Planning Submitted to Restore Hydro Power to Town Mills, Staverton Leat

On the 10th October Staverton Hydro Community Benefit Society [SHCBS] submitted a planning application to South Hams District Council to install a 100 kW Hydro Turbine on the Leat at Staverton. The Lease and Option Agreement has now been signed with the landowners. An application has been made to Historic England for changes to a ‘scheduled ancient monument,’ in order to pass the HV electrical cable under the river bed to Dartington, where a dear park pale is known to be located. The pale is the foundation of the dear park wall, that is thought to have been washed away in a flood and moved to its current location, under the bed of the river. We hope to submit the abstraction licence application in November.


SHCBS was awarded a grant of £20,000 from the Rural Community Energy Fund (RCEF) to kickstart the development of a 100kW hydro power plant at Staverton Leat. SHCBS used the grant to carry out a feasibility study and look at the potential of the new hydro scheme on the River Dart to supply electricity to the Dartington Hall Trust Estate. The study included financial modeling to determine the economics of the scheme and environmental monitoring to assess potential impacts. It was concluded that the scheme would be economically viable at a flow rate that was environmentally sensitive.

The Fisheries Impact Assessment concluded that steps can be taken to mitigate all impacts of the scheme on habitat quality. It recommended that a best practice Larinier super-active baffle pass be installed to improve fish and eel passage at the site. The National Rivers Authority deemed the existing fish pass to be far from best practice, only being passable during  periods  of  high  discharge. It is more likely that migrating fish pass via the breach in the weir. During the construction of the new fish pass works will be undertaken to repair the damaged weir wall, thus stabilising the river bed above the weir. The migration of salmon and sea trout to upstream spawning grounds has been the key factor influencing the choice of technology at the Leat. Extensive research has demonstrated that fish can pass entirely unharmed through the slowly rotating Archimedes screw turbine, in use at Totnes Weir. Thus, an Archimedes Screw Turbine at the Leat is the obvious choice.

Once the project was deemed economically viable and environmentally sensitive, SHCBS took out a non-recourse loan of £55k, also with RCEF, to fund the development work needed for planning permission and financial closure. The studies included:  A Wildlife Report; A structural survey of the leat; A Heritage Statement; A Flood Risk Assessment; Noise Impact Assessment; Landscape and Visual Impact Appraisal; A tree/hedge survey; and, an Archaeology Study. The proposed hydro plant is located in an environmentally sensitive area.  The environmental sensitivity of the area is recognised in the studies, with the wildlife report concluding that the development and operation of the scheme would have a low environmental impact due to the design of the plant. Planning permission for the scheme was submitted on the 10th October 2018 and, subject to this SHCBS intends to launch a share and/or bond offer in April/May next year, with construction starting in June/July. Residents of Staverton Parish and members of TRESOC will be given the first opportunity to invest in the scheme, to ensure local community ownership.