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Friday, 28 March 2014

Re-Writing History and Torturing Language

There are an unacceptable number of  misrepresentations in the latest spasm of "determination"   - "rushed through" in 2 years... laced with bias by omission and straightforward lies - we are almost spoilt for choice for things to complain about. For those of you in local government planning...  we think you might take some exception to what some officials at the EA seem to think is within their remit.

Some examples:

The Feb 2014 Determination Report - Appendix 1
Section 2 Application History.

The first sentence... 
"We received applications from two applicants for competing hydropower schemes on the same weir."  

umm... no - the applications were separate (and separated by almost three months) - and according to the EA's own internal "rules" (FoI) the first to apply (North Mill 2009) should have been the first determined. Justice Ockelton pointed this out at High Court/JR as indeed did the EA's own internal legal advice team at the time (FoI). In actual fact - the EA should have refused the second,  Weavers Mill application in 2010 - since under the provisions of WRA1991 - there was no water available.... as river flow was formally allocated to North Mill until the licence was determined (be that a yes or a no - it is a simple lock-in for the duration of the process)  


On 16 July 2010 we granted a licence to the Weavers Mill applicant.  The North Mill applicant appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and his applications were deemed refused under provisions of the WRA1991. He then issued judicial review proceedingchallenging our decision to grant a licence to the Weavers Mill applicant.

This is simple fantasy (I'm feeling generous here...). North Mill had already lodged an appeal for non-determination with HM Planning Inspectorate (PINS) - which should have stopped the process. EA officials then awarded a licence to Weavers Mill. The words used above makes it sound as if PINS "did the deeming" - when they actually did no such thing. The Planning Inspectorate could not act as EA officials had unlawfully given a licence - that licence is not within the power of PINS to revoke. The officials did this deliberately to thwart PINS, betting that the extra legal burden would dissuade North Mill from pursuing the matter.  The very idea that WRA1991 provides for this type of behaviour is "a joke"...? (You're 'avin a larf John eh?)

In Feb 2014 - 3 years later, officials have pulled the same stunt again - and awarded a licence to Weavers Mill without possibility of PINS appeal, deliberately abusing process en route. Never mind the hiding of documents and an extended attempt at cover-up.  


On  11  April  2012  the  Court  ordered,  by  consent,  that  our  previous  licence determination decisions were quashed and the applications were returned to us for re-determination. 
11 April 2012 - Consent Order signed by all parties.  The Environment Agency had to pay ALL costs. - as they had acted unlawfully by arbitrarily promoting one scheme in a biased fashion. And yes... the EA were instructed to act "without delay"

On 22 June 2012 we consulted with both applicants on our proposed decisions on a “minded to” basis.   At this time we were minded to grant licences to both applicants on a split-scheme basis, having provisionally concluded that there was sufficient water to support both schemes; allowing them to operate whilst sharing the water resource equally.However, following consultation and having received comments from both applicants and having taken expert advice, we determined that it was now no longer possible to issue licences to both applicants on a split-scheme basis.  The applications would now be regarded as competing applications (and would be compared in accordance with our Competing hydropower schemes guidance).  This necessitated the gathering by us of additional information from both applicants, in order to inform an independent  expert assessment by AMEC Environment and Infrastructure UK Ltd (‘AMEC’).
22 June 2012 - The split scheme gambit flies in the face of numerous things - not the least of which is the EA's own previous published assessments and the arguably binding undertaking in the Consent Order that "if faced with two or more competing schemes only one of which (at most) can be licenced  it will choose between the schemes on their merits" So, acting contrary to the consent order.... and maybe just a bit of making the evidence fit the policy?

On 30 April 2013 we consulted both applicants on our minded to determination report  providing them with a reasonable opportunity to comment upon the way in which we  had  applied  our  guidance.  Both applicants  submitted  comments  and  we  have considered these.
30 April 2013 - yes well, comments can be (and were) ignored :-)

On 19 July 2013 the Weavers Mill applicant submitted revised drawings relocating his intake structure to be within the footprint of the weir and included a fish pass in his scheme design.  In all other aspects the Weavers Mill design remains as first applied for.
19 July 2013 - No reason specified (Weavers Mill were presuming to build on someone else's land  - something that the EA had ignored for 3½ years ) The second sentence is a simple lie. The matter of riparian rights at Weaver's Mill is still unresolved.

On 30 August 2013 we undertook a site visit to the manufacturing premises where the Weavers Mill applicant proposes to manufacture the Kaplan turbine he proposes to install. This was done in response to concerns expressed by the North Mill applicant as to the Weavers Mill applicant’s ability to manufacture the turbine to an appropriate standard.
30 August 2013 - This fails to mention that the turbine in question is an unproven prototype, performance data is not available and the claims made for performance are in the view of other manufacturers - "optimistic". No evidence has been presented that the turbine and its associated structures had even been simulated as part of a design verification process.  This really does detract from the EA and AMEC claims about efficiency elsewhere.(What could go wrong eh?)

In October 2013 we were informed by the North Mill applicant that Weavers Mill was being advertised for sale. This necessitated further enquiries by us, which have now been completed; we consider this matter further at section 14.15 below.
October 2013 - as far as we are aware, the assertions made by the EA in the matter of Mr. Tarrant's continuing progress with the project were not evidenced .  The EA had no sight of any covenants or any other legal documents on the property deeds binding the new owner to allow Mr. Tarrant to continue with the licence and install/operate/maintain any machinery on the Weavers Mill property. In fact, no clear delineation of riparian responsibilities for the weir vs. the proposed Weaver's Mill turbine structure has been seen or a draft lease and associated wayleave. The EA consistently accept assurances on all sorts of things from Mr. Tarrant...

So where's it going?

Judicial Review ....  is a possibility again ... for partially the same reasons as last time. Tut,tut John ... you didn't actually read the last consent order or permission hearing documents did you mate?  The EA are also struggling mightily to conceal

The Baxendale Report  
on the first foul-up which is going to an Information Tribunal 

The EA have a 40 page submission going to the Tribunal - much of it bleating about how unfair it is that a small bunch of people have taken exception to and made quite a lot of noise about being cheated, lied to, bullied etcetera. These people have a web site, and shock horror - a blog! and have been disrespectful. They also seem to be claiming that The Public Interest always wholly and unequivocally coincides with the wishes and all activities of officials at The Environment Agency. = something that is self evidently untrue...

Ah well, it's only public money ....  £1,500,000 of it and possibly ratcheting up by the present (Feb 2014) running average  - of £1000 or so a day... The implied threats in Section 15 of the Appendix 1 document have got the potential to burn off loads more public money.

The EA have made efforts to make quoting from official documents issued relating to Avoncliff difficult - copying and pasting from the pdf files attached to the determination web page has been obfuscated - necessitating much re-typing and extra work - it just seems petty and indicative of the attitude of some officials.

On an Environment Agency congratulatory note ... (yes, you read that right!)  I have seen some encouraging and refreshingly transparent output from EA officials on the ground involved in dredging in Somerset - it remains to be seen if the higher ups get with the program...

EDIT: Oh Dear - it would seem that some officials can't restrain themselves....   EA refuse FoI on river profiles from Langport Town Council apparently ....

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Nothing to do with Hydropower - mostly

It's "fashionable" to sneer at The Daily Mail, not that for the minutest moment would I defend much of their toecurling 'sleb and bonkers 'elf stories output - but it is a successful formula and they make enough profit to employ some actual journalists who do actual research....

This Sunday we are given an exposé of the complete madness that is fuelling Drax power station in Yorkshire with wood pellets from America. Converting a coal burning power station to burn wood pellets from nearly 4000 miles away has to be contrasted with "the greenest economy in Europe"  - Germany snapping up the worthwhile bits of the U.K.'s closing coal power stations to fit out dozens of new coal and lignite burning power stations over there....

The "money" quote comes from Drax’s head of environment, Nigel Burdett, ‘We develop  our business plan in light of what the Government wants – not what might be nice.

US firm Enviva, ships around two thirds of its total output to Drax. Burdett admits, Drax’s wood-fuelled furnaces actually produce three per cent more carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal – and well over twice as much as gas: 870g per megawatt hour (MW/hr) is belched out by wood, compared to just 400g for gas. - I note that they don't factor in the "carbon" emitted in cutting/processing/transporting the wood... which is actually five times more volume than the coal and produces less energy ...

So, our politicians are buying £50's worth of electricity for  £105 per MW/hr at Drax – £10 more than for onshore wind energy, and £15 more than for power from the new nuclear plant to be built at Hinkley Point in Somerset

Meanwhile - the Environment Agency continues to blunder along messing up hydropower schemes and comprehensively dragging it's feet over enhanced gas extraction.

It seems clear this Green activist energy policy thing isn't going well at all for taxpayers or energy users - ..... I note our old friend Chris Huhne (yes, him) is up to his armpits in the Amercian wood chip business - just wonderful.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

EA Feb 2014 - Geography or Typing ?

Bedford on Avon?

After 4 years and £1,500,000 of public funds flushed - you might expect officials to either know where we are or have somebody with at least half a brain proof read the first published documents that are the result of spending £610,000+++.   OK maybe it's a typo - but - it did get past the proof reading - and actually on the first line of the publication - which even for The Environment Agency is quite an achievement.  However it is entirely consistent with EA doings surrounding the matters at Avoncliff that they should publish so much imaginary guff about an imaginary place....  (kudos to eagle-eyed Duncan Hames M.P. who spotted it..... )

The latest EA determination is here. There is a considerable amount that not only got past the proof reading - it also got past the BS detectors and the sanity checkers. The page content and linked documents are chock full of falsehoods, obfuscation, bias, anecdotage and hearsay masquerading as objective assessment.

It's been up there for a couple of weeks.... I know...  it's a trivial criticism - but really, after spending £610,000 it's not unreasonable to expect somebody to proof read is it?

If you feel like indulging a masochistic streak and reading the EA documents - please have a quick read of  "100 year events" at Paul Homewood's blog before you start on the Mott MacDonald (PDF) BoA/Avoncliff flooding risk assessment.

EDIT   Typo corrected 12th March

One down .... O.K. , now then ...  about the rest of the stuff.... which is nowhere near as trivial as simply putting the wrong town name at the top of the first document.....

Saturday, 8 March 2014

How to present Public Data

How do you like your flood risk data served up?

A Digital Surface Model?

A Digital Terrain Model?
According to Hewlett Packard 5% of all printouts are never collected

With any computer model - it is pivotal that the model be tested against real life observations - becuase if  a model can't be validated - then it is pretty much worthless.   Actual evidence, as in measurements is key - I came across this (PDF) - which some of our chums at the EA will resist mightily... Real time flood mapping with numbers ... heaven forbid people might see what's actually going on.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

No Smoke? £3 MILLION compo for EA bullying victims

Suppressing reports is addictive it would seem.... The corporate culture at the Environment Agency has been a subject of more than passing interest to us here at North Mill from the early days when we used to receive threatening phone calls....

It would seem that some EA officials don't even restrain themselves when it comes to their colleages either... One has to wonder if the bullies get to keep their jobs whilst the victims get the compo... ? If you know more detail please let us know :-)

One might say the cat is out of the bag - just a little.   So, 33 employees at £90,000 each - average... that has to be a smoking gun of sorts as is Smiffy's burying of the report.....

If you want to see the rest of the story - please nip down to your local newstand and purchase a copy of Private Eye - journalists beer doesn't pay for itself you know. You can recognize the March 14 - it's one with Putin on the cover. ISSUE 1361 p6.

In the meantime our request for sight of Andrew Baxendale's report (only done at our insistence) into officials wrongdoing 2009-2012 has been and continues to be aggressively blocked at every turn. We are now going to the top tier of  Freedom of Information - an Information Tribunal...  Nothing to hide - nothing to fear eh?  pull the other one - it's got bells on it :-)  More on the Baxendale report HERE


EDIT: Private Eye has gone directly to an online story here  (archived here

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

There's just too much of it - where's the Imodium?

Well, if you didn't know - the EA team's latest Avoncliff effort has hit the interwebs - and quite predictably we're not impressed at all. Gone for quantity over quality this time...  

Really - the old adage BS baffles brains ... well, the sheer quantity of it actually beggars belief too - when emanating from Horizon House, Millbank Tower and especially from our friend at Trentside. There's so much - we've had to get mechanical handling and extra staff. In situations like this it's all too easy to loose a sense of proportion - I' m not calling out 'n out lies (yet) - just let's just say pointing at "liberties" taken with interpretation and presentation. 

Take this bold assertion assertion (first of a series that will feature here ) from the EA web page linked above:

In an identical water situation - a turbine that has never been in a river and tested produces  50% more electricity from each ton of water passing through it - than a unit that has been installed and tested in dozens of locations. Did that web page get checked for commercial defamation (malicious falsehood even?) by EA lawyers ?

We are also treated to the assertion that the EA have never said Archimedes turbines are "fish friendly" - which is extraordinary considering...  some of the communications from EA officials over the years...  guys, if you're going to lie - tsk... face meet palm.  Is there some sort of Imodium equivalent for government departments ?  (or NDPBs as the "independent" EA is increasingly styling itself in its assorted and prodigious blurb output)

The toe curling PR centering on the underpaid and overworked operations folk at the EA is serving as a smokescreen and a coat tail riding exercise for much that is going wrong with this organisation - it's like the water in Somerset subsiding and back to "business as usual"...  

Perhaps EA officials (and their pals at AMEC) might try to make more use of  blablameter.com - a score of 0.4 and above guys ... - is not good.- this post comes in at 0.19 by the way :-)