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

Those of us who live in Snowdonia,or come to visit regularly, may have noticed the increasing presence of diggers working in our rivers. The scars they leave behind are all too noticeable on open hillsides and can be seen on both sides of the Llanberis Pass. Development is also under way in many harder to spot places; in deep ravines and hidden by woodlands the diggers are also at work. The reason for this is a rash of new micro-hydro schemes. The number of schemes being permitted by the National Park and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is staggering; last August alone 50% of all planning applications to the park were for hydro-schemes totalling 12 in one month.

Save the Conwy has always been concerned with the prevention of the RWE Conwy Falls scheme; a large hydro-scheme on a major lowland river that will have a huge impact on the environment, local community, recreational users and the river basin as a whole. However the cumulative effect of so many micro-hydro schemes being built in such a small time scale cannot be ignored; particularly when it comes to the lessons they can teach us with regards to adherence to environmental statements, pollution incidents and the breaking of abstraction licences.

The National Park seems to have no restraint when it comes to permitting hydro development. Anyone who has ever tried to build an extension or renovate a house in the National Park can see the massive disconnect between the insistence on a particular shade of roofing slate on one hand and the allowing of a JCB to rampage through a SSSI on the other. The National Park cannot claim this stance is due to being pro-renewable as it has an extremely low acceptance policy on wind energy, a far less damaging and more effective renewable technology,  even objecting to wind turbines that lie outside of the boundaries of the park.

A recent pollution incident at the Afon Las Gwastadnant has highlighted that despite the scheme having a detailed environmental management plan  13235-33441, once contractors get onsite there is little care and no oversight from either the National Park or NRW.

 

This is only a micro-hydro using a 30cm diameter pipe. The proposed Conwy scheme would use a pipe around 2m in diameter. Below are photos of RWE laying such a pipe in Dolgarrog in November 2013.

 

We feel both the National Park and NRW need to put the brakes on this rush to exploit our rivers. A pause needs to be taken before any more abstraction licences or planning permissions for hydros are granted. The National Park and NRW need to work together to form a robust policy that provides protection for designated areas, allows continued recreational use of our rivers and puts in place    a system of monitoring the construction and running of these schemes. This policy can only be formed by recognising the views of environmental groups such as the Snowdonia Society and Woodland Trust, recreational groups like the BMC and Canoe Wales and those of local residents.

Snowdonia Society are asking all those who care to write with their views to:

Jonathan Cawley, Head of Planning and Land Management at Snowdonia National Park jonathan.cawley@eryri-npa.gov.uk
and
Tim Jones, Director of Operations for North Region at Natural Resources Wales tim.jones@cyfoethnaturiolcymru.gov.uk

Member of Save the Conwy Dan Butler sent this message:

Dear Jonathon Cawley (Head of Planning and Land Management, Snowdonia NPA) & Tim Jones (Director of Operations for North Region, NRW).

I am writing to you as an outdoor lover, and a great believer in the power of our wild spaces to inspire, educate and enthuse. From a very young age I have been proud to be British, from a country where we have National Parks, great areas of the countryside protected for all to enjoy.

Please note the key work above is protected. By virtue of the Jobs that you have chosen to hold, you are directly responsible for ensuring that my children (when I choose to have them) have the same opportunities to enjoy wild, unspoilt places that I had in my childhood.

You are failing in this task most dramatically, and allowing both profit, and/or a ridiculous notion that by digging up the countryside to create micro HEP which will run for 1/3 of the year, and generate returns barely noticeable, without a second thought to the damage that will be caused.

You are failing to adequately monitor that the companies are following their environmental plans, but far far worse than this, you are failing to take into consideration the impact that these schemes have.

Take the Conwy Scheme as an example. It required a team of volunteers several hundred man hours to ensure that the planning permission was withheld – despite the fact that full river weirs are completely against NRW own policies – and yet your organisation failed to mention this in their report to the planning committee.

As I write you are currently planning a discharge licence into Llyn Padarn.

I urge you to do the right thing, and save our wild spaces.

Dan Butler

2 Responses to “Enough is Enough”

  1. odavis212

    Dear Dan Butler,

    Firstly, as somebody who has grown up in this area all of my life I agree with the points you are making.
    However to “attack” individuals in such a way without finding out the full facts, in my eyes, is irresponsible and attention seeking for personal gratification! For your information, as I don’t know whether you are an aforementioned “visitor”, Mr Cawley has also grown up in the Conwy Valley as have all of his family. To make remarks such as “You are failing in this task most dramatically” is wholly irresponsible and, in my opinion, driven by social media attention!!! Do you actually have any knowledge of what Mr Cawley’s job entails??!!
    “you are failing to take into consideration the impact that these schemes have.” Really?? Are you saying that this local gentleman doesn’t know what he is doing? Perhaps you know the workings of regional planning regulations in a much better way than the rest of us!!!
    I was wholeheartedly against the hydro-scheme plans for the Fairy Glen, which may I add were thrown out by Snowdonia National Park, and understand your frustrations.
    However, having grown up with Mr Cawley, I think I have more knowledge of his opinions than you do!!!
    You are coming across as another individual who finds it extremely easy to attack individuals form behind your keyboard!! Maybe you should do a little more research, get to know LOCAL people who are doing their job and maybe all work together for the common goal.
    I truly don’t believe that you need to explain to Mr Cawley about the beautiful nature of the countryside on our doorstep, I think he is probably far more aware than you are in fact.
    Maybe a little more tact and less self-indulgence would be more helpful.

    Regards

    Owen (Local resident for 41 years)

    Reply
    • savetheconwy

      Dear Owen thanks for contacting us.

      First to make things clear I would like to point out that I am not Dan Butler and he doesn’t write this Blog. I published his letter as it expressed the sentiment that many people feel. I do however know Dan and he both lives and works in the local area. Dan has been involved with objecting to the planning application for the Conwy Falls scheme from the very start and has read and helped us understand many hundreds of pages of EIA, abstraction information, Snowdonia National Park planning policy as well as researching other aspects of the application (see here for some of the research Dan has done https://savetheconwy.com/2015/11/17/open-letter-to-the-snowdonia-national-park-planners/ ) and attending planning committee meetings. So I can safely say Dan is as well informed as anyone when it comes the Conwy Falls application and the behaviour of the National Park planning department when it comes to granting of hydro applications. With regards to the recent decision on the Conwy Falls application unfortunately it was not “thrown out by Snowdonia National Park” it was rejected on the basis of needing further information and then only on a vote of 6 to 5 following a discussion in which the planning officer repeatedly stated he felt that despite the rules which forced him to recommend refusal he felt the application was a “good one”. Our thoughts on some of the conduct of the planning officer are published here: https://savetheconwy.com/2015/10/20/planning-officers-recommendations/ . Unfortunately, and possibly the cause of some peoples ire with Mr Cawley, despite this being possibly the largest private planning application to be put before the park and it certainly being one of the most controversial Mr Cawley (in his extremely important role as Head of Planning and Land Management) has absented himself from all discussion on this application due to being a member of a local fishing club. This leads to the planning officer in charge being able to make his extremely dubious and biased statements, “well there will always be fish in the river” being a favourite of mine, without any form of oversight from above. Surely a professional such as Mr Cawley can act dispassionately on the facts of a case without membership of a fishing club clouding his judgement too much. If Mr Cawley is the type of man you portray him as then for all of us who live in, and visit, Snowdonia he needs to become involved before it is too late.

      Yours Save the Conwy

      Reply

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