PLANNING officers have recommended the refusal of a proposed ‘micro-hydro station’ and fish ladder at Whalley weir.

Whalley Community Hydro Limited wants to build a turbine energy plant and an education facility on the River Calder in land at Hole House Farm in Bridge End, Billington.

The community project has been awarded £20,000 from the Government’s Local Energy Assessment Fund, towards a design study for the 100kw hydro-electric generator.

Individuals and organisations including the Bowland Game Fishing Association, Ribble Fisheries, Consultative Association, Ribble Rivers Trust, the Mid Ribble Angling Society and the Salmon and Trout Association have objected to the plans.

They are concerned about the impact of the scheme on the river environment and fish stock levels, noise from the generator and the risk of flooding.

A Ribble Valley Council officer agreed with the Environment Agency that concerns about flooding or the impact on the river ecology were unfounded.

But they said that because the building would be next to the Whalley Conservation Area, situated within designated greenbelt land and near the Grade II listed Marjorie building, it would have a ‘significantly harmful’ visual impact.

The draft report read: “Any renewable energy is normally welcomed but this must be balanced against the impact it would have in terms of visual impact or of acknowledged historical significance such as the effect on listed buildings or conservation area settings.

“The proposal would be conspicuous, incongruous and visually intrusive caused by the size and design of the building and the associated access track.

“I am of the opinion that the visual impact outweighs any possible benefits.”

It is estimated that the plant would generate up to 365,000kw of electricity annually.

If approved the proposed lean-to building housing the turbine would be made of timber and stone and covered by solar panels.

The scheme involves an alteration to the watercourse with a construction of a fish pass in the river by the weir, constructed of concrete panels with aluminium mesh.

It will be considered for planning approval by Ribble Valley Council on Thursday, February 9.