Residents oppose water wheel plans

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PLANS to reinstate a water wheel to generate electricity on the River Don in Sheffield have led to objections about noise, property values and the welfare of fish.

Sheffield Council’s city development division is making the application for the wheel on the river off Bridge Street, Kelham Island.

The proposal involves a site where a water wheel used to stand and would reuse the previous wheel pit.

The wheel, which would be connected to a modern turbine, would be made of galvanised steel with wooden slats and would be surrounded with mesh fencing.

Plans also involve creating a second sluice and changing silt banks on the river.

A backwater habitat would be created for wildlife and there would be minor works to Grade II Kelham Weir.

It is estimated the turbine could produce enough electricity to power up to 25 homes each year.

But Sheffield Council has received 10 objections on the grounds ‘noise levels would be unacceptable’ in a residential area – with the previous wheel existing when the district was mostly industrial.

Opponents also said the wheel was ‘not worth the overall negative environmental impact for such a small amount of electricity’, and that it would ‘become an attraction for youths’.

There were also fears it could cause ‘a drop in property values’ and the black mesh fence would not be in keeping with the surrounding area.

Objectors also claimed changes to the river would lead to loss of existing habitats for fish and other wildlife by reducing waterflow from the main river as it is diverted to the wheel.

And the Angling Trust has objected, claiming there is insufficient screening of the water to protect fish from entering the sluice to the wheel and faster flow created on the approach to the wheel would delay migration of fish upstream and could ‘result in severe depletion of fish biomass and a change in species’.

The Don Catchment Rivers Trust has called for a fish ladder – a conduit of stepped levels of water – to be created, which allows fish to bypass the affected stretch of river and still move upstream.

Sheffield Council planning officers recommend the scheme is approved at a meeting of the authority’s planning board on Monday.

They said the project is proposed for a site where water wheels have been situated as long ago as the 11th century.

Officers said because the site is in the middle of an urban area, the sound of the wheel will be masked by general background noise and surrounding homes have good noise measures such as modern double glazing.

They predicted riverside vegetation would adapt to changing flow to provide new cover for spawning fish species. Officers are recommending a screen is installed to prevent fish reaching the wheel.