Save Snowdonia’s rivers
The last few months have seen a continuing deluge of planning applications for hydro-electric schemes on Snowdonia’s rivers. The Snowdonia planning list for the first week of August contained 23 applications of which 12 are for hydro schemes; that’s 12 threats to the ecology and the drama and splendour of our rivers and waterfalls.
Let us be clear: hydro-power is a useful renewable energy technology. We are not opposed to hydro-power. We are opposed to developments which damage the special features and qualities of Snowdonia.
The future of Conwy Falls is to be decided on 2nd December when the Planning Committee of Snowdonia National Park Authority will determine the application for a 5MW hydro scheme within Fairy Glen, a place steeped in history and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Every ‘Top Ten’ site in Wales is threatened by a hydro-electric scheme.
Conwy Falls and Fairy Glen is one of the top ten sites in Wales for the rare lower plants – mosses and liverworts – which only live in such ravines. Together these sites form the most important areas of ‘Celtic Rainforest’ south of the Scottish Highlands. Every single one of the ‘Top Ten’ sites either has a hydro-electric scheme already installed or has an application for a hydro-electric scheme in the planning system.
The Snowdonia Society has submitted a detailed objection to the Conwy Falls scheme, highlighting lack of employment opportunities for local people, construction-phase impacts on local businesses and damage to irreplaceable natural features of the river corridor.
Meanwhile, our Freedom of Information request to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) revealed that conservation specialists have grave concerns over the Conwy Falls proposal which were not reflected in the official NRW response. We are pressing the National Park Authority and NRW to review their approaches.
Inspections reveal high levels of non-compliance.
NRW’s recent inspections of hydro-electric installations across Snowdonia revealed high levels of non-compliance. Operators have been caught deliberately tampering with the intake to abstract more water than they are allowed. Despite this useful policing effort, neither NRW nor the Park Authority have the resources for continual monitoring and enforcement.
In the absence of any strategic assessment by UK or Welsh Government of the cumulative impact of these schemes, the race to turn water into money is putting immense strain on the planning system and on environmental regulation and risks long-term habitats to some of the most sensitive irreplaceable habitats in Wales.
The Snowdonia Society plays a critical role in scrutinising hydro-electric proposals.
The Snowdonia Society plays a critical role in scrutinising the scale, location and impact of hydro-electric proposals. Please help us continue to fight for Snowdonia’s rivers, their precious plant-life and special qualities.
Your support of the Snowdonia Society’s work on issues like this is critical and we very much appreciate it. Please act now to help us save Snowdonia’s rivers and river ecology
David Archer, Snowdonia Society Chair
Photo: Steve Lewis