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Letter to the Planning Committee

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Below is our letter to the planning committee, English follows below.

 

Annwyl Aelod o’r Pwyllgor,
Os gwelwch yn dda, treuliwch ychydig funudau yn darllen hwn cyn gwneud eich penderfyniad ddydd Mercher.
Y Cynnig:
Cored goncrid newydd ar draws Afon Conwy
Pibell 9 troedfedd o ddiamedr ‘wedi’i chladdu’n rhannol’ >1km o hyd, â bwtresi concrid helaeth
Twneli dan yr A5, ffrwydro/drilio am 900m, ger cartrefi a busnesau
Bydd yn disbyddu darn 2km o’r brif afon, yn cynnwys Rhaeadr y Graig Lwyd a SoDdGA Ffos Anoddun
Bydd yn cymryd hyd at 75% o’r dŵr uwchlaw’r llif cydbwyso isaf.

Cynllun Datblygu Lleol Eryri
Mae maint y prosiect yn groes i bolisi CDLl Eryri (3.19, t.46):
‘Er bod prosiectau cynhyrchu ynni ar raddfa fawr yn debygol o fod yn anghydnaws â statws Parc Cenedlaethol… gallai cwmpas fodoli i gyfrannu at leihau’r galw am drydan o danwydd ffosil trwy gyfrwng arbedion effeithlonrwydd a thrwy ddatblygiadau ynni adnewyddadwy ar raddfa fach er mwyn diwallu anghenion domestig neu gymunedol.’
Mae RWE yn datgan: ‘…byddai’r buddion yn rhai o natur tymor byr ac ni fyddai disgwyl i’r economi leol elwa i unrhyw raddau sylweddol…’ (EIA 13.4.6)

Effeithiau
Byddai’r cynllun yn arwain at golli adnodd dŵr gwyllt o bwys cenedlaethol a rhyngwladol – colled i’r byd chwaraeon yng Nghymru, yr economi leol ac enw da Eryri fel cyrchfan gweithgareddau antur. Ond beth fyddai effeithiau’r cynllun o ran y canlynol:
Dadlwytho cerrig a gwastraff?
Difrod i nodweddion y SoDdGA a’r Goedlan Hynafol?
Silio a mudo pysgod?
Traffig yn ystod y gwaith adeiladu? – Mae RWE yn rhagweld >12,900 o deithiau dwyffordd gan gerbydau nwyddau trwm.
Difrod ac ymwthio gweledol mewn lleoliad enwog?
Niwed i enw da Eryri?

A wyddoch chi?
Mae Tîm Achub Mynydd Dyffryn Ogwen wedi gwrthwynebu ar sail y bygythiad i ddiogelwch a ddeuai yn sgil y gored fewnlif arfaethedig
Mae Fforwm Mynediad Lleol Gogledd Eryri wedi mynegi pryderon ynghylch effeithiau ar hamdden ac ymwelwyr
Mae dros 800 o bobl wedi ysgrifennu at Awdurdod y Parc ac mae dros 6,000 wedi llofnodi deiseb yn gwrthwynebu’r cynllun
Mae’r gwrthwynebwyr yn cynnwys dwsinau o fusnesau lleol, Plas y Brenin, Clwb Pysgotwyr Betws y Coed, yr Ymddiriedolaeth Coedlannau, Ymddiriedolaeth Bywyd Gwyllt Gogledd Cymru, Cymdeithas Eryri, Canŵ Cymru, Eryri Bywiol a Patagonia.
Cafwyd oddeutu 30 llythyr cefnogi a bron iawn bob un wedi’u hysgrifennu gan uwch aelodau staff RWE a Dulas.

A ydych chi’n hyderus y bydd Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru yn:
Egluro pam eu bod yn trin y cynnig hwn fel Parth 2 tynnu dŵr (uwch), er y dylai SoDdGA gael eu trin fel tynnu dŵr Parth 1 (is)
Egluro absenoldeb tystiolaeth eu harbenigwr eu hun o sylwadau swyddogol NRW – “Mae hi bron iawn yn amhosibl meintioli lefel yr hydwythedd, ac felly hefyd yn achos y tebygolrwydd o niwed i fflora bryoffytau’r SoDdGA (ymateb Rhyddid Gwybodaeth gan arbenigwr NRW ar Blanhigion Isel)
Egluro’r gwrth-ddweud rhwng safbwynt NRW a safbwynt bryolegydd ymgynghorol RWE, Dr Des Callaghan – “Ynghylch y cynllun yn Rhaeadr y Graig Lwyd, nid wyf yn credu y gellir dweud ag unrhyw fath o sicrwydd a fydd y cynllun yn arwain at effaith negyddol sylweddol ar fryoffytau.”

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Dear Committee Member
Please take a few moments to read this before making your decision on Wednesday

The Proposal:
New concrete weir across the River Conwy
‘Semi-buried’ 9ft diameter pipe >1km long, with extensive concrete buttressing
Tunnels under A5, blasting/drilling for 900m, near homes and businesses
Depletes 2km of main river, including both Conwy Falls and the Fairy Glen SSSI
Takes up to 75% of the water above a minimum compensation flow.

Eryri Local Development Plan
Physical scale of the project is contrary to Eryri LDP policy (3.19, p.46):
‘Whilst large-scale energy power generation projects are incompatible with National Park status… scope might exist to contribute to reduce demand for electricity derived from fossil fuels through efficiency savings and through small-scale renewable energy developments to meet domestic or community need.’
RWE state that: ‘…benefits would be short-term in nature and would not be expected to benefit the local economy to any significant degree…’ (EIA 13.4.6)

Impacts
The scheme would cause the loss of a whitewater resource of national and international significance – a loss to Welsh sport, the local economy and Eryri’s reputation as an adventure destination. But what impacts would the scheme have on:
Rock and spoil dumping?
Damage to SSSI features and Ancient Woodland?
Fish spawning and migration?
Traffic during construction? – RWE predict >12,900 two-way HGV journeys.
Visible damage and intrusion in a famous location?
Reputational damage to Snowdonia?

Did you know?
Ogwen Valley Mountain Rescue has formally objected on the grounds of the safety hazard that would be caused by the proposed intake weir.
Local Access Forum for Northern Snowdonia has registered concerns over impacts on recreation and visitors
Over 800 people have written to the Park Authority and over 6,000 signed a petition objecting to the scheme
The objectors include dozens of local businesses, Plas y Brenin, Betws y Coed Anglers Club, Woodland Trust, North Wales Wildlife Trust, Snowdonia Society, Canoe Wales, Snowdonia Active, and Patagonia.
Nearly all of the 30 or so letters of support were from senior staff members of RWE and Dulas

Are you confident that Natural Resources Wales will:
Explain why they are treating this as Zone 2 (higher) water abstraction, when SSSIs should be dealt with as Zone 1(lower) abstraction
Explain the absence of their own expert’s evidence from official NRW comments – “The level of resilience is almost impossible to quantify as, therefore, is the likelihood of damage to the SSSI bryophyte flora” (FoI response from NRW Lower Plant specialist)
Explain the contradiction between NRWs view and that of RWE’s consultant bryologist Dr Des Callaghan – “With regards to the Conwy Falls scheme, I do not believe that it is possible to say with any certainty whether the scheme will or will not have a significant negative effect on bryophytes.”

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The committee meet on Wednesday 2nd March at 10am at Plas Tan y Bwlch, Maentwrog. It’s a public meeting, and we’d urge you to attend if you can. 

http://www.eryri-npa.gov.uk/study-centre/location

 

Support from the sea.

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It was great to receive a message of support from big wave surfer Gabe Davies. Gabe is not just famous for surfing some of the biggest coldest waves in the world but also for bringing the amazing surf spots of Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast to international attention and for his work with environmental group Surfers against Sewage.

 

“It’s easy to forget that wild places exist very close to all of us here in the UK. Within a few hours drive you can see some incredibly special places. I spent my pro surfing career searching beaches and rocky corners of the UK, Ireland and around the globe, looking for perfect waves. It showed me that we have to protect the special places that mean so much to us. Having been to the Fairy Glen on the river Conwy, I can appreciate what a really important and special place this is, both to those who live here and the future generations that are yet to discover it’s beauty. I wish the team all the best in preserving this wild water way, and protecting both wildlife and the life’s of those the river enriches from development. Please share your support and try and make time to discover this magical part of the World for yourselves and you will understand the passion behind this campaign.”

Gabe Davies

(photo credit: Christian McCleod)

Yvon Chouinard

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Yvon Chouinard founder of the Patagonia brand is a not only a highly successful businessman. He is a fly fisherman, kayaker, climber and environmentalist. Yvon many triumphs include the founding of the 1% for the planet movement, the purchasing of wilderness in South America to be turned into national parks and the campaign to remove damaging hydropower dams from American rivers.

Patagonia has supported Save the Conwy with advice, funding and increased exposure. Yvon Chouinards personal objection letter to the Snowdonia National Park is below.

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Petition handover

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On Friday the petition that you have all been signing and sharing was delivered to Janet Finch-Saunders AM (the Assembly Member for Aberconwy) with 6,311 signatures. She will take it to the Senate in Cardiff and hand it to Carl Sargeant Minister for Natural Resources. The handover took place at the beautiful Conwy Falls which would be affected by the proposed scheme.

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Save the Conwy’s Chris Wright handing the petition to Janet Finch-Saunders AM

Also there were representatives of the groups working alongside Save the Conwy to object to the scheme.

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Front row left to right:

 Francis Cattanach  North Wales Wildlife Trust,                                                                                              Rachael Walton representing the concerned local business community,                                                  Nick Corney Betws y Coed Anglers,                                                                                                                    Chris Wright Save the Conwy,                                                                                                                              Janet Finch-Saunders AM for Aberconwy,                                                                                                        Pete Catterall Plas y Brenin,

Back row left to right:

 Duncan Eades Canoe Wales,                                                                                                                                  Rory Francis Woodland Trust Wales,                                                                                                                  John Harold Director of the Snowdonia Society.

A copy of the petition will also be sent to the Snowdonia National Park ahead of the Planning Committee meeting on March 2nd.

The petition has only been a part of the campaign and sits alongside all our work with both the Snowdonia National Park and NRW, the fight is far from over. Thanks to those who have signed and to those who have written letters of objection to both the Park and NRW.

Stay in touch for more ways to get involved.

 

Cairn you believe it?!

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It was announced in the news today that Snowdonia National Park Wardens are asking the public to stop building cairns on the hills, due to the destruction it causes. Warden Myfyr Tomos has said- ‘Building cairns has been of great concern over a number of years […] creating scars on some of our most significant landscapes. [It] damages fragile habitats such as the moorland in the uplands and the scree, together with the animals and the plants associated with them’.

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Now if we are, as Myfyr Tomos states, ‘creating scars on some of the most significant landscapes,’ why on Earth are we even considering damaging fragile habitats with man made structures? – Perhaps SNP should be looking at at any contradictions – between the Cairn situation and the proposed Conwy Hydro.

Link to BBC News article

Year of Adventure 2016

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Snowdonia is an amazing place; the opportunities for adventure are endless and quite rightly the Welsh Government are using this to advertise Wales as an Adventure Tourism destination. £4 million pounds have been spent on making TV commercials with the strapline “FindYourEpic”

Ken Skates , Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism said:

2016 is to position Wales as a leading destination for outdoor adventure and use our iconic destinations to inspire people to explore what our country has to offer.”

What the Welsh Government does not seem to realise is that the opportunities for adventure must be protected. These TV adverts are in contrast to the stark reality of slashing National Park budgets, the appointing of power company executives to the Future Landscapes Committee and the damming and dewatering of nationally important rivers for both kayaking and fishing. Ken Skates has so far ignored our requests to discuss this with him and simply handed our questions over to Carl Sargeant (Minister for Natural Resources) without comment.

The Year of Adventure 2016 wants us to share our adventures online with the #FindYourEpic.

Let’s show how important our wild adventures are for Wales, that the heart of an adventure is not only paying to go on a massive trampoline or surf in a big pool (not that those things aren’t cool) but should also involve our unspoilt rivers, woods, mountains and coasts. Adventures can involve getting wet and tired and sometimes a little scared, they involve losing ourselves in nature and coming out renewed, they involve the wild.

Please print out the banner below and take it on your next adventure, take a picture, share it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using #FindYourEpic and #SaveOurWildAdventures and tag it @Save the River Conwy @Wales

Post it here

https://www.facebook.com/visitwales/

and on

here https://www.facebook.com/savetheconwy/

SaveOurWildAdventures – Poster Download

Whether you are fishing, climbing, kayaking, surfing, walking, taking part in an environmental project or just taking in the fantastic place that is Snowdonia we want to see it. To inspire you to get adventurous, the photo with the most likes will win a Save the Conwy prize bundle.

Here’s a few members of Save the Conwy getting out on some of their adventures, all in the last couple of weeks.

 

 

 

Planning Decision Deferred

By | campaign, events | One Comment

Snowdonia National Park Authority have deferred the decision on the proposed scheme for the Conwy to ensure that they have all the information from all sources. Details are given in the agenda for the upcoming meeting on the 20th January, and can be found on page 20. They are also given below.

http://www.eryri-npa.gov.uk/authority/about-the-authority/planning-and-access-committee-agendas-2014

Jan20

“Members will recall that at the 2 December 2015 Planning and Access Committee officers reported on the all members visit to the site of this application.

A decision on this matter was deferred from that meeting until such time as certain matters of concern had been resolved by the applicant through the submission of further details. In addition further comments were requested from Natural Resources Wales and Conwy Country Council planning Department and that an independent landscape consultant be contracted to comment on certain aspects of the application.

At the time of writing this report the applicant has forwarded an (incomplete) response, Natural Resources Wales responded by stating that they were still considering their reply, Conwy Council planning department responded by stating that they do not intend to comment as the application falls 3.5km outside their jurisdiction area.

An independent landscape consultant has been engaged who has now reviewed the application details and has reported back to the Authority at the end of last year. The consultan has highlighted certain issue that need addressing which will require the further attention of the applicant.

Given the above it is not, as yet, possible to provide members with a further comprehensive report on the outstanding matters on which a fully informed decision can be made. ”

The next meeting is in March.

Location – Plas Tan y Bwlch, Maentwrog

  • 2nd of December 2015 at 10.00 a.m.
  • 20th of January 2016 at 10.00 a.m.
  • 2nd of March 2016 at 10.00 a.m.
  • 13th of April 2016 at 10.00 a.m.
  • 18th of May 2016 at 10.00 a.m

Save the Conwy

Abstraction Licenses:The Shocking Truth… well what we could get our hands on

By | analysis, campaign | One Comment

If this blog entry looks a bit long, then there’s good reason for it. If you’ve not got time on your hands to take in the detail then I’ll open with this and you can steam-ahead to the punch-line without having to read the rest of the joke. For a joke is what it is!

…that’s potentially 14% of all hydro-schemes in the park in breach…

Of the 104 Hydro-power sites in Snowdonia for which Natural Resources Wales is responsible for licensing, from Jan – Aug 2015 it inspected 33. Of those 33, seven were found to be in breach of their abstraction license. Five of those seven were found to be breaching the terms of their licenses deliberately by altering the mechanics of the structures used to take the water.

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Upscaling those figures, that’s potentially 14% of all hydro schemes in the park in breach. Playground stats aside, in fact the problem is far worse, as this doesn’t take into account the additional 49 non-hydro abstraction licenses in place, not all of which are operating (as some are historic rights), which account for another three actual breaches.

NRW would have us believe that abstraction licenses are granted taking careful account of the effect to the ecology downstream. Yet, by their own admission NRW have been unable to assess the impact of these breaches, due to insufficient studies beforehand. This raises serious questions in relation to the process of environmental impact mitigation during the license application process and what appears to be a total lack of follow-up studies once the projects are up and running. This coupled with non-committal* and evasive** answers when asked about companies that had previously breached from NRW

*  re. what steps they’re actually taking to resolve these breaches on a company by company basis.
** “which” companies mysteriously turning to “how many” companies in their answer.

Among some apparently private individuals, those responsible for these breaches are companies claiming environmental credentials until they’re blue in the face, from green energy developers to leisure providers.

If I’ve got your attention then please read on. If you’re wondering why on earth you should care whether water is taken out of a river, how much and how this is regulated then I’d suggest you watch this short film of a somewhat extreme example from across the pond. Focussing on the Colorado River, it shows what happens downstream when you start syphoning off too much water and giving into over industrialisation.

The whole film is worth watching, but if you just watch this four minute short then remember that this is the same river that cuts a wild and tumultuous route through the Grand Canyon!

http://community.nrs.com/nrs-films/remains-of-a-river/?v=ep9

 

The full picture – or at least what NRW would actually tell us.

Approximately 3 months ago I became aware of a document from NRW generated for a freedom of information request by the Snowdonia Society. It suggested some worryingATI-08294a Response (redacted) ATI-08294a Response (redacted) things about the state of hydro management within the Snowdonia National Park. They had asked some very specific questions, which resulted in the figures you, see in the short version above for power generating abstraction licenses in the National Park, which were then further expanded on in my own FOI request.

At this point in time Save the Conwy were drawing together evidence to present back to NRW regarding RWE’s abstraction license application for their proposed scheme on the Conwy and I was circulating on the peripheries gathering my own thoughts to present back.

The revelation that a significant proportion of the pre-existing hydro schemes within the National Park had failed inspections revealed a worrying trend that showed often deliberate flouting of the controls placed on these schemes by the regulating body, NRW. All this with potentially unknown ecological impacts.

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My own thoughts turned to accountability. Who were these companies? What exactly were they each actually doing to flout the terms of their abstraction licenses? More importantly, what was being done about it by NRW? I placed my own FOI request to find out. What NRW revealed surprised, disturbed and disappointed. Ultimately, their response raised more questions for which I am yet to receive answers (their appeals process on an FOI request can take up to 40 days, in addition to the 20 for the initial request!) and offered only a few more answers than the original request.

Named: The companies and individuals breaching their abstraction licenses

Green Earth Hydro Ltd
http://www.greenearthhydro.co.uk/
Based in Powys and specialising in small-scale micro-hydro systems there isn’t huge amounts of information available about this company. They’ve breached but we don’t know what they’ve done, paperwork error or full on weir construction breach… it’s anyone’s guess!

DHG (Dulas Hydro Group) Hydro Ltd
http://www.dhghydro.com/aboutus.html
Dulas… that sounds familiar… ah yes, the consultants working in partnership with RWE. Well, disappointingly for the opportunist anti-hydro campaigner, Dulas and DHG don’t appear to share any business governance (different directors etc…), but the link in the name seems a little too convenient. By their own admission the two companies work with one another. A match made in heaven, Dulas plan and consult on hydro, DHG “permit, construct, own and operate”. Here’s what DHG have to say about Dulas:

DHG describe themselves to “always have an eye on costs, performance, financial returns”. Perhaps their eyes have been a little too focussed on financial return. Could these bedfellows of Dulas be cheating the system and the environment for their own gain?

Conwy Adventure Leisure Ltd (the parent company of Surf Snowdonia)
https://www.surfsnowdonia.co.uk/
A name I did not expect to see on NRW’s list. A quick look at their website reveals the are keen to push their environment credentials. I’m inclined to give Surf Snowdonia the benefit of the doubt here. Certainly their cleaning up of a heavily contaminated brownfield site (former aluminium works) to establish their state of the art leisure facility, that brings tourism and jobs to the area, gives them more than a few environmental and ethical brownie points in the bag. That said, the machinery used to create the waves has been beset with problems causing multiple unplanned refills of their huge surf lake. That water has to come from somewhere. Hopefully this project that has such potential for the community is not cheating the system intentionally and they’re guilty of only a paperwork error. I wish them good luck resolving their problems.


L Evans, JM Evans, RF Jones
Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to find out anything about these chaps… or whether they even are chaps.

HB Davenport
A Dolgellau builders firm. We haven’t got any further information at this time.

What have they actually done?

Well, thanks to NRW’s somewhat blinkered approach to answering FOI requests we know what these companies have done to fail their inspections, but we don’t know who. This is poignant, as some of these breaches are process driven and appear to be accidental. Others are downright deliberate abstraction of more water than the licenses allow for. [If you can cut your way through some of NRW’s technobabble then you’re doing well!]

“10 licenses were found to be non-compliant with either the abstraction or impoundment licence

or both (if applicable).

Identified non-compliances with abstraction licences:

– No blanking plate to secure seasonal variations in abstraction

– Over abstraction (maximum daily or maximum annual quantity)

– Blocked Hands off Flow / residual flow notches/orifice pipes

– Not submitting their abstraction returns / not submitting returns correctly

– HEP weir not built to specification

Particularly significant here also is that “10 licenses were found to be non-compliant”, yet only 5 companies are named as having breached. This means that at least one of the companies has multiple breaches across its portfolio (or multiple breaches on one site!)

Unfortunately, because NRW have seen fit not to match the crime with the criminal (figure of speech!) then we just don’t know who is bad at administration, construction & maintenance and who is deliberately flouting environmental safeguards. Faced with a wide range of breaches, it is hard not for your mind to jump to the worst conclusion. Assuming each of the issues causing the breaches mentioned above happened in isolation, it is possible that up to 6 licenses are being deliberately flouted! I hope the situation really isn’t this bad.

So what are NRW doing about this? Not a lot.

Well, you’ll be pleased to know that NRW have taken action to attempt to resolve these breaches. Well, they’re considering it… or are they? I’m not really sure anymore. They told me…

 

“Enforcement action is currently being considered for all non-compliances. Also we will be working with these licence holders until we are satisfied that they are in compliance. Previous offences are taken into account each year when deciding upon our inspection programme and sites will be revisited at more regular intervals where it is considered necessary.”

 

This isn’t quite what they told the Snowdonia Society. With reference to 5 of the 10 breaches identified in their FOI request they claimed “enforcement action was complete”. If it’s complete, then it’s not being considered for all is it?

The question is what have NRW actually done? It’s unclear whether they have actually done anything beyond potentially sending a leter, they were happy to point out that enforcement responses can include “prosecution, formal caution, fixed monetary penalty, warning letter and guidance depending on the individual case”.

To put this in an entirely different way, if a dishonest paperboy steals my bicycle  and I knew for a fact it was him I could call the police, I could form a renegade band of torch bearing vigilantes to hunt him down, I could send his Mum a strongly worded letter or offer him some friendly advice next time the local wrag popped through the letterbox. I know what I’d do – call the police & prosecute!

The thing is, in the context of the national park it seems to me that if I were NRW, I’d probably just claim on insurance and forget the whole thing ever happened. There’s only one problem, the little sh**e’s going to do it again.

Save the Conwy

What can we conclude? – Only more questions I’m afraid.

All in, there appear to be some pretty flagrant breaches of abstraction licenses. I can’t stress enough that some of these have been deliberate! It’s also possible that among the deliberate perpetrators are a company that have worked hand in hand with the developers of the Conwy Hydro scheme.

So to conclude, NRW have told us what the breaches were and who committed them and that some were deliberate. Despite being asked, what they have not told us is who committed which breach, what they (NRW) have actually done to enforce the licenses. They have also admitted their environmental impact studies are basically useless to the point of being non-existent.

As such, I am left with some questions that make me really uncomfortable about the management of hydro within Snowdonia. I can’t help but wonder…

Why on earth are NRW considering handing out more of these licenses when their management processes appear so inept?

Is the Snowdonia National Park really there for industrialisation and where are the credible checks on this?

Is NRW really up to the job?
It’s not looking good so far. They’re underfunded, seem to lack backbone and appear to have had their FOI responses drafted by one Sir H Appleby. If they could get out of saying it, they did.

I’ll leave you with this. When asked at a recent meeting, regarding known breaches of abstraction licenses, whether NRW had ever seen fit to take a license back the uncomfortable silence from the panel was none other than deafening.

 

This blog post was compiled from source material comprising of two Freedom of Information responses from NRW, company websites and web-check services on directors. This article is the opinion of the author. In the event of any factual errors please raise these with Save the Conwy and we will check and amend where appropriate. The FOI requests are available to download by following the following links.:

ATI-08294a Response (redacted)

ATI-08761a Response (3)

About the author

mestc
Richard Cregeen-Watson is a kayaker and photographer who contributed a few of the stock shots you may have seen over the course of the Save the Conwy campaign. He has dabbled in both the outdoor industry and commercial world of high street retail marketing. He lived in Snowdonia for four years, studied a post-graduate course at Bangor and explored many of the hills and rivers the park has to offer. Now a tourist to the Park he regularly returns to Snowdonia to visit friends and sample the great local produce. His favourite place to stay is the Fairy Glen Hotel.