THE go-ahead for plans to build a hydro-electric power plant in Sandford-on-Thames has delighted residents and campaigners behind the project.

Vale of White Horse councillors unanimously granted permission on Wednesday night for three Andritz Archimedean screw turbines on the River Thames at Sandford Weir. The plant could generate enough power for more than 400 homes.

Residents have received help from Oxford’s Low Carbon Hub to raise the £3m needed, by offering people the chance to buy shares in the scheme.

Operations director Adriano Figueiredo said: “This is such great news. We have been working on this project for a long time and planning permission was the last hurdle for us. We are really happy now we can begin construction in the new year.”

Mr Figueiredo said the Low Carbon Hub still has to finalise the designs but the turbines should be in place by next summer. He said a lot had been learned from the hydro power scheme at Osney Lock in Oxford, which would speed up the process.

“The proposed scheme is 450kW and could generate on average 1,600MWh per year of electricity,” he said. “That is enough to power over 400 houses – 75 per cent of the local households.”

“The carbon saved is expected to be 850 tonnes per year”

Electricity generated could be sold back to the national grid, meaning investors should get a return on their down-payment.

The planning meeting heard Kennington Parish Council, whose boundaries include the weir, objected on several grounds about 150-year-old pine trees that would have to be removed.

But Kennington district councillor Bob Johnston disagreed. He said: “I have been trying to get some of those trees replanted for decades. Most of the ones there are horribly overgrown, so I have no problems.”

He added: “This a good sustainable scheme and I am all in favour.”

A ‘fish pass’ to allow all species to get upstream past the power plant, has also been proposed.