Say no to hydro power on the Afon Conwy in the Snowdonia National Park

Archive for ‘November, 2015’

 

Canoe Wales have released a statement following news coverage in the North Wales Weekly News.

 

 

 

“Contrary to reports by RWE Canoe Wales do not support building a weir above Penmachno Bridge and have made representations to Snowdonia National Park Authority and Natural Resources Wales including expert analysis, stating that a weir immediately above this dangerous section of whitewater would be an added risk to paddlers and increase the likelihood of further serious incidents at this location.”

 

The full statement can be found at http://www.canoewales.com/proposed-conwy-hydro-scheme  SaveTheConwy

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In recent weeks Save the Conwy has been in contact with Janet Haworth AM, Shadow Minister for the Environment. As a local AM who has previous worked in the tourism industry she has obvious concerns about the proposed hydro scheme. She has been in contact with both the National Park and NRW and has been raising the issue with fellow Ministers. Her latest press release is below:

 

As one of the North Wales Regional Assembly members and shadow minister for the Environment I acknowledge that we face significant challenges in the face of climate change and the need to ensure the security of the supply of energy

Those same Victorians who transformed Britain into the fulcrum of the Industrial Revolution  knew Conwy Falls and came to find peace and to reconnect with Nature  away from the frenzied life amongst the Dark Satanic Mills.

Today the café and car park have become something of a tourist hub attracting visitors en-route into Snowdonia. There are mountain bike tracks  and a High Ropes activity centre nearby. A recent attraction, ‘Go Below’ has its base at this location.  During my visit on a cold November day I met photographers, hikers and a kayaker. testament to the increasing all year round tourism business that is growing year on year here in North Wales.

The argument that carbon emissions must be reduced packs a punch but the Welsh Tourism Industry also packs a punch supporting thousands of jobs and attracting billions of pounds into the Welsh economy.

Arguments to exploit our countryside for commercial gain and the need to conserve our treasured and outstanding landscapes have until recently achieved some sense of balance within the establishment of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and SSi site designations

We  are losing natural habitats at an alarming rate. This has been highlighted recently at an event hosted at the Welsh Assembly by the Environment Committee.

RWE’s proposal  to erect a weir to generate hydropower within the Snowdonia National Park will locate an alien and industrial structure  at Conwy Falls.  I have studied the plans and attempts to adapt and mitigate with,’soft engineering techniques,’ appeared cursory.

The promise of clean renewable electricity will be modest while the long-term income  from  this project will of course be welcomed by the promoters and investors.

I have to ask would  the RWE  engineering company promoting this proposal get away with locating this plant within the beauty spots of the Bavarian mountains and forests?

Only 25% of our Welsh countryside enjoys protected status I know why places such as Conwy Falls are amongst our national treasures as do the 4000 + who have signed the petition against this plan and the various environmental agencies who have along with the Snowdonia Society raised their voices in protest.

http://www.janethaworth.org.uk/

IMG_7953

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Below are Save the Conwy’s representations to Natural Resources Wales, in full as PDF documents. Each link will download or open the document.

Dear Sir/ Madam

RWE Innogy UK Limited for a full licence to abstract water from the Afon Conwy near Betws-y-Coed, Conwy at National Grid Reference SH 81139 53409
Ref N# WPCC3508 and WPCC3510
I am writing on behalf of the campaign group Save the Conwy to object to the proposed application. Save the Conwy is a group local to the Conwy Valley but with around 2800 followers both locally and nationally. Save the Conwy was set up in response to the RWE application for a Hydro Power Station on the river Conwy. It has been involved with discussions with the developer along with other concerned parties since 2013.
The full objection is attached as a PDF (NRW submission) above along with the relevant appendix.
Yours Faithfully
Dan Yates
Representative of Save the Conwy
DyfConwy
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Application Ref:          NP4/26/323
Registration Date:       23-Apr-2015
17/11/2015

Dear Mr Lloyd
We are writing this open letter to you in your capacity as Head of Development Management for the Snowdonia National Park. As you will know from our earlier objection letter we are opposed to the proposed Hydro Scheme on the River Conwy.

Earlier, through the online petition (https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-damming-of-the-river-conwy) we became aware that a manager at Dulas Ltd (one of the contractors involved in the bid) was trying to influence public opinion through leaving a comment on the petition. If you haven’t seen it we have included a screenshot of the comment below, with a link to the page it was on, as an appendix to our letter. As this individual had failed to provide any information of his interest from a commercial point of view while making his comments, this led us to wondering if there had been other instances of this during the planning application phase.
We were helpfully assisted by your planning department who gave the names of all those who had written to you in support of the scheme, and have spent some time looking them up on LinkedIn. For your information we have included the list below, along with the positions they hold either in either RWE or Dulas Ltd.
There are others on the list that can also be traced back to either of those companies, or have been contracted by them to assist in their application. All of this information, along with the links for verification is below.
List of those who have written to the park in support of the Project:

 

Vince Read (Head of Hydro at RWE)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/vince-read-1781a133

 

Paul Bellis (Health and Safety adviser Hydro UK at RWE)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/paul-bellis-b3a64330

 

Duncan Morrison (Senior Hydro Project Manager at RWE Npower Renewables)

https://www.linkedin.com/in/duncan-morrison-990b5b9

 

Tina Watson (Hydro Procurement manager at RWE)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/watson-tina-b8283a90

 

Oliver Wilson (Commercial analysis for RWE)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/oliver-wilson-41468362

 

Rebecca Rankine (Assistant project manager at RWE)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/rebecca-rankine-5774aa20

 

Oliver White (Operations Engineer at RWE)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/oliver-white-ab81022b

 

Sarah Ostermann (No linkedIn profile, but works for RWE as a Project Manager)

http://www.karrierefuehrer.de/branchen/green-tech/jung-und-erfolgreich-bei-rwe-innogy.html

Link leads to a German Language page, but translates perfectly with Google translate

 

M (Matt) Palmer (No LinkedIn Profile, but is a Senior Hydro Engineer, Dulas Ltd)

http://www.dulas.org.uk/dulas-people.cfm

 

Catherine McLennan (Customer Sales and Marketing at Dulas Ltd)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/catherine-mclennan-81140766

 

Rachel Harper Bit cheeky this one – maybe used her pre/post married name – Rachel Kennedy (who comes up when you search for Rachel Harper on linkedin) is a senior at Dulas Ltd

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/rachel-kennedy-140b7727

 

Laura Hiscox (Communications co-coordinator at Dulas Ltd)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/laurahiscox

 

Elfed Williams (Not directly linked to Dulas, but has a history of applying pressure in applications where there is a lot of support against the scheme – see his LinkedIn page for more information)

https://uk.linkedin.com/in/elfed-r-williams-llm-ma-frics-mrtpi-42b23318

 

We would like to ask you to consider the following points when reviewing their letters of support for the application:

1: They work for Dulas Ltd or RWE, or have could have been contracted by them.

2: It is unclear whether they have set out in their letters that they work for either of the above companies or have declared their apparent professional interest.

3: When people write in support of projects in which their employers have a vested interest, it is very difficult to know what influence (proper or improper, direct or indirect) has been put on them to write.

4: I would suggest this leads to a natural conclusion that these particular letters of support require treating with an appropriate amount of caution, as it seems clear that their provenance is in doubt.

We trust that you will see the seriousness of the situation, and ask that you provide assurances that this information is acted upon with the utmost urgency.

Regards

Dan Butler

Representative of Save the Conwy

http://www.savetheconwy.com

Appendix 1: Screenshot of comments left by Dan Hammond (Dulas Ltd Employee) on the petition page in the comments section.
Dan Hammond

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Tomorrow afternoon you can drop-in to the Waterloo Hotel in Betws Y Coed (just along from the petrol station) from 3pm until 7pm and speak to representatives from Natural Resources Wales about the proposed scheme.

NRW have made it abundantly clear that they don’t care about your opinion, only facts, so here’s some topics to think about if you are popping in…

“In making our determination, we will consider all relevant information submitted to us. Amongst the issues we consider when reaching our decision are:

 the environmental effects of the abstraction and impoundment and their impact on designated sites, the biological and/or geological features of interest they support, and on protected species and habitats”

The area is a SSSI and within the National Park – why has it been chosen?

 “the likely effect of the proposal on the protected water rights of existing licence holders and other lawful water users”

The data shows a significant drop in the number of days the gorge will be useable by kayakers, and also the introduction of a weir is both unsightly and unsafe. The area above Conwy Falls has sadly seen a number of tragedies and near misses that would have been worsened by a man-made weir. Who is responsible if their construction kills someone?

Glen_Photography

” the reasonable requirements of the applicant for water and its efficient use”

Is 5MW an efficient use of a pristine valley?

 “the sustainability of the proposal and any effects on biodiversity”

As a SSSI containing a previously uninterrupted corridor of life… why not ask about that?

However, often we receive comments on matters which are beyond the remit of our determination.

Among the issues we cannot consider are:

 Noise
 Dust
 Transport
 Future connections to the national grid
 Cultural heritage
 Construction impacts
 Rights of way

But by all means, you could ask about those things. Why don’t they care about cultural heritage? Why does it take 20 days to get some documents out?

See you on Thursday 12th November, Waterloo Hotel, Betws-y-Coed

 

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A lot has been going on recently, so it seemed fitting to pull together a bit of a summary of where things stand, and answer a few questions you might be asking.

What’s going on?
The Conwy is one of the largest rivers in Snowdonia National Park.  It rises high on the moors before squeezing through a number of impressive gorges, culminating in the twin falls of “Conwy Falls”, close to the café of the same name.  Below here the beautiful Fairy Glen has been capturing the hearts of recreational users including fishermen, walkers, canoeists and photographers for many years.  It features in Victorian guides to the area, and has done ever since.  This area also supports a wide range of flora and fauna.  Below the Fairy Glen the river meets the Llugwy and Lledr as it passes the tourist hotspot of Betws y Coed before meandering more gently to the sea, making its mouth on the North coast at the town of Conwy.
In simple terms, a large company have applied to put a hydro-electric power generation scheme on the river.  Under their scheme a weir with a large metal grill will be built just above the spectacular Conwy Falls, siphoning off a significant volume of water and channelling it into a large pipe that will run parallel to the river down to the confluence with the Lledr near Beaver Pool.  This will reduce the flow of the river significantly as well as breaking the living corridor of the river.  It introduces a new hazard to recreational river users, and we believe it will cause not only significant disruption but also some serious ecological damage to this area during construction and beyond.

Fletch

Isn’t hydro power good for the environment?
It can be, and all of us should be in favour of reducing the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity.  However this scheme will only generate, at a maximum, 5MW – less than the electricity used if half of Betws y Coed put the kettle on, and roughly the same as just two offshore wind turbines.  According to the company’s own plan, for a third of the year the scheme won’t generate any power at all.  None of this sounds very green!

Surely this is just NIMBYism? (“Not In My Back Yard”)
Not at all.  There are plenty of more suitable sites in and around the National Park.  Within a couple of kilometres is the Penmachno mill site where there is already a disused mill building, a weir site and other hydro infrastructure that is just not being used.  On the fringes of the park, the Ogwen has a scheme planned that uses a section of river that has already been canalised by the quarrying in the area.  Hydro-electric power generation certainly has a place in the park, but the site chosen should be suitable and make use of existing infrastructure where possible, and especially given there are many areas that are already industrialised.

GlenKayak

Shouldn’t the National Park be protecting the area for people to enjoy?

The Fairy Glen is in an ancient woodland and designated as A Site of Special Scientific Interest, as well as being within the National Park.  This should afford it some protection but it doesn’t appear to matter to the planners in this case – which is why we are objecting.

 

How can I find out more?
The Planning Officer’s Reccomendations

Flyer containing a map and further information

Information on the impact of the proposed scheme

 

What has been done so far?

During the initial planning application, over 600 letters of objection were submitted.  Just 30 were filed in support.  It is clear to us that the planners’ report failed to take into consideration a large number of relevant factors.  These included significant and detailed objections from groups such as Canoe Wales (who represent canoeists), Betws y Coed angling (who own the fishing rights), and Save the Conwy (us), each of which raised various concerns as to why the scheme should not be given approval.

 

How can I help?

Objections can be made to the National Park, the organisation responsible for looking after the area.

If you objected by letter before, you can reiterate your concerns, using the letter template below , please remember to add your own concerns.

Second objection template

If you have not previously objected to the scheme

Now is your chance. Our information on making a planning objection is here:

https://savetheconwy.com/2015/05/05/individual-planning-objections/

You can use the template letter below to get started, write about the parts of the project that concern you the most. Is it the environmental impact or the loss of kayaking, are you a local business owner concerned about the impact on tourism ?

New objection template

These emails or letters all need to go to Aled Lloyd (Head of Development Management)

aled.lloyd@eryri-npa.gov.uk

As part of the scheme an application has been made to Natural Resources Wales to abstract water by means of a weir. They are holding a public consultation in the Waterloo Hotel in Betws y Coed on Thursday 12th November from 3-7pm.  Anyone is welcome to view the abstraction plans and ask questions at this event.  If you feel you can attend, then please do, and help us prevent the destruction of such and important area.

You could also sign a petition.  This petition, which gained over 3000 signatures in 10 days, can be accessed using the link below.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-damming-of-the-river-conwy – a shortened version for sharing can be used – www.bit.ly/savetheconwy

There is also a second petition for signatories without a UK postcode which can be found below.

https://www.change.org/p/carwyn-jones-first-minister-of-wales-stop-the-damming-of-the-river-conwy
In addition, you can use social media to ask questions to either NRW and / or the National Park:
Tweet @NatResWales – Natural Resources Wales

Tweet @VisitSnowdonia – Snowdonia National Park Authority

Facebook Natural Resources Wales

Finally, you can download and print out a poster to help raise awareness of the scheme in your place of work.

Save the Conwy Poster – PDF Download

SaveTheConwyPoster

Thank you for taking the time to read through this information. If you want to get in touch the best ways are through Facebook “Save the Conwy” and Twitter @SaveTheConwy

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Following publication of the Planning Officer’s recommendation to approve the RWE scheme complaints were made  to the Snowdonia National Park (SNPA) over the content of the Planning Officer’s report. The Park has now agreed to receive new submissions by the 13th November.

What you can do now.

If you have already written an objection letter

Have a look through our comments on the Planning Officer’s report below. If you do not feel your objection has been adequately considered email the SNPA and tell them so, attach your original objection letter to the email .

You can use the letter template below , please remember to add your own concerns,

Second objection template

If you have not previously objected to the scheme

Now is your chance. Our information on making a planning objection is here:

https://savetheconwy.com/2015/05/05/individual-planning-objections/

You can use the template letter below to get started, write about the parts of the project that concern you the most. Is it the environmental impact or the loss of kayaking, are you a local business owner concerned about the impact on tourism ?

New objection template

These emails or letters all need to go to Aled Lloyd (Head of Development Management) aled.lloyd@eryri-npa.gov.uk

Please if you haven’t yet sign the petition launched by the Snowdonia Society here:

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-damming-of-the-river-conwy

Conwy Falls in the winter by Peter Glyn Firth

Conwy Falls in the winter by Peter Glyn Firth

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