If you want to do anything worth while, be prepared for opposition and misinformation. The internet has encouraged a culture in which anyone can air their grievances, and make up any stories they like. The more outrageous they are, the more publicity they get, and the more people like to pass them on. The media think that stories of opposition and conflict sell better than good news. In the interests of "balance" they will report one person who opposes a project rather than 100 who support it. Officials work in a blame culture in which the penalty for making a mistake or attracting public disapproval far outweighs the reward for getting it right. So they are cautious, and opposition makes them nervous.

Anglers

In the early days the Angling Trust were opposing all hydro projects. Their attitude seemed to me to bear comparison with fox hunting. Their objections were propaganda, which was published in the Angling Times, to persuade its readers and put pressure on the Environment Agency. Ordinary anglers we met at events were mixed – some happy with the project, some not. The Angling Trust overplayed their hand and gradually lost influence, although they still make objections. We had a meeting with them, and the result was a separate page on anglers here.

Complaints

In early 2015 we had the over-optimistic hope that construction could begin before the end of the nesting season. Not wishing to be delayed, after consultation with the parks staff, we cleared the site of two sick trees, brambles, nettles, rubbish, etc. But without realising it we had violated two of the planning conditions, in letter rather than in spirit.

So the officials concerned called a meeting, and, very reasonably, warned us to do no more without permission. However one man in particular used the event to criticise the project and our managing of it. He started a Facebook page, got publicity in the local press, and gave out leaflets that were full of errors. It meant that the Council became more careful over their approach to the project. This made little difference, because we wanted to work with them anyway, and if they were being more cautious, fair enough. Compared to the other problems we faced, he was a fleabite - an off the cuff remark which also went into the local press, and he was suitably insulted. On the next page is a summary of his claims, and our responses.

Opposition will slow a project, but opponents should not determine its fate. That is done by public officials. Their decisions have to be based on evidence (but of course politicians may step in and ignore the evidence). The task for the project is to present the evidence, accurately and clearly, and not be distracted. If there is criticism, decide whether it is reasonable or requires a rethink, or if a response would be helpful for the project (or indeed, for the critic – their need is probably greater than yours). But if not, don't waste time on it.

A surprise

Right at the end was an unexpected intervention from the opposite direction: two directors who did not want to end the project. They found a group who thought they could build it at a low enough price to be viable. It was clear to the rest of us that this was impossible. We could get no answers on how this group proposed to do it, and eventually they withdrew. We think they were just fishing for money. But our two directors were fixated on this alternative, and the more we pointed out the flaws, the more they ignored it and dug their heels in. Finally we gave up trying to reason with them and got on with the dissolution. Talking to climate change deniers can be a similar experience!

 

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