... and our park
Damage to Saltaire ...
Saltaire is a Victorian model village built to house the workers of a colossal mill and now a World Heritage Site. It's park is within the World Heritage Site, a conservation area, and Grade II listed on the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens. The park has also benefited from a £4.2 million restoration project, creating a magnificent recreational resource for the community of Saltaire, Bradford and beyond, as well as a national and international tourist attraction in its own right. Even so, Bradford Council recently unveiled its proposals to construct a hydro-electric turbine in the park..
We are a group of residents of Saltaire and users of Robert's Park who have come together, since becoming aware of the implications left in the shadows of the council's proposals. Who would be against being Green? Certainly not us, but the balance with this scheme has been lost and itis our hope these pages will help people make informed decisions.
We are gravely concerned that a construction project, such as the proposed turbine, would set a precedent for the further alteration and erosion of what UNESCO and English Heritage have sought to preserve. Saltaire is testament to the vision and ingenuity of Titus Salt, the man who built it, and the hard work of the men and women who worked for him. As the epitome of the Industrial Revolution which shaped the modern world, the factory and village were deemed worthy of protection by UNESCO and it was designated a World Heritage Site in 2001. There are in fact many competing ideas for schemes that would impact the model village and the park. Some commuters argue for a bypass to be constructed through the World Heritage site because they feel it would ease traffic congestion in the Aire Valley. Others argue (including the local Green Councillors) that Saltaire’s protected status should bend in order to facilitate green-friendly enterprises. However development within a protected area such as this sets a very worrying precedent. Saltaire currently enjoys protected status because of its exceptional rarity and value. Whilst we recognise that we all have an obligation to protect the environment, we also have an obligation to protect the planet’s heritage.
You may well be told that ‘no-one wants Saltaire to be preserved in aspic’, however with so many competing value systems, who decides which developments are appropriate or inappropriate in this precious and protected area? Alas Bradford Council has a demonstrably poor record in relation to heritage protection and it would be shameful for the country as a whole if Saltaire were to be its next victim.
As well as the principle at stake, this project also represents a tangible threat to the beauty and integrity of Roberts Park.
Great care was taken during the restoration of the park to reinstate key vistas integral to the original Victorian design. The Boathouse public house was rebuilt at the same time and the owners were made to submit many revisions to their designs in order to maintain the integrity of the view across to the New Mill Complex (one of Titus’s two adjacent mills). Likewise the proposed removal of mature and recently planted trees, will have a lasting impact on the original design of the park as well as the deeply valued balance that currently exists between the natural and the built environments.
We should also question the close proximity of such a large unattended mechanical device next to a heavily used play area – any compromising of safety measures could have very serious consequences. Similar projects have required a large unsightly boom across the water to catch any debris and litter and we are concerned a similar device will be required here.
Ironically the key view that will be irrevocably damaged is that across the weir towards the mill, which is featured repeatedly by the council to promote tourism to the area as well as inspiring a body of literature and art. It is a loved and iconic view.
The Council claim that Titus Salt would have been in favour of this current proposal. Titus did in fact build the equivalent of a hydro-electric turbine, but he did so invisibly, beneath the New Mill complex on the opposite side of the river. The current proposals have grown from an initial investigation in 2007 which sought to use Titus's vision and hide the turbine in the New Mill complex. This is still a possible alternative and much more sympathetic to the original design and vision of Sir Titus Salt's village. One-hundred and fifty years ago Titus Salt was able to both harness the power of the River Aire and maintain the beauty of the weir, the mill and the views from the park. This is something his successor, Sir James Roberts sought to maintain for future generations in the form of a legally binding Deed of Covenant when the park was passed to public hands in 1921. These deeds protect both the river flow and the park’s recreational purpose, a document the council seem only recently to have been made aware of.
A further concern is that this proposal seems to be an instance of ‘greenwash’.
The Council identifies the construction and operating costs over the project’s first 20 years as £1.22M, yielding an annual energy output of 371,000KwH (just 0.5% of the Council's current energy usage). This energy estimate is misleading, since it fails to quantify the energy costs of manufacturing, transporting, and installing the turbine; building the turbine housing, tree felling, re-landscaping. The net energy yield will be lower, and should the government change the feeding in tariffs, this project will be simply unviable. We believe that for such a modest saving in the carbon budget, there are many alternative green energy measures that the council can take without endangering this valuable site. How much more effective would it be, for example, if the £1.2 million this scheme is estimated to cost, was invested in insulation and secondary glazing within the village (in ways that are compatible with the appearance of the World Heritage site)? If everyone in Saltaire just made sure their electrical goods such as computer monitors and TVs were not left on standby, we would be making great inroads to saving this energy without sacrificing a well loved park and World Heritage Site.
But Titus would've liked it ...
How Green is it?
The council recently held a consultation event and have subsequently claimed that the turbine is a “popular measure”. However this consultation event was both vague and highly leading in the way it actively steered the opinions of the small sample of attendees. More specifically it was held for one (working) day at short notice and with a very biased questionnaire which seems designed to lead people to a ‘yes’ statement. In addition, people were not informed as to the purpose of the ‘consultation event’ nor about how the data from the questionnaires was going to be used. Many people, for example, who were not in favour of the plans did not complete a questionnaire and thus have not had their voices heard. The actual consultation itself involved little more than a few repeated display boards with schematics which were unintelligible to the lay person scattered with unrealistic and misleading artist impressions. Residents and the wider population of Bradford have not been fully informed of what this development would entail or what it would mean for the future. Neither have they been informed of what would be irrevocably lost and what precedence it would set. In addition no alternative has been openly discussed and the council presupposition seems to be that this development will simply go ahead regardless of how inappropriate its location.
The so-called fairness of any consultation process has been brought into question by the feasibility study. Knowing they are against the project, The Friends of Roberts Park are no longer to be included in any future consultation and are no longer deemed “key stake holders”. During the recent restoration of the park their support was sought repeatedly by the council.
Value for money
We believe there are more cost-effective ways available to the Council for generating green energy. Bradford Council itself has announced that it has installed solar panels at St James Wholesale Market at a cost of £112,000 with a claimed energy yield enough for “40 homes”. In other words, at a cost of less than 10% of the proposed turbine, it will have an energy yield of 40% of it.