The professional consultants who worked on Hexham River Hydro brought extensive technical knowledge. The core team and professional consultants also proactively drew on expertise and feedback from local residents including local anglers and other river users, riparian owners and statutory agencies to influence the design and in order to assess fully the benefits and potential impacts of the scheme.
Consultations began early
The initial feasibility work undertaken by Inter Hydro Technology concluded in the first half of 2011 that two very different designs were potentially viable. The Hexham River Hydro team prepared a summary of these designs and sent this to >30 local organisations with a potential interest to ask for their input. The list of local organisations was drawn up using the list from Tyne Rivers Trust’s prior consultations with regard to a stand-alone fish pass at the same location. The primary purpose of consultation at this early stage was to test whether stakeholders had strong views on either one or other of the outline design options or could identify any potential pros or cons not already documented.
Consultations continued through the detailed feasibility and detailed design phases
Working with local anglers and riparian owners
Organisations and individuals with fisheries interests are key stakeholders to any hydro scheme. The Hexham River Hydro team met with representatives from many groups and set up dedicated meetings with the professional hydro design consultants and expert fisheries advisors to ensure that local angers could share their concerns and hear directly from our consultants. All this added to the project costs but was considered to be money well spent.
Meetings were held throughout the period of feasibility and design work:
– Guy Opperman MP chaired an evening discussion in March 2012 at which Tyne Rivers Trust, Hexham River Hydro and the Environment Agency each presented views. Representatives from the many anglers, angling clubs and riparian owners along the river Tyne attended. It was a valuable opportunity for everyone to air aspirations, expectations and concerns about the scheme. These discussions helped to shape the brief to Hexham River Hydro’s consultant team.
– In October 2012 a dedicated evening session was held for all those with a fisheries interest in the Tyne catchment. Hexham River Hydro professional design consultants and fisheries experts presented the proposed design and answered questions and concerns. An independent facilitator was appointed to run the meeting to ensure that everyone felt that their points were ‘heard’. The session was deliberately timed to strike a balance between (i) the design being sufficiently advanced to present in detail and with full explanations, and (ii) having further time available to further refine the design if any new points were raised by anglers at this time. Feedback was proactively sought to help shape the consultants’ final development of the project and next steps.
– Throughout the project the Hexham River Hydro team also responded to information requests from anglers and requests from specific groups to meet with them in person. The approach was to be open, listen to concerns and respond to them as promptly as possible.
Local Authority/Statutory Agencies
The Hexham River Hydro team met with key personnel at Northumberland County Council and the Environment Agency throughout the project to discuss key aspects of design, listen to advice and ensure potential issues were addressed.
Working with recreational groups
The Hexham River Hydro team adopted an open and transparent approach to communications with the recreational user groups on the river, in particular the rowing and canoeing clubs. Members of these clubs have detailed knowledge of the river which they were happy to share and they offered many practical suggestions to support the design.
The Hexham River Hydro core team were pleased to be invited to join the County Council-led Tyne Green Users Group which provided additional opportunity to ensure regular updates to both the rowing and canoeing clubs.
Working with the whole community
Members of the local community were encouraged to engage with the project throughout. Updates were provided at the monthly open meetings of Transition Tynedale, at Hexham Community Partnership Board meetings, on the energyshare website and on the Hexham Community Partnership website. Transition Tynedale and Hexham Community Partnership both have contact details online and emails (and calls) received via this route were responded to as quickly as possible.
In October 2012 a public meeting was held, at which Hexham River Hydro professional design consultants presented the proposed design. The session was deliberately timed to strike a balance between (i) the design being sufficiently advanced to present in detail and with full explanations, and (ii) having further time available to further refine the design if any new points were raised by stakeholders at this time. Feedback was proactively sought to help shape the consultants’ final development of the project and next steps. Once again a facilitator was appointed to ensure that everyone’s views were heard and captured.
Feedback from all consultations has helped to shape the scheme. Thank you to all those who provided their time and input.
Hexham River Hydro, an energyshare project made possible by British Gas and supported by Carbon Leapfrog, Cooperative Enterprise Hub, Vattenfall and The Naturesave Trust