Settle Hydro - how a new business has electrified the economy of Settle

PUBLISHED: 15:20 07 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:36 20 February 2013

Settle Hydro - how a new business has electrified the economy of Settle

Settle Hydro - how a new business has electrified the economy of Settle

How a new business has electrified the economy of Settle

Ann Harding has plugged an entire community into the National Grid. As co-founder of Settle Hydro, she has established an industrial and provident society for the benefit of the community, generating revenue by selling green hydro-electricity and ploughing profits back into the local economy.

People tend to think of myself and Steve (local businessman Steve Amphlett) as green warriors, said Ann, an experienced company director whos lived in Settle for 14 years. Were not.

She has become a passionate advocate of renewable energy, however, during the process of installing a 50kW Archimedean screw at Settle Weir near Bridge End Mill.

We started with a question: how can we bring more people into Settle and underpin its fragile rural economy? said Ann. We were interested in business and didnt know each other well, but came up with the idea of doing something green.

Working with Chris IAnson, chairman of Masham-based animal feeds manufacturer IAnson Brothers, Ann and Steve approached the Sheffield-based Key Fund Britains largest regional community development finance institution specialising in the social economy market. It immediately pledged its support.

Settle Hydro sends a powerful, inspiring message to other communities to demonstrate what can be achieved with the effort of committed individuals combined with a strong community spirit and sense to provide for others, said Matt Smith, fund manager at the Key Fund. Its nothing short of revolutionary.

So where did the drive to tackle such a huge project without personal gain come from?

When I left college, I went to Soweto at the height of apartheid as a volunteer and that changed the way I saw things, said Ann. Life has to be about living. Seeing people with nothing get up and face each day with hope and dignity changed my thinking for the rest of my life.

Ann is now focusing on making the local theatre profitable and seeking new spin-offs from the Hydro. She believes communities can tackle their biggest issues together: The Hydro was very tough to do, but people work better when they work together. We are pack animals.

Weve helped change policy, working with the Environment Agency to change things and make it easier for people coming after us. There are others out there.

And there are other plans out there too some of them more out there than others.

Im interested in opening a distillery powered by renewable energy to make Yorkshire brandy, said Ann. There are a lot of community orchards across Yorkshire. We could buy apples from them to make the brandy, giving guaranteed income for communities across the county.

The Hydro allows you to think big. Its like a spiders web where everything you do gathers momentum and has an effect. It started off as a little idea how to get more people into our market town and now its much bigger than we ever thought it would be.

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