Environment Agency Breaks Promises on Hydropower
The Angling Trust has written to Ian Barker, the Environment Agency’s Head of Water Resources, expressing anglers’ frustration at a string of promised actions which have not been delivered to protect fisheries from damage from a spate of applications for new hydropower installations on rivers.
1. The Environment Agency (EA) promised a review of the so-called Hydropower Good Practice Guidelines by June, with angling and fisheries interests involved in the review. Nothing has been arranged.
2. There was to be a catchment review of hydropower potential to highlight those barriers that could not be removed and which might be suitable for development, and to consider a pragmatic limit on schemes. It would also highlight those schemes where win:win, by improving fish passage, might be possible. This has not happened.
3. In parallel, there was to have been a review of catchment continuity to migratory fish, including several species of coarse fish. No progress has been reported.
The Angling Trust believes that the EA may be failing in its statutory duty to maintain, protect and improve freshwater fisheries because it is pressing ahead with a process to make it easier and quicker to submit planning applications, without safeguards first being put in place.
The Trust has been examining, and where necessary objecting to, more than 100 applications throughout England. The Trust’s experts are appalled by the standard of environmental information submitted with hydropower applications, many of which do not even mention any potential impact on fisheries. They are also very frustrated by the difficulties they face in some areas with accessing information about applications. Often only the application itself, without the vital supporting environmental statements, is available in hard copy format in an office which may be many miles away. The comments of the EA’s own fisheries staff on applications are not divulged.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust said:
“The Government and the Environment Agency are rightly spending millions of pounds each year removing barriers to fish migration in rivers. It is bizarre that taxpayers’ money should at the same time be spent on subsidising these new barriers into rivers with generous feed-in tarriffs. Other countries are busy removing low-head hydropower installations built in the last two decades because the damage they do to fisheries and biodiversity hugely outweighs the benefits of exploiting the renewable energy.”
Roger Furniss, Chairman of Fish Legal, the Angling Trust’s legal arm, said: “The lack of information available and the poor standard of applications leave riparian and fisheries interests unsighted on the aspects of applications which directly affect their legitimate property and sporting rights, which have significant financial and social value. This lack of information often leaves riparian and fisheries interests with no alternative but to object to all applications.”
The Angling Trust has welcomed the Environment Agency’s agreement to a high level meeting on 19 October to discuss these and other concerns.