National park villagers raise cash to make hydro-electric power

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RURAL communities in one of Yorkshire’s national parks are joining forces to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to finance a hyrdro-electric plant and boost stocks of salmon and trout.

A co-operative has been set up to co-ordinate the move to generate environmentally-friendly electricity by installing the turbine on the River Esk in the North York Moors National Park.

A community share issue will be launched on Wednesday to raise £320,000 towards the scheme, which has received wide-spread support from organisations including North Yorkshire County Council and the North York Moors National Park Authority.

The Esk Valley Community Energy Group has secured £240,000 in funding, and the share issue is aiming to raise the rest of the money needed for the small-scale turbine, known as an Archimedes screw, at Ruswarp, near Whitby.

Planning permission has been given by the North York Moors National Park Authority, which will install a fish pass alongside the turbine to help to increase salmon and sea trout stocks in the River Esk.

The chairman of the project’s steering group, Colin Mather, said: “We have been delighted with the level of support that we have received so far with people seeing it as their opportunity to play a part in combating the greenhouse effect.

“Over the last four years, Esk Energy has worked with the Environment Agency, North York Moors National Park and River Esk Action Committee to develop a scheme which will not only generate green electricity but improve the ability of salmon and sea trout to travel up-stream over the weir.”

Investors will be able to pay in as little as £250 to become members of the scheme, which could cut more than 3,000 tonnes of carbon emissions over its lifetime.

It is hoped the plant will generate an average of 200,000kWh of energy annually. While the project aims to return a dividend by its third year, it is hoped investors will see it as more of a social rather than an out-an-out financial investment.

Surplus money will promote educational programmes, eco-apprenticeships and develop a grant system for installing solar, wind and water energy systems in the Esk Valley.

The project is backed by the Co-operative Enterprise Hub, which provides business support to create enterprises across the UK. The Co-operative Group’s head of community and campaigns, Michael Fairclough, said: “As concern for sustainability, ethical trading, environment and accountability continues to grow, more and more people are turning to the co-operative model.

“This is another example of how co-operating can help to address some of the unprecedented challenges currently facing society, the environment and our economy.”

The initial share offer will close on September 18; it will be launched on Wednesday at Whitby Museum in Pannett Park from 7.30pm.

A second event will be held on July 30 from 2pm at The Moors Centre in Lodge Lane, Danby.

More information and copies of the prospectus for the share issue are available at www.whitbyeskenergy.org.uk, by emailing info@whitbyeskenergy.org.uk or calling Mr Mather on 01287 669641.

paul.jeeves@ypn.co.uk