Energy supplier npower announced today that preliminary work at the Radley Lakes site in Oxfordshire would commence on 10th September, but conceded that work “would be reviewed” following the results of the ongoing inquiry due in the autumn.
The site has been the focus of an extensive legal battle, which has seen the giant energy company, owned by RWE npower, illegally felling trees and resorting to hiring a private security firm to keep out local protestors. Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper commented that npower’s actions over the case have done “damage to its reputation that will last a very long time indeed.”
In January this year, RWE npower gained planning permission to use Thrupp Lake, one of the two surviving Radley Lakes, as a dump for waste fly ash from a power station at nearby Didcot. Despite the status of Radley Lakes as a County Wildlife Site, planning permission was granted by Oxfordshire County Council; a spokesperson told ITV Thames Valley Today that they gave their permission due to “fear of facing a huge compensation claim” from RWE npower, showing the power such corporations can bring to bear on the public bodies intended to regulate them.
There was local outcry at the plan, with 11,500 residents signing up to a petition appealing the decision. Locals mobilised to protest against the plans peacefully, and in response RWE npower applied for a court injunction barring them from the site – an action reminiscent of BAA’s recent attempt to ban protesters from the Heathrow Airport neighbourhood. The injunction, granted by the high court, is wide-ranging and covers anyone who protests against RWE npower’s actions at Radley Lakes. RWE npower, its lawyers and the judge that agreed the injunction seem to be at odds as to whether it applies to the media as well as to protestors; in February, Adrian Arbib, a photographer covering the story for the BBC and The Guardian, was prevented from filming the site by masked security guards.
Thrupp Lake is 30-acres in size, surrounded by mature trees and the habitat for many birds and animals, including 15 species included on the Biodiversity Action Plan we mentioned yesterday. This would be lost if RWE npower’s plans to dump waste fly ash go ahead. Campaigners have pointed out that the waste could be recycled into building materials, a more sustainable solution to the waste problem, but RWE npower have refused to comment on the possibility of recycling, claiming that there is no alternative to tipping into Thrupp Lake. Work on the site has been halted over the summer for the bird nesting season and whilst residents apply for the site to be protected as a Town Green. The court case closed on the 22nd June, and now activists are waiting for the planning inspector’s findings to be sent to Oxfordshire County Council, whose Planning & Regulation Committee will then make a final decision on the application. The decision is expected in September or October. If the site is granted Town Green status, the Campaign to Protect Rural England Oxfordshire believes all work must be cancelled: “a landowner must maintain a Town Green in a suitable condition for communities to access and enjoy.Filling Thrupp Lake with fly ash is not compatible with that obligation.”
However, environmentalists are concerned that RWE npower may begin work before the case is finished. The Save Radley Lakes group’s lawyer sought a reassurance that npower would not proceed with the work while the hearing continued, but RWE npower’s lawyer declined to give this assurance.
If you find this information useful and would like to get daily updates, feel free to subscribe to our RSS feed.