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Added to website: 9 September 2012

Concerning Bradford Council's Hydro-electric turbine proposal in Roberts Park, Saltaire

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3 September 2012

Dear History Club Member,

I am writing to you as the chair of the Friends of Roberts Park, which, as you know, is an
organisation established to help protect and promote Saltaire’s Park. It is within the World Heritage Site, a conservation area, Grade II listed and on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens. The park has also benefited from a £4.2 million restoration project, creatinga magnificent recreational resource for the community of Saltaire, Bradford and beyond, as well as a national and international tourist attraction in its own right. Bradford Council have recently unveiled its proposals to construct a hydro-electric power turbine in the park in order to help it meets it renewable energy targets.

I am writing to you to express my concerns regarding these proposals.
The Council’s proposal can be read at:
www.bradford.gov.uk/bmdc/the_environment/climate_change/Hydro_Power_Scheme
(The Feasibility Study commissioned by the Council can be accessed from this same link).

This letter is necessarily rather long and contains several detailed points, however, we feel it is important to make you aware of our many concerns regarding this proposal.

This letter focuses on several of these namely:
1. The potential damage to Saltaire’s heritage and the park,
2. The integrity of consultation,
3. Important questions about how green this project actually is
4. The relevance of these plans to the vision of Saltaire’s founder

1. The potential damage to Saltaire’s heritage and the park:
The proposal ignores all the “multiple layers of protection” for historic Saltaire which the
Council boasts on its own website at www.bradford.gov.uk
Saltaire is deemed worthy of protection by UNESCO and it was designated a World Heritage Site in 2001.

There are in fact many competing ideas for schemes that would impact the model village and the park. Commuter’s would argue for a bypass to be constructed through the World Heritage site because they feel it would ease traffic congestion in the Aire Valley. Others argue (including the local Green Councillors) that Saltaire’s protected status should bend in order to facilitate green-friendly enterprises. However development within a protected area such as this sets a very worrying precedent. Whilst we recognise that we all have an obligation to protect the environment, we also have an obligation to protect the planet’s heritage. We are gravely concerned that the proposed turbine, could set a precedent for the further alteration and erosion of what UNESCO and English Heritage have sought to preserve.

Bradford Council has a demonstrably poor record in relation to heritage protection. We often hear ‘no-one wants Saltaire to be preserved in aspic’, however with so many competing value systems, who decides which developments are appropriate or inappropriate in this precious and protected area?

Great care was taken during the restoration of the park to reinstate key vistas integral to the original Victorian design. The Boathouse public house was rebuilt at the same time and the owners were made to submit many revisions to their designs in order to maintain the integrity of the view across to the New Mill Complex.
Likewise the proposed removal of at least three mature trees and recently planted trees, will have a lasting impact on the original design of the park as well as the deeply valued balance that currently exists between the natural and the built environments. The turbine will be located next to the parks main thoroughfare and not “adjacent to the park” as Council publicity wrongly suggests.

We should also question the close proximity of such a large unattended mechanical device next to a heavily used play area – any compromising of safety measures could have very serious consequences. There will be a large unslightly “boom” placed across the width of the river to catch any debris, preventing boats or people coming into contact with the weir and the turbine.

In addition the key view that will be irrevocably damaged is that across the weir towards the mill, an image which is featured repeatedly to promote tourism to the area as well as inspiring a body of literature and art. It is a loved and iconic view.

2. The integrity of council “consultation”:
The council recently held a consultation event and have subsequently claimed that the turbine is a “popular measure”. However this consultation event was both vague and highly leading in the way it actively steered the opinions of the small sample of attendees. More specifically it was held for one (working) day at short notice and with a very biased questionnaire which seems designed to lead people to a ‘yes’ statement.
In addition, people were not informed as to the purpose of the ‘consultation event’ nor about how the data from the questionnaires was going to be used. Many people, for example, who were not in favour of the plans did not complete a questionnaire and thus have not had their their voices heard. The actual consultation itself involved little more than a few repeated display boards with schematics which were unintelligible to the lay person scattered with unrealistic and misleading artist impressions. Residents and the wider population of Bradford have not been fully informed of what this development would entail or what it would mean for the future. Neither have they been informed of what would be irrevocably lost and what precedence it would set. In addition no alternative has been openly discussed and the council presupposition seems to be that this development will simply go ahead regardless of how inappropriate its location.

On examination of the council’s feasibility study it seems that The Friends of Roberts Park are not to be included in any future consultation as we are no longer deemed “key stake holders”.
Is this a mistake or a calculated oversight, given our vote to oppose the scheme?
During the restoration of the park our support was sought repeatedly by the council as a "key stakeholder", to the lottery bid.

3. Important questions about how green this project actually is:
This ‘token’ proposal seems to be an instance of ‘greenwash’.
The Council identifies the construction and operating costs over the project’s first 20 years as £1.22M, yielding an annual energy output of 371,000KwH. This energy estimate is misleading, since it fails to quantify the energy costs of manufacturing, transporting, and installing the turbine; building the turbine housing, treefelling, re-landscaping. The net energy yield will be lower.

It has been estimated (using a reputable source) as being the equivalent of taking a mere 27 cars off the road. We believe that for such a modest saving in the carbon budget, there are many alternative green energy measures that the council can take without endangering this valuable site. How much more effective would it be, for example, if the £1.2 million this scheme is estimated to cost, were invested in insulation and secondary glazing within the village?

We believe there are more cost-effective ways available to the Council for generating green energy. Bradford Council itself has announced. (see www.bradford.gov.uk/bmdc/government_politics_and_public_administration/news that it has installed solar panels at St James Wholesale Market at a cost of £112,000 with a claimed energy yield enough for “40 homes”. In other words, at a cost of less than 10% of the proposed turbine, it will have an energy yield of 40% of it. The Council has offered no environmental impact study – issues of noise, litter, loss of amenity etc – have not been addressed in any quantified way.

4. The relevance of these plans to the vision of Saltaire’s founder:
The Council claim that Titus Salt would have been in favour of this current proposal. Titus did in fact build the equivalent of a hydro-electric turbine, but he did so invisibly, beneath the New Mill complex on the opposite side of the river. The current proposals have grown from an initial investigation in 2007 which sought to use Titus's vision and hide the turbine in the New Mill complex.This is still a possible alternative and much more sympathetic to the original design and vision of Sir Titus Salt's village. One-hundred and fifty years ago Titus Salt was able to both harness the power of the River Aire and maintain the beauty of the weir, the mill and the views from the park.

The proposed site of the turbine is in clear contradiction of the design of Salt’s township on the north side of the river, which was to be an area dedicated to leisure and recreation. This is something his successor, Sir James Roberts sought to maintain for future generations in the form of a legally binding Deed of Covenant when the park was passed to public hands in 1921. These deeds protect both the river flow and the park’s recreational purpose, a document the council seem only recently to have been made aware of.


In conclusion:
We have heard some people say about the proposal: ‘it doesn’t look that bad’. However we believe that this largely due to the misleading artistic impressions, the vague and partial information at the consultation event and the fact that people haven’t been led to think about the lasting consequences and repercussions of this proposed development. By the council’s own estimation the energy created by this scheme will be an inconsequential contribution to its larger renewable energy target. We don’t feel such a small gain would be worth such a vast and permanent loss to the region and the nation as a whole. The council may say that a hydro-electric turbine is ‘popular’, however popular decisions are not always the right ones to take, particularly when that “popularity” is based on partial and misleading information and short-sightedness.

When your input regarding these current proposals is requested I would respectful ask that these concerns be given serious consideration. Should you require any further information, or when formulating your response to these proposals you would like clarification of our stance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

*Please find attached photographs.

*This artists impression shown right is misleading.The “turf roof” as shown, is incorrect as the roof will be required to be removable for maintenance.

 

Yours sincerely
Sharon Ashton
Chairperson
The Friends of Roberts Park

Email: forp@roberts-park.org

   

 
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