Fascinating letter to the Times unearthed by the Snowdonia Society.
In 1993 a proposal for a hydro scheme at Conwy Falls and the Fairy Glen (again involving the Foelas Estate) was withdrawn when it was unable to resolve the environmental issued raised. This application, amongst others, led to the Wild and Scenic River Campaign. A campaign led by Lord Elis-Thomas and supported by the Campaign for Rural Wales (CPRW).
Whilst in the USA a similar, earlier, campaign resulted in the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, protecting a small number of precious free flowing rivers from development, in Wales there has been a different result.
2013 brought an almost identical HEP proposal for the Conwy but this time things were different. CPRW have written in support of the development in a complete u-turn from their original stance. Lord Elis-Thomas has gone further, being an outspoken defender of the scheme. In Febuary 2016 Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders asked a question in the Senedd of the then Minister for Natural Resources Carl Sergeant, raising the petition brought to her by Save the Conwy, a campaign group with almost identical aims to the Wild and Scenic River Campaign Lord Elis-Thomas chaired in the 90s. Lord Elis-Thomas jumped in and effectively told her to butt out and leave it to the planning authority. Has he lost all memory of his campaign for the protection of this very river?
Minister, you will be aware of around 6,000 signatures opposing the Conwy Falls hydroelectric scheme. Concerns raised primarily are as a result of a lack of consultation, failure to engage, and insufficient detail. With works of such magnitude, and in an area of stunning natural beauty, massive tourism appeal, and a site of special scientific interest, it is essential that the views of those affected are considered very much part of this planning process. Non-compliance incidents with regard to hydroelectric licences in Snowdonia national park have more than doubled in the past three years, causing much of this scepticism. How will you ensure that these representations will be heard, considered and accurately reflected so as to reflect all views, both those for and against the scheme?
I declare an interest, as I live near Conwy falls.
Would the Minister agree that Assembly Members should allow the relevant planning committees to take decisions in cases of planning?
Why have Lord Elis-Thomas and CPRW so drastically changed their positions on this? Do they have something to gain from this development or have they simply lost the vision to see the value in the “Wild and Scenic” above the short term gain of industrial development?
It is heartening to see on the letters list of signatures that the Snowdonia Society and North Wales Wildlife Trust are still campaigning for a free-flowing Afon Conwy. They lack some of the powerful allies they had before and need our support more than ever.