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Planning Comments and Feedback

We are glad that the majority of the public opinions received during the planning consultation phase were highly supportive. There were however some questions and comments raised by the public which need further clarifications in order to resolve any concerns expressed. Therefore, we have compiled a list of public comments and the corresponding responses presented below.

Comment Reference Number  Comment Response
1 The council is concerned about the intended access to the site via A536 as these works may conflict with work in the area on the Congleton Link Road. We feel there should be controlled and temporary access only through the agreed point from the A536 through the field and no parking of vehicles or access from Havannah Lane. On construction completion, the temporary site access should be reseeded and returned to natural field. Any proposed parking spaces on Havannah Lane for the use of the scheme post construction must be minimised and tightly controlled with no use permitted by other parties. During the construction phase, all vehicle access/egress will be via the existing splay/gateway from the A536 to a field track at the agreed point. Control of vehicle entrance/exit will be via a procedure agreed with the appropriate Highways Engineer. There will be no construction vehicle access to the site from Havannah Lane. On completion of construction,  the splay/gateway to the field will be returned to a state to be agreed with the Highway Engineer/land owner. A temporary Composite Trackway, which will be used to enhance the field track, will be removed and the field returned to a state as agreed with the landowner. Post construction, provision for the parking of a limited number of vehicles used by Operation and Maintenance personnel will be made in the “Maize Field” at junction of the A536 and Havannah Lane. The access will be physically controlled via a secure gateway and use only granted to authorised personnel. 
2 We also feel there are potential legacy issues in the proposals and the council would require some assurances in the form of written commitment in the applicant's foundation documents (e.g.articles of association). This would be to safeguard the long term interests of the local community for example in the event of the project assets being sold to another 3rd party operator or the assets simply being abandoned. The DVCE operating rules can be viewed on the DVCE web site http://www.congletonhydro.co.uk. The section related to transfer of assets to a third party is provided below; Extract from Rules of DVCE, Para 97 Asset Lock: Pursuant to regulations made under section 1 of the Co-operatives and Community Benefit Societies Act 2003 all of the Society's assets are subject to a restriction on their use. The Society must not use or deal with its assets except: (f) To transfer its assets to one or more of the following: (i) a prescribed community benefit society whose assets have been made subject to a restriction on use and which will apply that restriction to any assets so transferred; (ii) a community interest company; (iii) a registered social landlord which has a restriction on the use of its assets which is equivalent to a restriction on use and which will apply that restriction to any assets so transferred; (iv) a charity (including a community benefit society that is a charity); or (v) a body, established in Northern Ireland or a State other than the United Kingdom, that is equivalent to any of those Persons.
3 Under these circumstances we would refer to the provisions set out in Policy SE8 and the comments there under para 4 "Given the nature of some forms of renewable and low energy schemes and their supporting infrastructure and ancillary building(s), it will be necessary and appropriate in certain instances, to secure removal of the scheme and its supporting infrastructure and decommissioning through the imposition of planning conditions"+C1. Provisions for decommissioning are provided in the DVCE Design and Access Statement submitted with the planning application and available on the Cheshire East Planning Website. The relevant section is reproduced below. Extract from DVCE Design & Access Statement, Section 10.6 Decommissioning Plan: The civil structures (intake, pipeline, Archimedes screw bearing mounts, tailrace channel and control shed) are intended to have a useful life of more than 100 years. The turbine itself is designed to have an operational life of more than 30 years. The rest of the electro-mechanical equipment (gearbox, generator, bearings, control gear) consists of replaceable items that will be renewed from time to time i.e. every 10-20 years. The revenue generated from electricity sales and the 20-year Feed-in-Tariff will ensure there is sufficient income to keep the system well-maintained and operating efficiently. It is anticipated that the need for carbon-free electricity generation in the UK will be at least as high in 20 years time and that the viability of continuing generation with an already installed asset will be strong when the Feed-in-Tariff expires, whether under DVCE Ltd or following the sale to a 3rd-party generating company. Should the energy market at that time fail to support a viable business case, the generation asset would be disposed of. The scrap value of the screw and its bearings / generator / gearbox would be substantially greater than its removal costs. The control building would be demolished to its foundations and the electrical equipment would be removed. The concrete bypass channel would be permanently blocked off (unless the Environment Agency wished to adopt it as an additional flood control sluice). Due to the nature of the site the remaining structures would be rapidly overgrown and return to a natural state, as has been the case with previous civil structures erected during the industrial revolution. 
4 My objection to the project is it really eco friendly the damage to the river during construction could be unsustainable once the generator has been constructed what danger to wildlife would it pose What protection would it have against vandals, lightening strikes causing power surge What protection would near by neighbours have against flooding caused by the turbine slowing the water flow The planning application is supported by a flood risk assessment  (included with the planning application on the Cheshire East planning application website) which has been reviewed by the UK's lead authority on flood risk, namely the Environmental Agency (EA). The EA have accepted the report and have granted a flood risk permit. They have not objected to planning on flood risk grounds. Various arboricultural, geomorphology, ecology and noise studies have been performed and are submitted with the planning application. These studies demonstrate that the impact on wildlife  will be minimal provided that mitigating features and procedures identified in the studies are implemented. The hydro scheme will not be unusually prone to lightning strikes and thus the likelihood of such an event is extremely low.  Furthermore should such an event occur  the only potential consequence would be damage to hydro scheme equipment itself.
5 Reviewing the list of Consultees and Neighbours notified about this application, virtually no-one living in Havannah Village or on Havannah Lane has been notified. This means that the residents who will be most affected by this project have not been notified and may not be aware of their opportunity to comment. This is a major oversight in the consultation process. As far as we are aware the planning application consultation process  conducted by Cheshire East has followed the normal process for publicising applications for this type of scheme. In the case of our hydro scheme this has involved; the notification of immediate neighbours, the posting of signs in the neighbourhood, informing  the Eaton parish council and advertising in the local newspaper. Further consultations undertaken by DVCE are discussed in the response to comment # 9.
6

An installation and asset of this type requires a clear ownership structure and a viable long-term business plan to ensure that it is operated and maintained in a responsible manner.

Whilst ownership and economic matters are not necessarily planning related, there is a clear and undeniable relationship between the good governance, sound management and economic health of an organisation and its ability to discharge its multiple responsibilities, including those towards the local community. And approval of this scheme will come with a number of long-term responsibilities to the local community.

To this end, who or what is Dane Valley Community Energy Limited (“DVCE”)? A simple check of the Companies House website reveals that DVCE is a “Registered Society”, but not much else. What is the ownership structure of DVCE? Who or what is responsible for DVCE? Who or what is funding DVCE?

Dane Valley Community Energy Ltd  (DVCE) is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as a mutual society. As such details  of our organisation can be found on the Mutuals Public Register at https://mutuals.fca.org.uk/. Public documents held for DVCE (e.g. Annual Return, Registration documents) can be ordered through the FCA. While the Companies House website provides a reference to mutual societies such as  DVCE, it is the role of the FCA to hold the public records.

The DVCE rules are available to view on the DVCE web site (http://www.congletonhydro.co.uk)



7 In the Design and Access statement, it is claimed (§10.6 Decommission Plan) that this asset is “intended to have a useful life of more than 100 years”. It is not possible to make any judgement about this statement because we know nothing of DVCE’s capabilities and resources. Is DVCE competent to design, develop and responsibly operate this scheme for 100 years?
The DVCE project team came together in 2015. The team consists of local residents of Congleton and the surrounding area who share a commitment to developing and operating the scheme for the benefit of the environment and the local community. The team has retained Derwent Hydro Power  (DHP) to assist in delivering the project. DHP have a substantial  track record, expertise and experience in small hydro power projects . 

The  qualifications the DVCE team and its consultants can be found on the DVCE website (http://www.congletonhydro.co.uk) and the DHP web site (https://www.derwent-hydro.co.uk. 

An explanation regarding plans for decommissioning can be found under the response to comment #2.
8 Section 10.6 goes on to say that “The revenue generated from electricity sales and the 20-year Feed-in-Tariff will ensure there is a sufficient income to keep the system well-maintained and operating efficiently. It is anticipated that the need for carbon-free electricity generation in the UK will be at least as high in 20 years’ time and that the viability of continuing generation with an already installed asset will be strong when the Feed-in-Tariff expires, whether under DVCE Ltd or following the sale to a 3rd-party generating company”. Given several recent government decisions to scrap renewable electricity subsidies, this is a worryingly naïve statement implying overly optimistic business assumptions. The statement also reveals something of DVCE’s long term interests to sell to a “3rd party generating company”.
Is DVCE in possession of a fully funded business plan, or is it a “trojan horse” for other vested interests?
The Feed in Tariff will be applied for and approved prior to the start of construction. Once agreed, the set FIT rate is guaranteed for a period of 20 years with the value being adjusted each year in accordance with the retail price index (RPI). 

The project capital will be raised through  a public share offering which will be supported by a final business plan taking into account the agreed FIT rate. Construction will not begin unless the project is fully funded. 

As with any company operating in a free market economy, its long term financial viability cannot be guaranteed. Should it be necessary at some stage in the future to dispose of the assets of the company, DVCE rules require the regulations restricting the sale to be as stated in section 1 of the Co-operatives and Community Benefit Societies Act 2003. Further details are provide in the response to comment #  2
9

I note with some interest that a number of ‘residents’ have written supporting comments attached to this application, despite many addresses not being anywhere near the application site. Many comments make the point this is an important and valuable community project. However, is it not the case, that one’s sense of ‘community’ rather depends on one’s perspective? I am unaware of any consultation made by DVCE with the local community of Havannah (which lies in the Cheshire East ward of Gawsworth, Macclesfield) outside the scope of the statutory planning rules.

A launch event was held on   the 28th March 2017 with the aim of engaging the Havannah weir community. The event was held in the main hall of Eaton Bank Academy. Approximately 50 members of the local community, plus a few from the surrounding area, were greeted.

The headmaster of Eaton Bank Academy, Ed O’Neill, opened the evening by welcoming everyone and explaining that he was supporting the scheme due to the Academy’s interest in promoting sustainable living to its students and the potential educational benefits of such a scheme. A detailed explanation of the scheme was then presented by members of DVCE and its consultant.

Each significant step in the scheme's development has been publicised in the Congleton Chronicle. Furthermore the Eaton bank academy have publicised the scheme on their website and in parent newsletters.

Finally, prior to the submission of the latest planning application, we also met with the local Havannah resident most exposed to  scheme to address their concerns and note that no objections have been posted on the Cheshire East Planning website from that source.
10

Furthermore, I do not understand how it is possible to claim such noble community minded intentions when so little is known of DVCE or its long-term objectives or its backers. Should a ‘3rd party generating company’ be the long-term owner and operator of this asset, then it is highly likely that the well-intentioned claims and promises made by DVCE and its supporters today will be quickly and easily forgotten tomorrow, leaving the actual local community of Havannah and CEC to deal with any resulting problems.

If the project was as community minded as is claimed, why is it proposed to install a new 1,000 metre electricity cable to the Siemens (a huge multi-national, German company) factory (§7.10 Grid Connection) in Congleton, when there is a local community of residents in Havannah that could more readily benefit from the electricity? Havannah will be inconvenienced by this project, so why is it not being allowed to share in the claimed benefits of cheap, renewable electricity?

Incurring the substantial cost and environmental damage from installing a 1,000 metre cable to the Siemens factory in Congleton.

Issues related to the corporate status of DVCE and potential 3rds party interests have been discussed in the response to comments 2 , 6 & 8.

With respect to the comments related to the involvement pf Siemens,  we are indeed grateful that this major local employer has been most supportive of our community  hydro scheme, as they have been and continue to be supportive of a multitude of community  sponsored activities within Congleton and around the UK (see further details below). The Siemens Congleton factory have agreed to purchase the electricity generated by the scheme at a tariff well above that which could be realized by selling the electricity directly to the grid. 

There is no realistically viable mechanism for the scheme to supply the residents of Havannah directly. Furthermore the level of disruption to Havannah residents should be next to nothing, given proposed location of the construction access is directly from the A536 and off street parking will be provided at the top of Havannah Lane for use by maintenance staff and visitors when the scheme comes into operation.

Some further clarifications regarding community support from Siemens.  The vast majority of employees  working at the Congleton site live locally and thus have a strong interest in the local community well being. Siemens has always been engaged with the local affairs and have been supportive of community projects, initiatives and aspirations, especially those related to  people development and education. In the wider area surrounding the Hydro Project,  employee volunteers at both Marton and Havannah Primary Schools, have helped in the Siemens Primary Schools and STEM challenges. Eaton Bank Academy is supported with quite a range of educational activities e.g. 10 week Roller-coaster and Robotic challenges, work experience placements, careers fairs and so on. The Hydro Project will provide a wide range of educational opportunities (STEM, Environmental, Business, Ecology etc) and volunteers from Siemens (and other local organisations) will be helping run these programmes.
 
Siemens together with other local businesses such as HMK Ltd are committed to working directly and with others to protect and improve the environment. Its core product range---Electrical Variable Speed Drives (VSD) are used by Industry, Business and Commerce worldwide to help improve the efficiency of electrical machines and processes. By using a Congleton manufactured VSD the hydro project will improve the efficiency of converting water power to electrical power and will allow operation over a wide range of flow rates. By purchasing the generated output power at a favourable rate, Siemens helps to improve the schemes financial viability as well as enhancing its own eco profile.


11

It is predicted to generate around 250,000 kWh per year, which may sound a lot but when compared to 2017 UK electricity generation of 336,000,000,000 kWh is only 0.0000744%.

The scheme claims a CO2 saving when compared against generation from coal of 200 tonnes. This is an invalid comparison, as UK coal generation has been in long term decline and in 2017 represented only 6.7% of UK generation.

CO2 savings from the scheme when compared against nuclear (20.8%) or renewable generation (29.3%) would be zero.

Therefore, the only valid comparison is against combined cycle gas generation (40.4%) which, using government data, I estimate would give a much lower CO2 saving of around 80 tonnes.

To put this number into a different context, this is roughly equivalent to 10 family sized, petrol fuelled cars each driving 30,000 miles per year.

It is my opinion therefore that neither the amount of electricity generated, nor the amount of CO2 saved from the scheme are any way material. It is for this reason that the planning consent for the scheme should not be granted.

Although not to  be minimised, the benefits of the this scheme go well beyond generating a finite amount of renewable energy. It will: 
1) create funds for supporting local community activities
2) provide a focal point for educational activities related to renewable energy, the conservation of resources and the environment in general
3) provide the impetus and local knowledge for promoting further community hydro and other renewable energy schemes.



12

Should the scheme be approved, then all the usual planning conditions for control of pre-construction activities should be applied including, but not limited to, conducting background surveys (especially noise and flood risk), conducting relevant ecological surveys, proposing wildlife mitigation schemes etc.

Should the scheme be approved, then all the usual planning conditions for control of construction activities should be applied including, but not limited to, working hours, no weekend working, managing construction noise, traffic management, construction waste management etc.

I note that recommended construction access will be from the A536 (at the double S bends) and then along a newly constructed, temporary track at the edge of the field (Figures 18 to 21). This is a dangerously fast section of the A536 on a sweeping bend which will require suitable traffic calming and control measures. There is also potential for this scheme to clash with Congleton Link Road activities which may require additional control measures to be implemented.

It should be a condition that all construction traffic must approach the site along this temporary track, and not Havannah Lane. Construction drivers must be briefed accordingly beforehand and appropriate signs informing construction traffic should be placed at the entrance to Havannah Lane.

In Section 11 ‘Outline Construction Methodology’, sub heading ‘Completion of the Works (and Silt Containment)’, the last bullet says, “Remove the temporary access track from the upper field; make good and re-seed.” This statement should become a planning condition.

Should the scheme be approved, then all the usual planning conditions for control of post-construction activities should be applied including, but not limited to, visual impact screening, ongoing wildlife monitoring, ongoing noise monitoring, ongoing flood risk monitoring, control of traffic flows on Havannah Lane for operations and maintenance, ongoing community liaison, complaints handling procedures, emergency contacts etc.

We generally concur with these comments and will fully adhere to requirements imposed by any planning consent conditions.
13 Although broadly supportive of the need for sustainable energy, as the owner of the fishing rights at this location I have the following observations/concerns:1) I am concerned that the use of heavy machinery in the are immediately above the weir on the west bank may cause damage to or collapse of the brick work supporting the western edge of the weir. This could cause catastrophic collapse leading to a major re-mobilisation of silt and to the river taking a route around the weir, this would seriously impact of the quality of the fishing and more significantly the river system.2) Similarly work in this location could damage the sluice gate which is already in poor condition-if this were to release then it would be extremely difficult to mend and would result in no water going over the weir again impacting upon fishing and river geomorphology. 3) I have concerns that the laying of cabling and raised wooden walkways along the west bank could damage largely undisturbed woodland and create an opportunity for poaching which has been a problem in the past.
It is important to note that the majority of the civils work (apart from the intake pipe) will take place adjacent to  and below the bridge connecting to the  sluice/ weir structure, and not in close proximity to the weir  or sluice themselves. Structural surveys will be performed work commencing on site to ensure there is no disturbance of  these existing Grade II listed structures. 

The proposed post and beam walkway is of a design typically specifically for woodland and marsh access and will have a minimal impact on the ecology. Appropriate security measures will be installed to deter unauthorised access.
14 As a river is a dynamic system I have a concern that minimum flows over the weir will be difficult to maintain and guarantee, the weir pool and area immediately below the weir are key locations within the local river ecosystem offering strong flows, high levels of oxygenation and gravel beds. Trout spawn in this area and there are dipper and occasional king fisher nesting sites. I am very concerned that the proposal will create significant disturbance.5) I am concerned that the impact of the work will have impacts on mine and my families enjoyment of this location and fishing in the river. My family have invested in a resource which may be compromised by this proposal The design calls for a minimum flow over the weir to be maintained as prescribed by the Environmental Agency.  Should river flows reduce to a point where this flow cannot be maintained  with the hydro scheme in operation, the turbine will automatically shut down and all of the available river flow directed to the weir. The hydro industry has amassed a wealth of experience in successfully designing  and operating schemes in this manner. See also response to comment # 15.
15 The Geomorphology Assessment document refers to the removal of silt from the channel below weir and to bank strengthening using rip-rap to avoid erosion. Both of these processes will involve significant work in the river channel which will have major impacts on the river and it's angling potential. The Environmental Agency Pre app response indicated;  " From our screening we have identified the scheme is low risk and unlikely to cause significant impact at the waterbody scale". The geomorphology study has considered how the different WFD elements (fish, invertebrates, macrophytes, hydrology, and geomorphology) interact and contribute to the overall water body status. For example how any alteration of the hydrological and/or geomorphological processes at the site may directly influence the distribution and abundance of fish and/or fish habitat, invertebrate assemblage. The study has concluded  that with best practice construction methods, including during the removal of the fine sediment in the right bar, the scheme will not have a significant effect upon the water quality of the River Dane. During operation, the scheme will not cause enhanced erosion or affect water quality measures such as temperature or oxygen content.
16  I understand that a fish-pass is a possible development here and if the proposal is considering itself to be ecologically sustainable then this should be fitted as part of the development, should it take place. Although not a requirement, a proposal for the installation of fish pass in conjunction with the hydro scheme construction has been made by the Environmental Agency (EA). The scheme has indeed been designed so that a fish pass could be installed in the future. Should the scheme go ahead we will cooperate with the EA in everyway possible to bring this to fruition.
17 The scheme should involve processes for the reintroduction of both white clawed crayfish and water vole in order not just to maintain environmental quality but improve it We would welcome the opportunity to explore this possibility further with the EA and the proponent of this suggestion. 
18 After reading the relevant information I do not think enough thought has been given to the impact on the local neighbourhood . The loss of trees and potential wildlife in what is meant to be a protected area is bad enough but the prospect of increased noise in a very peaceful area is very concerning. The 6 months of disturbance to create electricity for Siemens along with all the housebuilding and road building locally is really effecting the neighbourhoods quality of life. The main concern is blocking havannah lane as cars are parking on there regularly and at busy times it becomes very difficult to pass. Where are the staff who will service the plant meant to park when it is all finished. We have had so many parking issues due to inconsiderate parents of kids at the local school . Please consider the local neighbourhood who will gain no benefit from this scheme when you decide upon its merits
The scheme as proposed has been designed to absolutely minimise the impact on trees and the local wild life. Various aboricultural, geomorphology, ecology and noise studies have been performed submitted with the planning applications which demonstrate that the impact will be minimal. 

The level of disruption to Havannah residents should be next to nothing given the proposed location of the construction access from the A536 and the provision of off-street parking for use by maintenance staff and occasional supervised visitors during operation.
19 The two wildlife sites in the area would be greatly damaged and the loss of woodland habitat and trees would have such an adverse effect on the local wildlife. Any efforts to compensate for these losses, I feel, would be inadequate. Some woodland and wildlife would be lost for ever. 
The project footprint of 380m² compares with a measured area of 50,000m² for the Local Wild Life Site as a whole i.e. less than 1%.Various aboricultural,  geomorphology and ecology studies have been performed submitted with the planning applications which demonstrate that the impact will be minimal. For example; 

Arboriculture: "It is considered that the tree removals will not have a significant adverse effect to the overall woodland value, setting of the weir, or the wider landscape".  
Ecology: "The development is thought to have a negligible footprint relative to how common the habitats on site are in the area".
20 As a resident of Havannah since 1955 I can state there have always been bats in that locality, especially around and under the brick/stone arch near the sluice gate and more research should be done on this aspect to prevent yet more loss. Substantial research has been conducted with respect to local bat activity  which has been submitted as part of the planning application. Indeed the habitats, both within and surrounding the site, were considered to be suitable for foraging and commuting bats.  The stone/masonry archway  was recorded as having the potential to support roosting bats and will therefore require a follow-up assessment by a fully qualified licenced bat worker prior to construction. Various mitigating features and precautions have been identified should the scheme go ahead. Overall the proposed development is unlikely to result in the loss, damage or obstruction of any potential roosts.
21 The estimated flood water level over Havannah weir is about 1.3 m (87.6 m AOD) and this is based on water level figures recorded near Northwich, about 20 miles downstream. With the hydro equipment being located on the river bank, figures more credible and realistic should be used to determine the flood risk. I have seen three flood events at Havannah in my lifetime. The worst and most recent, in October 1998, was 89 m AOD. I calculated this figure from watermarks at 7, New Street and also have written confirmation from the Environment Agency. Even Havannah Bridge was under water. The powerhouse door sill in the application (at 88.1 m AOD) is 0.9 m below the 1998 flood level. I believe the flood risk assessment is flawed and unrealistic compared to actual flood events that have happened in Havannah. The worst ever flood was in 1872 which ruined the industries and left the village all but deserted. 
The planning application is supported by a flood risk assessment (included with the planning application on the Cheshire East planning website) which has been reviewed by the UK's lead authority on flood risk, namely the Environmental Agency (EA). The EA have accepted the report and have granted a flood risk permit. They have not objected to planning on flood risk grounds. 

We appreciate any input regarding local flood event knowledge. This will be investigated further during the detailed design stage and will be used to inform any additional defences against damage to the hydro scheme equipment and structure, if necessary.  However the basic conclusion of the flood risk assessment, being that the scheme does not introduce any additional flood risk, remains valid.
22 Between the bridge and the sluice gate (western side of river) there is a continuous stone wall. Mostly covered in silt and undergrowth, the wall forms part of the original weir/bridge/mill complex built by Charles Roe from 1763 and should be preserved and not damaged. The sluice gate was originally accessed by steps at the side and it would be prudent to ensure this area is not made inaccessible by any development.
We fully agree with this comment. All necessary precautions will be taken to avoid any disturbance to the original weir and bridge and to ensure access is maintained.