From 1914 to 1949, the Hydro Electric Building on Castle Drive near the Old Dee Bridge provided clean, renewable energy from the River Dee, supplying up to half of the city’s electrical demands. It later became a water pumping station but has remained derelict and redundant for many years. Now a group of interested local residents, architects, heritage consultants and business professionals have obtained funding from Cheshire West and Chester Council and the Architectural Heritage Fund. This funding has enabled plans to be developed for this space to be revitalised into the Hydro Hub; a local centre for demonstrating the latest renewable energy technologies and learning more.
In a recent poll carried out last year, 84% of respondents revealed that they would like to know more about climate change issues, net zero and how it applies to them. 59% said they ‘Don’t know enough about climate change and Net Zero’ and 89% ‘Don’t know enough about local efforts and activities on climate change and Net Zero’.
Hydro Hub could also offer a community space for residents, schools, and visitors to find out more about the kind of job opportunities that will be on offer now the Chester area has been chosen to be one of the first net zero industrial clusters in the UK.
Members of the public were given an opportunity to voice their opinions on what they would like to see in the proposed Hydro Hub building, 82% revealed they would like a visitor centre focused on the River Dee and hydro power. 59% suggested they would like a glass rooftop café/bistro and 68% suggested that they would like to see interactive displays for both adults and children.
The Hydro Hub was one of 11 initiatives funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Climate Emergency Fund in round one last year. The fund gives money to projects that cut carbon emissions and help the region meet its goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. The Hydro Hub aims to demonstrate the benefits of becoming carbon neutral by utilising natural energy resources such as the hydrological power of the tides on the River Dee at Chester.
Cheshire Heritage and Sustainability Enterprises (CHASE) is behind a new three-day event called Green Expo 2022. The three-day exposition will be accompanied by three other events; a green awards dinner, a business conference and also a youth conference which is organised by The University of Chester. Any surplus from the event will go towards the Hydro Hub’s restoration.
Tony Barton, Chair of the Cheshire Historic Buildings Preservation Trust, said; “We are committed to finding sustainable new lives for our rich and varied heritage. The Hydro is a Listed building, hidden in plain sight and we believe we have found creative and sympathetic ways of opening it up for the benefit of Chester’s citizens and visitors.”
Dr Niall Macfadyen, Chair of Cheshire Heritage and Sustainability Enterprises said; “Following the very positive feedback from the public consultation we carried out last year, we believe the designs for the Hydro that Donald Insall has developed will enable it to be a focal point for all things Green in the Chester Area, as we move towards our Net Zero future.”
He added; “Everyone is invited to come along to Green Expo 2022 on the banks of the Dee near the old Dee Bridge and the Hydro Building on June 16-18. They can find out more about the plans for the Hydro Hub and give their views and suggestions for how it can be a new destination for residents, visitors to the city and students in particular to learn more about renewable energy and local initiatives towards becoming carbon neutral.”
“I would like to thank the local businesses who have given time and expertise to create a great vision for the future of this neglected building, including a themed exhibition and a viable future revenue stream so we can staff it and keep it maintained. I would particularly like to thank Donald Insall Associates, L&R Consulting, Carolyn Lloyd Brown (the Heritage Angel), Thornton-Firkin LLP, Castree Ltd and Environmental Consulting Engineers (ECE).”
Booking for the Expo dinner and conference and more information can be found at; https://Greenexpo.uk
Survey link and more information is here: https://hydro-hub.uk
History of the Hydro Building
Chester Weir was built by Hugh Lupus, 1st Earl of Chester, in 1093 for use by Chester Cathedral. It was designed to provide a head of water to power the medieval mills on the river. The mills and factories were demolished during the 20th century and the weir was restored to serve Chester City Council’s hydro-electric power station, which was built in 1913 and operated from 1914 on the site of some of the former mills. The Hydro Electricity Plant generated almost half of Chester’s electricity needs initially and continued to operate until 1949 when Government policy turned to coal fired generation.
In 1952 the building was re-purposed as a water pumping station and it continued in that role until 2015, helping to pump drinking water from the River Dee to half a million people.