July has been a month of hope and anticipation for the Hydro team. In last month’s newsletter, we mentioned that whilst all plans were focused on-site work physically starting during the week of August 3rd, there were two precursor activities outside of our control – the final planning approvals and our site access being dependent on the Congleton Relief Road progress. Well, we are pleased to say that both events happened, and site work will start on Tuesday, August 4th.

In respect of the planning, Arboricultural and ecological method statements, an education outline plan and boardwalk method statement were under consideration by Cheshire East Planning in support of our application to discharge ten planning conditions. Following a few refinements, the Cheshire East Consultees recommended the discharge of all conditions and we received the final decision letter to allow us to proceed with construction on July 31st.

Planners quite often get a lot of stick, but Congleton Hydro would like to express our thanks to Nick Hulland and the team at Cheshire East Planning for their timely and professional expedition of our necessary approvals. For those interested in viewing the planning discharge application and supporting documents, these can be found on the Cheshire East Planning Portal under application 20/2324D. 

Grahams, the main contractor for the Congleton Relief Road have also come up trumps and have ensured that the basic construction work on the Macclesfield Road is complete enough to allow our site construction traffic to access the field to begin the process of building the access trackway to the actual Hydro site.

Congleton Hydro would like to thank Grahams for their superb assistance in enabling us to reach this goal of ours and Dan Cawthra, their Community Liaison Manager who has kept us informed all the way.

The installation programme for the cable from the site to the Siemens factory has been delayed by a week as the cable itself is now scheduled to be delivered a week late on August 11th. Dutton’s can accommodate this delay within their plans, and it will not affect the overall programme.

Pre-construction documentation including the project Health and Safety Plan and Environmental Management Plan has been prepared by our principal contractor CTC Construction Ltd in association with DVCE especially David Page and Paul Guymer—well-done guys, lots of hard work.

The RCEF grant mentioned last month has now been approved and the agreement signed. The grant will be used to fund the Education Programme development, additional tree removal from the historic structures including the stone arch and island adjacent to the Weir and to prevent further root damage to ye olde stonework.

The Environment Agency, even though not requiring a fish pass as part of the main scheme, have since the project’s inception expressed a possible interest in a separate structure. The EA have now funded the examination of three optional designs for a Fish pass bypassing the Weir. These have been completed by our Principal Designer Derwent Hydro as a joint project between DVCE and the Environment Agency. The EA have selected their preferred option which is now undergoing detailed design and costing.

Essential to the ability to maintain the Hydro System is a Boardwalk to provide ease of access to the system itself, the water intake and the surrounding woodland. The Boardwalk is also a key enabler of the delivery of the Education Programme. Underpinning the design and development of both the Boardwalk and the Education Programme are two new members to the team.

Leading the Boardwalk Development (precise route, specification, contractor identification etc) is David Cook. David graduated as a Mechanical Engineer from UMIST. He worked with Proctor and Gamble maintaining process and packaging equipment and then joined their Operations Research Department. He continued his career for nearly 30 years as a management consultant with PA Consulting Group. His work, mainly at Board level, encompassed business enhancement through Customer-focused projects. He has lived in Congleton for 31years. His wife Jill is active in various local sustainability matters.

Spearheading the Education Programme Design, Development and Delivery programme is Peter Lane. Peter and his family have lived in Congleton since 1987. He was a secondary school science teacher and presently works part time as an educator with the Stoke Museum Service. Hobbies include playing badminton, cycling and visiting volcanoes (but not in Congleton methinks!!). Peter intends to ensure that the educational sessions we deliver at Congleton Hydro will be attractive, original, provocative and inclusive, illustrating the value both of sustainable electricity generation and of environmental conservation.
More of both the Boardwalk and Education programme in future newsletters.

Key to the operation of the scheme, of course, is the Electrical generator and the gearbox that couples it to the Archimedes screw. You will be aware from previous newsletters that the “Drive Train” package consisting of Siemens Generator, Gearbox and Variable Speed Drive was generously donated to us by HMK Ltd. Now we have ordered the Archimedes screw we are able to specify the changes needed to this package i.e. gearbox in/out mounting configuration. This work is being carried out for us as a special project by Flender in Leeds. The variable speed drive system needs to be programmed with our site-specific attributes (max/min speeds, alarm points for flow, blockage sensors, etc). Siemens has kindly provided some space in their factory for us to carry out this work. A future “Topic” will focus on the Drive Train and how it should enable us to maintain generation over quite a wide range of flow rates.

As mentioned last month, we will before long be able to identify the volunteer roles that will be needed to maintain the scheme, the woodland management, and the education programme. In the meantime, we would be more than happy for you to indicate a possible volunteering interest by contacting: info@congletonhydro.co.uk

Essential to the smooth and rewarding running of the Volunteer activity is the role of the Volunteer Manager/Co-ordinator. A draft of the role description is above, and we would be delighted to hear from anyone with an interest in helping us fill this important position. Like all roles within DVCE Congleton Hydro it is unpaid. Please contact us.

We hope that you have found this newsletter to be of interest and also informative. Next month we will no doubt be bringing you news and hopefully photographs of the construction work, please keep your fingers crossed to hope for fine weather during the next few months!!!

This month’s short article on an aspect of the Project is available to download above. It takes a look at the inception of Hydro-Electric power Generation, the background to the current Congleton Hydro Project and a little of the history of the village of Havannah, “the Power of the River Dane” and their roles in 18th century industrialisation(the keen-eyed amongst you will hopefully spot the link between 1878 and the present day!!). We hope you enjoy the article but despite a lot of research we are still short on detail and information on the actual construction of Havannah Weir itself and we would be delighted to hear from anyone one who can provide us with more information not just on the Weir but any aspect of the industrial past of the Havannah site.