Meeting with the Environment Agency on Lock Island Tony Cowling and Michael Wheatley.
On the 27th August, Tony Cowling who is leading the work to establish the Reading Sustainability Centre, met with Michael Wheatley of the Environment Agency (EA) on Lock Island to explore the potential for locating the centre on the island.
Tony explained that a group of environmentally concerned residents of Reading are working to establish a Sustainability Centre. He outlined the vision for the centre and the intention to link it to a possible hydroelectric scheme on Caversham Weir.
Mr Wheatley explained that he managed all the EA’s land assets along the Thames and that he was responsible for the operations that went on in and around them. He also explained that the EA is about to lose some of their facilities nearby and were considering moving these to Reading. This will mean greater utilisation of the site on Lock Island. Mr Wheatley had some concerns about the impact of the proposed hydro and asked that any noise and vibration that may emanate from the turbines is minimised or eliminated. In general terms the EA neither supports nor objects to hydro schemes, but Mr Wheatley did say that they would be very supportive of the Sustainability Centre especially in view of the proposed educational aspects in relation to children and young people. They are also very keen on us raising the profile of conservation and biodiversity.
It may appear that the buildings on Lock Island are underutilised and the site is a little derelict looking, but the EA is about to embark on a major clean-up operation. All the buildings on the site are in use, some as stores, one as day rooms for volunteer lock keepers and the largest building is used to store the EA’s archives relating to locks and the river. There is a meeting room/day room for the waterways team and various stores, a boathouse and a workshop. There is a proposal to use the archive store building as a repair workshop for boats, which is in fact its former use. We did identify a large piece of land between this and the boathouse which was a possible site for the sustainability centre. It would need a new bridge access across the navigation channel. The land borders the south side of the island and the intention would be that the land occupied by the Sustainability Centre would not have access to the rest of the island. This would maintain security for the EA and create separation from their activities. The Sustainability Centre building would help to improve the look of the island and it would be necessary to come to an arrangement in respect of a lease or rent.