All Posts By

Tom Laws


By | Campaigns | No Comments

2018 has been another great year at Save Our Rivers, here are some of our highlights:


National Parks Saved

In 2017 we ran our huge National Parks Matter campaign against Welsh Government plans to remove the main environmental protection governing our National Parks. Following widespread opposition from across the conservation sector these plans were finally dropped in March of this year with an announcement from the new Environment Minister.


Save the Blue Heart

In the spring we supported Patagonia’s Save the Blue Heart campaign against over 2700 dams planned for the Balkan Peninsular. Touring with the Blue Heart film around the UK and Ireland giving talks and answering questions about this unfolding environmental tragedy.  The campaign resulted in the hand over of a petition with 120,000 signatures to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The largest petition ever received by the bank on an environmental matter.


The National Trust plans new dams in the Ogwen Valley.

Once again we found ourselves campaigning against the National Trust’s plans for new dams in the free flowing streams of the Ogwen Valley SAC (Special Area of Conservation), Snowdonia National Park. This time on the Afon Bodesi. This Autumn we learned that the National Trust have not only dropped the plans for the Afon Bodesi but for all their planned Ogwen Valley Hydros.


Hydro Schemes without Planning Permission

Welsh Government plans to allow small scale hydro to be built without planning permission saw us asking our followers to respond to an NRW consultation. The overwhelming number of responses in favour of keeping full planning requirements for all hydro schemes meant that these plans have been dropped for now.



The Autumn saw us headed out to support our friends at Balkan River Defence on the Balkan River Tour 3 , with street actions in Podgorica and river actions on the Tara it was an action packed and inspiring trip. Can you make it next year for Balkan River Tour 4 and do your bit to keep the pristine rivers of the Balkan Peninsular flowing free?


Free Rivers Fund

This year Free Rivers Fund has gone from strength to strength with more money granted to more projects from more countries than ever before. Save Our Rivers were stoked to be able to represent Free Rivers Fund this year at Tryweryn Fest, Kayak Fest Tara and on the paddlesports stage at Kendal Mountain Film Festival.


Keeping the Rivers of Snowdonia Flowing Free

A huge part of our work is to respond to the almost constant planning applications for new hydro schemes on the rivers and streams of Snowdonia. Some great news is that one of the most damaging proposals for a 600kw scheme on the Afon Cynfal has just be rejected by the planning department.


Side Projects

Save Our Rivers has been getting it’s teeth stuck into some cool side projects as well. Tom has become a key player in the new Trash Free Trails and Dan has joined forces with Surfers Against Sewage Anglesey to work towards the Plastic Free Anglesey community status.



It hasn’t just been campaigning work this year; Save Our Rivers has skied French glaciers, Canadian tree runs and Argentinian  couloirs.  We have multi-day hiked in the Alps, paddled the deepest canyons on Earth in Peru, kayaked down the pristine rivers of the Balkan Peninsular and spent every other spare minute biking, climbing, skiing and kayaking in the place we call home; Snowdonia National Park. Oh yeah and we somehow held down our day jobs and managed not to get divorced in the process.


If just 2 guys (and their friends) with a passion for outdoor sports and the wild places it takes them can do all this in 2018 , imagine what we could all do together in 2019.



Massive thanks to Patagonia , NRS and Radical Rider for helping us on our campaigns and our adventures. Plus a big shout out to our comrades in arms Snowdonia Society , The Rivers Trust and Balkans River Tour.

Glen Etive Under Threat

By | Glen Etive Under Threat | One Comment

With FIT payments for small scale hydro due to end in April 2019 we a seen a rush of applications for new hydro schemes with developers trying to beat the deadline for these lucrative subsidies.

One of the worst examples is in Glen Etive, Scotland. A stunning location and home to some amazing whitewater, the developer is planning 7 schemes. 1 on every tributary of the main Etive river. These schemes will produce tiny amounts of power in relation to modern renewable generation, with all the dams in place the power production will only be equivalent to large offshore turbine.

Save Our Rivers is objecting to the proposed schemes on the Allt a’ Chaorainn and Allt Mheuran. These are the 2 schemes we believe to be most damaging in terms of landscape and recreational impacts.

Please help save this iconic valley and add your objection on the planning website.

For the Allt a’ Chaorainn scheme click here to register and comment :

Object to Allt a’ Chaorainn HEP

For the Allt Mheuran click here to register and comment :

Object to Allt Mheuran HEP

Save Our Rivers objection is shown below, it is suitable for using for objecting to both schemes. Feel free to copy, paste and edit as you see fit, please make sure you add your own name and details.

I am writing to object to the proposed scheme
The building of 7 schemes of the same type, by the same developer all within a small geographical area and affecting the same main river valley would have large environmental, recreational and landscape impacts. To properly consider the accumulative impacts it would be more appropriate for the developer to file a single large application than 7 separate ones. I therefore do not feel the current application allows for proper evaluation of the probable impacts.
The proposed development cannot be considered a sustainable use of the landscape. The generation of renewables through small scale hydro schemes and their subsequent impact on the landscape and environment has become inappropriate in the current era of large scale renewable production. For comparison this scheme would only produce around 1/10th of a modern offshore windturbine.–United-Kingdom-UK83.html
FIT tariffs will end April 2019 due to the high cost to the consumer and lack of any real contribution to meeting overall renewable targets. The timing of this application is an attempt to obtain these lucrative payments before the deadline rather than any real effort to combat climate change.
The EIA does not adequately address the visual impact of the schemes. Although details of the structures to be built are included there is no photomontage representations of these structures in place making proper assessment impossible. There is also no consideration of the visual amenity provided by the tributaries as flowing streams and cascades. The proposed development will reduce flow rates, therefore reducing the visual quality of the cascades and their contribution to the landscape. Photo surveys of the affected stretches at different flow states would be required for an accurate assessment of landscape impacts.
The geomorphological impact of multiple schemes within the single catchment has not been adequately addressed in the application. Theses tributaries are active sources of gravel and sediment for the ecology of the main Etive river, the construction of river barriers will have a marked impact on sediment transfer and will therefore not meet WFD (Water Framework Directive) conditions on geomorphology grounds. WFD impacts of the intact structure will be the responsibility of the planning authority, it is worth remembering that WFD must be considered on an individual project basis and not just on a catchment wide assessment.
Court of Justice of the European Union judgement July 2015, case C-461/13. Paragraph 51 of the Weser judgement provides:
“Article 4(1)(a)(i) to (iii) of Directive 2000/60 must be interpreted as meaning that the Member States are required — unless a derogation is granted — to refuse authorisation for an individual project where it may cause a deterioration of the status of a body of surface water or where it jeopardises the attainment of good surface water status or of good ecological potential and good surface water chemical status by the date laid down by the directive.”
The schemes construction will consist of multiple new river crossings, including a pipe bridge, an access bridge and fords. These are both significant impacts on landscape but also due to the in river works required a significant impact to the environment.
The Allt a Chaoriann is considered a “classic” in the UK for the quality of its whitewater kayaking, a large draw to the area and a contributor to Scotland’s crucial outdoor tourism industry, calculated to be £2.6 billion in expenditure in 2012.
The highland council has also made commitments to “… maintain and improve our active infrastructure – people and places, including the natural environment..” for the benefit they hold in improving the health of the nation.
Hydrological assessment shows the building of the proposed scheme would have a negative effect on the possibility for kayaking on this river. The number of days the river would be available to kayakers would fall from around 180 per year to around 60 per year, a reduction of 2/3. There is also evidence it would make the kayaking of the river more dangerous by forcing kayakers to use the river when flow rates are changing more rapidly. A full assessment can be seen here:
There is an allusion that the developer has been in discussion with the SCA (Scottish Canoe Association) with regards to possible mitigation. I do not feel that planning can be considered until those discussions are resolved and any possible mitigation detailed in the application.
Yours Faithfully.



A hydrology assessment of the HEPs impact on kayaking the Allt a’ Chaorainn written by Calum Pedum, a Civil and Water Engineer, on behalf of the SCA (Scottish Canoe Association).

Here: Hydrology assesment Glen Etive


The developer has resubmitted it’s plans for the hydro scheme on the Alt Mheuran and Allt Fhaolain. Having studied the new application Save Our Rivers feels although the schemes have been reduced in scale our reasons for objection have remained the same.
We have therefore resubmitted our objections and urge you to do the same, the deadline has officially passed for new objections but they are still being received and should be considered up until the application is decided.

Save the Blue Heart of Europe

By | Save The Blue Heart | 11 Comments

The Balkans Peninsula is home to the last truly wild river systems in Europe. In a land largely untouched by modern industry lies a little-known paradise. Within forested mountains still inhabited by lynx, wolves and bear, live small communities whose lives are inextricably linked to the rivers they live alongside.

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