ECO-FRIENDLY residents want funding to build a hydro-turbine to generate electricity from the River Wear.

The plans, which are in the early stages, are being led by Witton Park Community Association.

The group aims to install a small turbine in the river to create power for Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland.

An initial consultation into the plans will be held with interested parties and the final results should be known by the end of March.

The team hopes to receive £7,000 of Local Energy Assessment Fund (Leaf) money, provided through the Energy Saving Trust, to pay for the consultation stage.

If successful, it aims to secure extra funding, believed to be several hundred thousand pounds, from various sources to take the plan forward.

Andrew Charles, a community association member, said: "We want a hydro scheme in the River Wear half a mile from Witton Park. It's very early days and this would just be big enough to create electricity for Witton Park.

"It seems such a waste to have the river running by down the road without making use of it."

The group is one of six North-East energy projects seeking to share £181,374 of Leaf money set aside to help fund green projects set up by local communities.

Project consultant Ewan Boyd, of Teesdale Environmental Consulting, said: "We are to have a consultation.

"There are quite a lot of technical issues that we need to sort out in regards to fitting a turbine to create electricity.

"Until we sort these issues out, we won't know whether we have a viable project and I wouldn't expect anything to be in place in the river for one-and-a-half years.

"It would take a major investment of hundreds of thousands of pounds in order to fit the turbine."

Philip Sellwood, Energy Saving Trust chief executive, said: "It's absolutely crucial that residents have a say in what will work best in their area, so they can have a stake in our more sustainable future."

The Environment Agency said it would need to see detailed plans for the scheme before commenting.