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Cheshire Heritage and Sustainability Enterprises awarded Architectural Heritage Fund Project Development Grant

By January 18, 2023No Comments
An internal view of the generators in 1914.

Cheshire Heritage and Sustainability Enterprises (CHASE) is a Community Interest Company set up in 2021 to deliver the project to educate people about our net zero future. The Chester Hydro-electric Power Station renovation project aims to create an education and careers centre for the UK’s first Net Zero Industrial Cluster (of the modern era) on the site of the UK’s original Net Zero Industrial Cluster.

Chester’s old Hydro Electric power station building is located at the Weir on the River Dee that flows through the city and was probably the reason that the Romans chose Chester (Deva) as the base for the 20th legion in the first century AD.

The Proposal
CHASE’s proposal is to develop the site as an education centre explaining the history of renewable energy, the importance of the river to the life of Chester and the importance of the flora and fauna (the site is an SSSI and an index river for recording salmon migration). They also want to talk to people about how the Chester Area has been chosen by the Government (in November 2021) to be a track 1 site for net zero industry, leading the UK in its progress to Net Zero.

The latest investment plan from BEIS suggests they can expect £30Bn of investment in low carbon industry, creating 30,000 high value jobs in the locality. CHASE wants to enthuse local school pupils and visitors to take up the green careers that will be on offer.
When they are not hosting school visits, the site is also one of the most iconic locations for hospitality available in the City, and they hope to develop the site as a multi-purpose building which can be used by different groups for different purposes.

Architectural Heritage Funding
CHASE was recently awarded a Project Development Grant from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) to enable a suite of studies to be commissioned to advance the scheme proposals. This follows on from grants from the AHF and Cheshire West and Chester Council to undertake a feasibility study which resulted in some draft designs. CHASE also carried out a public consultation which showed enthusiasm for the re-introduction of Hydro Power, to learn more about our net zero future and a desire to visit the site for a sit down and cup of tea whilst admiring some of the best views the city can offer. So far, they are gathering momentum and community support to deliver this and overcome the investment hurdles, permissions and actions needed.

History of the site
In Roman times the Dee was tidal for many miles upstream, but that changed in 1093 when the Norman invader Hugh Lupus arrived, built the Castle and also the Weir. The weir created a lake and ended the tidal estuary. It also created a head of water which provide power for the city mills and factories. In Medieval times the Industrial cluster on the Chester Weir was one of the most important in England.
The mills and factories (for example snuff mills and fulling mills) continued to operate through to the 20th century, at which time the last mill was demolished and replaced (in 1914) by one of the UK’s first Hydro Electric power stations. In the early days, it provided 40% of the City’s power, using battery back up for times when the high tide prevented power generation. The power station operated until 1949, when it was converted into a water pumping station providing clean drinking water to many hundreds of thousands of people.
The building is now abandoned as a pumping station, so there is an opportunity to give it a new purpose for the benefit of the community as the ‘Hydro Hub’.

Image: An internal view of the generators in 1914, Credit: Len Morgan

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