Please find below the questions we were asked by The Guardian and our responses:
Question 1: What is the objection of The Lensbury to the hydro scheme? (During the planning process you argued it would end your wedding venue business, for example.)
The Lensbury has a number of objections to the Teddington and Ham Hydro scheme that was given permission by the Richmond Council planning department: the visual impact on the Conservation Area and Metropolitan Open Land, the lack of a full Environmental Impact Audit to assess the impact on marine and land based environment, the increase of flood risk in the construction phase and incorrect noise assessments.
As a commercial operation all of these things risk damaging The Lensbury’s business and endangering jobs on the site with a detriment to the local economy. Half of the 330 people employed on the site live in the Richmond Borough. While our wedding business represents a significant amount of income that alone, by no means, is the only reason for our objection. It is expected the development will impact the hotel and conference business as well as member numbers.
The objections we have made have also been made by a significant proportion of the local community – groups and individuals.
Question 2: The developers say the scheme will reduce the flood risk, will not produce noise louder than the existing water sounds and is the same height as the existing weir and Richmond council approved the application. Do you contest these claims?
The developers and The Lensbury both agree that flood risk will increase during construction of the project. The statement that the developers make, that “flood risk will be reduced”, only applies to a new design that has not been approved.
The planned development will be located 103 metres from the main building, which is on a flood plain. This currently regularly floods covering 80% of that distance during “normal” river activity. The increase in flood risk during the construction phase could provide a significant hazard to The Lensbury’s business for many months.
The noise expert engaged by The Lensbury, a separate expert engaged by our neighbours Pinenorth and a national expert engaged by the Council all raised issues around the developer’s noise reports as being questionable in their logic, methodology and conclusions. Given these expert views it was perfectly reasonable to question the assertions made by the schemes developers. A number of these issues remain outstanding.
The height of the approved development can be seen in the attached pictures. The new unapproved design is different and smaller.
Question 3: On the Lensbury site, it states “we are looking into sustainable methods to produce a large proportion of our electricity” and “The Lensbury is committed to reducing its carbon footprint in all areas of our operation”. The hydro scheme directors say they would be willing to provide a private line of low cost electricity from the scheme to The Lensbury. Would you be willing to accept this?
The Lensbury has achieved a drop in our Carbon Footprint of 19% over the last three years following an intensive programme of refurbishment of our mechanical and electrical systems, building fabric and one of the kitchens. This means we have saved going forward 506 tonnes of CO2 and 1.34 gigawatts of power annually. More savings of CO2 will be delivered as we finish the final refurbishment projects over the next two years.
Additionally, we are researching and planning for the use of solar power generation once the refurbishment programme finishes.
Would we be willing to accept a private line of low cost electricity? Yes of course we would consider it, if and when, the developers come up with a plan for a hydro scheme that will not damage our business. Any supplier purchases for The Lensbury business are, of course, done in a transparent manner reflecting market conditions. The hydropower is intermittent in its nature, as well, which can create complexity for a direct user. Pricing and connection issues would be reviewed in due course.
Question 4: The high court ordered The Lensbury to pay £10,000 in costs to Richmond council. One councillor told me: “This legal battle with Richmond Council is costing local taxpayers money. This is because [The Lensbury] is using rules design to help communities challenge governments over environmental matters to limit its obligation to pay the council’s legal costs in this battle. This is shameful.” What is your response to this?
The application for a Protective Cost Order was made to the Court and granted by the Court under its rules. We believed that we would win the Judicial Review but as a carefully managed company, The Lensbury applied for this protection as a matter of prudence. It is what any commercial company would do.
Question 5: Is it embarrassing for the Lensbury’s owner Shell, which has just launched a renewable energy division, to be seen attempting to block a community renewables project?
While Lensbury Ltd is owned by Shell, we operate independently from our parent company and in the interests of the Lensbury business only.
The Lensbury’s decision to seek a judicial review was a unilateral decision to protect The Lensbury business, that was recommended by The Lensbury’s executive management officers and was approved on standard risk management principles by The Lensbury Board.
For further information or to speak with one of our team, please call 0208 614 6420 alternatively let us call you.