Sunday, 12 July 2015

There are communities and communities

Awaiting final finishing but already generating - the Hydro
Separated by less than a mile but by a cultural gulf as big as the Grand Canyon are two very different community projects here in Oxford.
At Osney, the Thames splinters between various streams and both projects are centred around these streams. Back down at Osney Lock, a fancy modern building is in its finishing stages. It houses the Osney Lock Hydro, a hydro-electric scheme based on the Archimedian Screw principle we've seen in similar action elsewhere.
The system uses the Archemedian Screw principle
But the difference is that this one is community funded and developed. It's owned and was financed by 200 members, half of whom live in the local area (which, as you'll recall from yesterday's blog is where a 2-bed terrace house goes for nearly £700k).
It's estimated that the hydro will generate 159,000kWh of electric a year, most being sold to the Environment Agency and the remainder to the Grid. It'll save 83 tonnes of CO2 a year. Over the project's life it will also generate £2m of income which will go to community sustainability projects, as well as paying a projected modest (4%) return on investment for the members.
Which is all very nice and very worthy but, putting my cynic's hat on, isn't this a group of well off, professional people who've probably got pretty high carbon footprints doing a bit of conscience assuaging?
Is it a waste dump? No it's another community project
Over on another side stream of the river, between the main Thames and the canal is a very, very different community scheme. A group of boaters have claimed occupation of a stretch of the stream for which there appears to be no obvious owners.
On it they are, it seems, attempting to create a 'circular economy', circulating and re-using items as far as possible and returning other suitable material to the 'biosphere'.
Stuff goes around and not into the bin
All of which I read off their site notices since what I could see appeared to be a collection of semi-derelict boats and a huge pile of scrap wood beside which 'Ed' had penned a 'sorry for the mess, working to tidy it up' notice.
My head tells me I should be equally cynical about this bunch, trying to justify their occupation with a bit of pseudo-hippy mumbo-jumbo, but after a day wandering round Oxford where the disparity of wealth and poverty is all too obvious, I have a certain sympathy for them.
Just clear the place up a bit, Ed. You don't win friends by living in a tip.
The famous Oxford Swingbridge awaits restoration
On a final note, here's another and totally uncontentious project. Anyone who's crossed between the Thames and Isis Lock will have seen the rusting ruins of the old railway swingbridge mouldering in the nettles.
Well now the nettles have been cleared and the Oxford Preservation Trust is undertaking a feasibility study into restoring the bridge. Hooray!

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