PLANS for a small hydropower generator at Ebley Mill were at the centre of a fierce political debate on Thursday evening as the proposal came under repeated attack from Conservative councillors.

The renewable energy project, which has been pushed for by Green Party members and adopted as one of the flagship schemes in SDC’s 2013/14 budget will cost around £350,000 initially but is forecast to save the authority £30,000 a year by reducing the cost of its electricity bills.

Twice the Conservative group tabled amendments during the meeting to remove the scheme from SDC’s budget.

The first amendment, which was put down by Cllr Nigel Cooper (Con, Painswick) and promptly thrown out, called for the scheme to be scrapped and residents to be given a five per cent council tax rebate next year.

Once that amendment had failed, Cllr Debbie Young (Con, Chalford) introduced a second motion proposing the money reserved for the project instead be spent on flood alleviation works.

She claimed to have negotiated a deal with the county council whereby the authority would provide an extra £300,000 to help those affected by recent flooding so long as SDC stumped up the same amount.

However, Cllr Young’s proposal sparked a furious response from Cllr Karen Cross (Lab, Cainscross), who accused her of being ‘disingenuous’.

Cllr Simon Pickering (Green, Slade), who has championed the hydropower scheme, said the county had already pledged the funds for flood relief and that they had been negotiated by Green county councillor Sarah Lunnon.

He added that the £1.5 million return expected from the hydropower scheme over its lifetime could be reinvested in flood prevention.

Cllr Paul Denney (Lab, Cam West) said the Tory amendments were not ‘a serious attempt at policy’ but an ‘attempt to drive a wedge between green members’ and their alliance partners.

However, speaking afterwards Conservative group leader Keith Pearson, said: "They were not frivolous motions at all. We wanted to either give some money back to people or use it to help with flooding."