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Radley Lakes Saved!


Thrupp Lake, October 2008


End of an Era

Yesterday’s announcement by RWE Npower brought to an end a 41 month campaign to save the last remaining Radley Lakes, Thrupp and Bullfield Lakes, from destruction by being filled with waste pulverised fuel ash (PFA) from the Didcot A Power Station.

It also brings to an end 23 years of filling of old gravel pits in Radley with power station ash, which began in 1985, when the Power Station was run by the nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board and when the environment figured less highly in popular concerns. The choice back then was between landfill with general waste, commercial exploitation, or ash. Local people voted for the ash, which is probably what they would have got anyway.

The ash had been pumped into the gravel pits as a slurry via an underground pipeline. Many gravel pits were filled in this way over the intervening years and people did not seem to mind, though eyebrows were being increasingly raised, and there were objections to the filling of Lakes H and I, which had become a spectacular haven for wildfowl. In 2005, RWE npower sought permission to fill the the two remaining gravel pits. These were the oldest excavations, which had, over the half century or so of their existence, become restored into beautiful lakes and had been given names by local people.


How the Lakes Were Saved (in a nutshell)

The smaller Bullfield Lake was rescued from this fate following protests back in 2005, but the much larger and more important Thrupp Lake has remained under threat ever since, as planning, legal and other battles raged around it. As a last resort, local people even applied to have the area turned into a Town GreenThis too failed, but it remains the subject of a Judicial Review, which was due to be heard in the High Court in February 2009. In February 2007, having got all necessary planning permissions, npower went ahead with clearance work on the site, and many trees were destroyed. Work then had to stop until the Autumn, because of nesting birds. After carrying out some preliminary work in October 2007, npower suddenly ceased their activities on the site.

Then, in February 2008, events took an unexpected turn: npower announced an interim reprieve for Thrupp Lake. A little later, Waste Recycling Group (WRG) openly came forward with a proposal that would save Thrupp Lake for ever. It has taken until now to bring this to fruition. Planning permission was needed, technical problems had to be resolved, a commercial agreement had to be reached; then there was the question of what to do with Thrupp Lake. Many delicate negotiations, it seemed, were going on in the background, culminating in yesterday’s momentous announcement.

Triumph at Last!

To mark the occasion, the Power Station operators invited press and public into the grounds of Sandles, the house on the shore Thrupp Lake. There, Mr John Rainford, the Power Station manager, announced that, because the power station had found better and more sustainable ways of disposing of its ash, there would be no need to destroy Thrupp Lake, not now, not ever. He made it clear that RWE npower was offering The Lake to the local community as a nature conservation area and that discussions were underway with the Northmoor Trust to provide for its management. It was hoped that the house could be converted into an educational centre.

Representatives of the community, Jenny Standen, chairman of Radley Parish Council, and Basil Crowley, chairman of Save Radley Lakes, expressed their satisfaction and delight, thanking npower for their magnanimity and looking forward to working with them in restoring the area to create something to be really proud of. Both expressed gratitude to all the people who had supported the campaign and whose support and tireless efforts had helped bring this about.

With the late December afternoon sunshine casting long shadows across the vestiges of Sandles’ lawn, a jubilant party atmosphere prevailed. Champagne flowed, hands were shaken, cameras clicked and, in a touch of surreality, a man in a frog suit played a solo trombone fanfare at the lakeside to herald the lake’s salvation.

Where the Ash Will Go

The ash that was to have gone into Thrupp Lake will now go to Waste Recycling Group’s Sutton Courtenay landfill site next to the power station where it will be used for engineering, capping and landscaping of the landfill operations. Surplus ash will be stockpiled in a planned new storage facility, which received planning permission back in July, and will maintain WRG’s essential supply of ash after 2015 when the power station will have closed.  Because the power station and the waste site are immediately adjacent, the ash can be transported directly across the fence and put into the stockpile, which is not far from the power station boundary. At no time will this ash be transported on public roads, which means there will be no adverse impact on the residents of Sutton Courtenay. Indeed, it will remove the need to import over half a million tonnes of substitute materials after 2015, which would have had an impact!



Adversaries no more.
Basil Crowley, chairman of Save Radley Lakes, shaking hands with John Rainford, manager of Didcot A Power Station


What people said:


“We’re very pleased that we have found such a significant alternative to ash disposal at Radley which protects our ability to generate power whenever it is needed. 

“Our vision for the Thrupp Lake area involves a strong partnership with the Radley community. We are keen to agree a scheme that takes into account the wishes of local people as well as the needs of the area’s ecology. 

“Our main priority is now to engage fully with local people to make sure our plans are developed in partnership with them.”

John Rainford, manager of Didcot A Power Station



“I am sure that the parish, and those people who have been working so hard to try and save Thrupp Lake, will be delighted at the news and we should congratulate npower and WRG at coming to such an excellent arrangement.”

Jenny Standen, chairman of Radley Parish Council



 “We are delighted that RWE npower has finally confirmed that it no longer intends to dump ash in Radley Lakes and that it wants to maximise environmental gains in the lakes and work closely with the local community to effect this. This is a win-win situation for all concerned; for RWE npower, for the local community, especially Save Radley Lakes, who have fought long and hard to protect Radley Lakes, and above all, the local environment. CPRE is confident that the Northmoor Trust will do a superb job in protecting the local wildlife in the area. We are pleased that CPRE has been able to play a part in shaping this outcome.

Helena Whall, campaign manager for the Campaign to Protect Rural England



 “It has been a long, hard and difficult campaign, but that is all behind us now. We are of course absolutely delighted by this outcome.

“We would first like to congratulate RWE npower and WRG Ltd for reaching this solution. It took a little effort to get them to put their heads together on this, but once it happened both parties will have found themselves with much to gain and nothing to lose by it. Saving Thrupp Lake is, and always was, the right outcome. But, by offering to give the lake to the community, npower has gone much further, and is showing great magnanimity. I hope that the community will, in the years to come, show its gratitude by treasuring this place for what it is, and what it has become – a symbol of the importance and value of the local environment in human affairs, the need to have beautiful natural places in our own neighbourhoods; and the need for vigilance, and the will, to protect them from harm.

“We look forward to working with npower in restoring this whole area to something that the people of Radley, Abingdon and Oxfordshire can be truly proud of. We now have to turn that vision into reality.

“Finally, I, together with the members of the Executive of Save Radley Lakes, would like to say a big Thank You to all the people who have supported this campaign, some with their time and tireless effort, some with their money, many with both, and I look forward to their continued help in the future in realising the greater vision of a place to be freely enjoyed by people and wildlife alike.

Basil Crowley, chairman of Save Radley Lakes



 “This is a win-win situation, we no longer need to look elsewhere for capping and engineering materials to use at our site, and the power station has a secure outlet for ash. We can store the ash we don’t need right away for future use. 

“We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and are looking at ways to support RWE and the local community in delivering the best solution for the future of Thrupp Lake.”

Paul Green, Senior Development Manager for WRG



 “The outcome of the Radley Lakes campaign will provide hope and inspiration to the many other campaign groups all over the country who are fighting to protect their local environments from inappropriate development.

Marjorie White of Save Radley Lakes




End of an extraordinary day.
The scene at Sandles in the late afternoon of Wednesday 17th December 2008.


Other links relevant to this posting                               

Environmental Health News, 9 October 2009

Letter from Bill Goodwin in Oxford Mail 01 October 2009

The Ecologist, 21 January 2009

Peter Harbour in The Herald, 16 January 2009

Oxfordshire Green Party

Caroline Lucas MEP

Fox FM (13 Jan 09)

Peter Harbour in The Oxford Times, 8 January 2009

Basil Crowley in The Herald, 7 January 2009

Spectator Business, 23 December 2008

Mid Ulster Mail

The Crawley Observer

Rye and Battle Observer

The Oxford Times, Leader 18 December 2008

The Oxford Mail, Leader 18 December 2008

Fox FM (18 Dec 08)

Real England – The Paul Kingsnorth Blog

Campaign to Protect Rural England

The Abingdon Blog

BBC, 17 December 2008 (2)

BBC, 17 December 2007

The Oxford Times 17 December 2008

The Herald 17 December 2008

The Oxford Mail 17 December 2008 (2)

The Oxford Mail 17 December 2008

RWE Npower’s Original Press Release

Permanent link to this article: http://www.radleyvillage.org.uk/radley-lakes-saved/