Consultation with the relevant authorities is crucial, at every stage, to any development. Early consultation will ensure that any problems are identified at an early stage. Relevant authorities could include the following:


The Environment Agency

The Environment Agency have advised that, for small schemes, they are more likely to ask for a Transfer License instead of an Abstraction License, in recognition that smaller schemes only 'borrow' the water for a short stretch of river.

All license applications should be supported by an Environmental statement which summarises the details and impacts of the scheme.

Schemes over 500KW are required by law to produce a formal Impact Assessment. This examines the likely effects the scheme will have on the environment, showing how the scheme intends to minimise them. Typically it will look at flora and fauna, noise levels, traffic, land use, archaeology, recreation, landscape, and air and water quality. It could also possibly be needed for any planning applications.

The Environment agency may require additional information on water use and quality, fisheries, river ecology, flood defence, nature conservation and public recreation issues. They should be consulted at an early stage for guidance. If the issues are complex, specialist environmental consultants would be employed.

The Environment Agency may also require a Section 158 Agreement to be drawn up, which defines certain further details on the way the scheme must be operated in order not to conflict with the Agency’s river management duties, e.g. rights of access, the control of river levels, flood waters, maintenance of the weir and river structures, etc.

The Environment Agency has published a Hydro Power Handbook which is available on their website 


The planning department at the relevant local authority will indicate whether planning permission is needed, and also which other permissions and procedures need to be sought. They may also help with how measures could be implemented to make the development more acceptable. As always, an early approach is recommended to establish a good working relationship. They are likely to be concerned with:

• The visual appearance of the whole scheme

• Potential noise impacts on nearby residents

• Disturbance during the construction phase, both to local residents and disrupting traffic.

• Preservation of structures of historical importance

Sometimes it is advisable to apply for outline permission, first to establish the issues that are likely to arise, especially for larger schemes.


Hydro installations on rivers populated by migrating fish are subject to special requirements. Many of the rivers and streams in the South Pennines are of this type.

Installations must ensure that the fish cannot be taken into the turbine and that there is a water passage by-passing the hydro plant allowing the fish to pass. In the case of salmon, this should have some turbulent water as it is this which attracts the fish to jump

This may be a 'fish ladder' – a series of pools, that allow the fish to jump from one pool to another, or simply ensuring there is a suitable place in a weir.

Of particular note and concern, are the salmon and other species in the rivers of the South Pennines. There is now clear evidence that these fish are returning to the rivers, having been absent for over 150 years and every year will travel further upstream as obstructions are resolved.

It is an advantage to work with local river trusts as a well designed hydro scheme can support their aims.

Land ownership

You will need the permission of the landowner to build and have access to the powerhouse, intakes and discharge channels. Talking to the owner of the land should be one of the first things you do to avoid unnecessary work and to be able to negotiate any leasing requirements. Note that in exchange for being able to install a system in a river, a landowner can ask the developer to take on the maintenance of the whole weir any goits.

Next: The financial bit


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