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Dales cleric loses dam battle

28 July 2011

by Nigel Burnham

A CLERIC from the Yorkshire Dales this week criticised the Environment Agency for turning down a scheme to resurrect hydro-electric power in Upper Wharfedale.

The Vicar of St Mary’s, Kettlewell, the Revd Peter Yorkstone, played a central part in the group founded to develop the Kettlewell Hydro Electric Light Limited (HELL) project — despite his misgivings about the acronym.

The scheme, which involved rein­stating the dam in Kettlewell Beck, could have restored the hydro-elec­tric power supply, which brought lighting to the dale until the 1950s. The scheme was rejected on the grounds that it would increase the risk of flooding.

“I’ve always been interested in alter­native energy,” Mr Yorkstone said. “When I came here, I got in touch with like-minded people, and we produced a very serious, practical plan, involving lots of measurements and estimates about reinstating the dam.

“So we feel sadness and regret that the Environment Agency has de­clined to help, on the grounds that reinstat­ing the dam and raising the level of the water would create a flood risk. They also thought it would be uneconomic, in that the cost of the civil-engineering work to set up the project could have ended up exceed­ing the money raised from the elec­tricity generated.

“It’s very disappointing, because it seems to me they are making it harder — not easier — for com­muni­ties to set up projects like this, at a time of urgent environmental need. But we’ve had a lot of fun, and I do think the experience we’ve gained could help other places where small hydro-electric power schemes will be viable.” Now, he said, “I want to get on with marrying couples, baptising babies, and visiting people.”

He added: “I would have preferred it if we’d called ourselves something like ‘Kettlewell Electric Limited’. I’ve had someone phone me who said they were praying for me because people had been saying such terrible things about me — the Vicar from HELL.”

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