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.
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.
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
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.
If you have not previously objected to the scheme
Now is your chance. Our information on making a planning objection is here:
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 ?
These emails or letters all need to go to Aled Lloyd (Head of Development Management)
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.
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