalleyhydro.wikdot.com or contact Tim Ashworth on 01254 823103 or Chris Gathercole on 01254 823376.