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Friday, 29 November 2013

Tired of Waiting / Chasing Folk

If you're a regular here you'll know about a Mr. Weston asking about how much the EA themselves reckon they've spent screwing up at Avoncliff. I've given up chasing Mr. Weston and decided (at the risk of being called a vexatious questioner... ) to repeat Mr. Weston's enquiry about funds allocated by the EA to the Avoncloff debacle.  It's 1 year, 4 months and 22 days  since the "EA External Relations Team" should have responded..... 20 days is supposedly the limit.

Dear Environment Agency,
in view of the unanswered question about project costs:


Can you please provide answers to the following questions:

1) Have tasks related in any way to hydro licencing at Avoncliff
been allocated a task / job code(s) for internal accounting

2) What is the accumulated total EA funding allocated to tasks
associated with Avoncliff licence determinations - including
consultancy billing and legal expenses?

3) Can you give any reason for the delay in answering Mr. Weston's

Yours faithfully,


I don't think these are unreasonable questions at the present time - as the EA look set to splurge likely hundreds of thousands more public funds on legal stuff.....

I know for sure that more than one M.P. will be watching this very closely - and if the answer is less than satisfactory - well, it seems quite likely they'll ask the questions
- got that Horizon House / Millbank Tower people? 

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What Consistency?

I'm sure that most people will have come across jobsworths - the average lower-level bureaucrat views conformity to his/her interpretation of the rules as a virtue. Anyone different is a troublemaker. Things start to fall apart when the people being bureaucratted (oww!) notice that there are apparently very different strokes for different folks....

As you may or may not be aware the (previous?) owner of Weaver's Mill, opposite North Mill was attempting - supported by his EA bureaucrat mates - to build a hydroelectric turbine on somebody else's land. This was pointed out to the EA repeatedly, starting at the outset 4 years ago - but they chose to ignore it in their inimitable fashion. Nasty, inconvenient  reality intruded and the original proposal for a DIY turbine at Weaver's Mill was stymied by the riparian owner of the land in question. 

Well,  back to the drawing board .....  

We at North Mill know* that in the UK hydro turbine abstraction licence process the EA have insisted at other projects on re-doing the licence process from the start (i.e. re-apply, re-advertise , re-determine) if:
  • The turbine type/specification is changed
  • The design amount of water fed to the turbine is changed.
  • The location of the turbine is moved from the original footprint (biggie that!). 
  • The construction method is changed  
After the failure of the EA official's arbitrarily promoted scheme at Avoncliff - as a result of a very simple (elementary some might say) "mistake" - all four reasons above - used to force other applicants to re-apply at projects across the country are now airily waived aside by officials as "not significant differences to the scheme" in the latest hastily submitted, wierdly documented "amended scheme" for Weavers' Mill. Fabricating evidence is one thing - but inconsistency like this is at best headscratching territory and at worst shows clear and absolute contempt for the public and proper process en route to trying to force their own candidate's scheme through...

Oh,  - as an afterthought - we're told it's also likely illegal too - as are a number of other things that the officials at the EA and their mates have been "up to" in the last year concerning a hydro scheme at Avoncliff.

*we're not  making this up - some wackier reasons have been given too - if you've a spectacularly loopy example - please drop it in the comments. My own favourite bit of hydro related nonsense is the EA reputedly trying to fine a mill owner for "taking too much water" when there was a flood. Hydro project agents and consultants gossip as much as anybody else....... ;-)

p.s. For those folks that have been following all this and know about the draft licence at Avoncliff in favour of North Mill in 2010 that - and the "disappearance" of related EA paperwork might be interested to see that when it suits them - the EA indulge in public consultation exercises on draft determinations as is the case for Wolf Minerals in Devon and if that link stops working - a copy here.  Consistently inconsistent some might say. 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Business as Usual?

Business as Usual 

we are too!
A couple of weeks ago - rhe EA reputedly gave the owner of Weaver's Mill an "ultimatum", apparently to extract some kind of statement about his intent / plans regarding any application for a turbine since the property had been put up for sale - and promised to report the result as soon as to the owners of North Mill. There's a bunch of other stuff that we've been promised too - so we'll ask politely several more times...  We'll keep drumming our fingers on the table and rolling our eyes heavenward.....(nothing new there)

In the meantime the Cautionary Tale on the rather neglected main North Mill web site isn't reflecting what's gone on at Avoncliff in the last 18 months - so that'll get a wash and brush-up this week for those of you looking for some easy copy.....

We've also found the poster of a FoI question on What do They Know who's now going to push for an answer to the question "How much do The Environment Agency think they've spent on Avoncliff?" which the EA have left unanswered since June 2012..... that's going to be interesting. 

It may be coincidence ... but 4 days after this blog post the EA responded with most of the information we had asked about - those answers frankly raise even more questions than they actually answer  There must be a stronger word than "saga" but it's the only one that actually comes to mind at the moment. 

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Victimhood Card - a change in tactics

Well, we missed the opportunity to "celebrate" four years of this 
(Maybe we'll have our own re-purposed bonfire night).

On reflection it's not an anniversary that we felt needed a post all of its own. What requires repeating though is the simple reflection that if Environment Agency officials had simply done their jobs properly four years ago there would be no web site or blog, there would have been no High Court case, the public purse would still have that £1,300,000+++ in it (plus taxes from an operating hydro scheme and holiday lets) and stress levels all round would be much reduced.

The owners of North Mill have been made aware that EA officials are starting to play the victimhood card. The EA's present situation in this matter is absolutely the result of choices officials made and those choices are their responsibility. If they want things to change - the Earls have made it very clear they are open to proposals - but absolutely nothing has been forthcoming.

The mill owners have been surprised by officials "deeming" routine questions asked about a number of subjects during the second licence determination process to be "Freedom of Information" requests - when absolutely no element of FoI compulsion was requested, inferred or intended. This contrasts rather sharply with EA officials generous largesse with information the the Earls have provided in confidence  - which has been subsequently disclosed to third parties without permission.

EA officials being presently subjected to an actual FoI request from North Mill's hydro project agent (which although being less work than our original refunded £1000 FoI - they want to charge £37,000 for...)   have been bleating to the Information Commissioner's Office that North Mill  FoI requests have exceed 40 in number and that they are "vexatious" - neither allegation has been evidenced  The North Mill owners take issue with the EA's unsupported assertion that they have been responsible for 40 FoI requests - knocking a zero off would be closer to the mark... and in "overly burdensome" terms we have not seen any detail justification provided as specified in s14 of the Freedom of Information Act.

It would seem that that EA officials need reminding (yet again...) of the trajectory of the original Avoncliff FoI  that resulted in the EA refunding the FoI fee and the agency being scolded in an ICO report because involved officials conducted a campaign of obstruction regarding that request in order to influence a High Court case and it took an "external" EA FoI specialist to find, review and issue the missing documents in a week after 18 months+ of evasion by some of her colleagues....

Did EA management learn a lesson from this?

Did oversight get enhanced?

- or did they simply carry on as before allowing the subjects of FoI to meddle obstructively with responses until things get really-messy-sticky and a defence against a persistent inquiry has to be orchestrated? The procession of wrong, inept and unanswered FoI responses from the EA speaks for itself.

The Earls and others have been accused of "acting in concert" to make unreasonable, vexatious, overly burdensome Freedom of Information requests which I find pretty rich when it's abundantly clear that officials at The Environment Agency in our opinion acted "in concert" to defraud the Earls of a licence in the first place and have persisted in deliberately mangling the licence process to disadvantage the Earls right up to the present time. Yes, the Avoncliff North Mill team know something about "in concert".

It's a funny old world where an organisation with 11,400 staff (well... at the moment anyway*) and a budget of £1,200,000,000 (£105K each - it's a nerdy thing) complains about being "put upon" by two builders from Bradford on Avon when it's clear that the Environment Agency started the fight in the first place.....

Renaming Avoncliff  The Duchy of Grand Fenwick has a certain attraction  :-)
(Subject to a referendum of course)

"It's worth noting that "The Independent" is moderating "unsupportive" comments on the EA redundancy story 
- we've tested it.(wading through more saliva than seen at a late 70s punk gig) 

The "Q Bomb"?