Frequently Asked Questions

By | Campaigns, Save the Conwy, Uncategorised | One Comment

A lot has been going on recently, so it seemed fitting to pull together a bit of a summary of where things stand, and answer a few questions you might be asking.

What’s going on?
The Conwy is one of the largest rivers in Snowdonia National Park.  It rises high on the moors before squeezing through a number of impressive gorges, culminating in the twin falls of “Conwy Falls”, close to the café of the same name.  Below here the beautiful Fairy Glen has been capturing the hearts of recreational users including fishermen, walkers, canoeists and photographers for many years.  It features in Victorian guides to the area, and has done ever since.  This area also supports a wide range of flora and fauna.  Below the Fairy Glen the river meets the Llugwy and Lledr as it passes the tourist hotspot of Betws y Coed before meandering more gently to the sea, making its mouth on the North coast at the town of Conwy.
In simple terms, a large company have applied to put a hydro-electric power generation scheme on the river.  Under their scheme a weir with a large metal grill will be built just above the spectacular Conwy Falls, siphoning off a significant volume of water and channelling it into a large pipe that will run parallel to the river down to the confluence with the Lledr near Beaver Pool.  This will reduce the flow of the river significantly as well as breaking the living corridor of the river.  It introduces a new hazard to recreational river users, and we believe it will cause not only significant disruption but also some serious ecological damage to this area during construction and beyond.


Isn’t hydro power good for the environment?
It can be, and all of us should be in favour of reducing the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity.  However this scheme will only generate, at a maximum, 5MW – less than the electricity used if half of Betws y Coed put the kettle on, and roughly the same as just two offshore wind turbines.  According to the company’s own plan, for a third of the year the scheme won’t generate any power at all.  None of this sounds very green!

Surely this is just NIMBYism? (“Not In My Back Yard”)
Not at all.  There are plenty of more suitable sites in and around the National Park.  Within a couple of kilometres is the Penmachno mill site where there is already a disused mill building, a weir site and other hydro infrastructure that is just not being used.  On the fringes of the park, the Ogwen has a scheme planned that uses a section of river that has already been canalised by the quarrying in the area.  Hydro-electric power generation certainly has a place in the park, but the site chosen should be suitable and make use of existing infrastructure where possible, and especially given there are many areas that are already industrialised.


Shouldn’t the National Park be protecting the area for people to enjoy?

The Fairy Glen is in an ancient woodland and designated as A Site of Special Scientific Interest, as well as being within the National Park.  This should afford it some protection but it doesn’t appear to matter to the planners in this case – which is why we are objecting.


How can I find out more?
The Planning Officer’s Reccomendations

Flyer containing a map and further information

Information on the impact of the proposed scheme


What has been done so far?

During the initial planning application, over 600 letters of objection were submitted.  Just 30 were filed in support.  It is clear to us that the planners’ report failed to take into consideration a large number of relevant factors.  These included significant and detailed objections from groups such as Canoe Wales (who represent canoeists), Betws y Coed angling (who own the fishing rights), and Save the Conwy (us), each of which raised various concerns as to why the scheme should not be given approval.


How can I help?

Objections can be made to the National Park, the organisation responsible for looking after the area.

If you objected by letter before, you can reiterate your concerns, using the letter template below , please remember to add your own concerns.

Second objection template

If you have not previously objected to the scheme

Now is your chance. Our information on making a planning objection is here:

You can use the template letter below to get started, write about the parts of the project that concern you the most. Is it the environmental impact or the loss of kayaking, are you a local business owner concerned about the impact on tourism ?

New objection template

These emails or letters all need to go to Aled Lloyd (Head of Development Management)

As part of the scheme an application has been made to Natural Resources Wales to abstract water by means of a weir. They are holding a public consultation in the Waterloo Hotel in Betws y Coed on Thursday 12th November from 3-7pm.  Anyone is welcome to view the abstraction plans and ask questions at this event.  If you feel you can attend, then please do, and help us prevent the destruction of such and important area.

You could also sign a petition.  This petition, which gained over 3000 signatures in 10 days, can be accessed using the link below. – a shortened version for sharing can be used –

There is also a second petition for signatories without a UK postcode which can be found below.
In addition, you can use social media to ask questions to either NRW and / or the National Park:
Tweet @NatResWales – Natural Resources Wales

Tweet @VisitSnowdonia – Snowdonia National Park Authority

Facebook Natural Resources Wales

Finally, you can download and print out a poster to help raise awareness of the scheme in your place of work.

Save the Conwy Poster – PDF Download


Thank you for taking the time to read through this information. If you want to get in touch the best ways are through Facebook “Save the Conwy” and Twitter @SaveTheConwy

What you can do now.

By | Campaigns, Save the Conwy, Uncategorised | No Comments

Following publication of the Planning Officer’s recommendation to approve the RWE scheme complaints were made  to the Snowdonia National Park (SNPA) over the content of the Planning Officer’s report. The Park has now agreed to receive new submissions by the 13th November.

What you can do now.

If you have already written an objection letter

Have a look through our comments on the Planning Officer’s report below. If you do not feel your objection has been adequately considered email the SNPA and tell them so, attach your original objection letter to the email .

You can use the letter template below , please remember to add your own concerns,

Second objection template

If you have not previously objected to the scheme

Now is your chance. Our information on making a planning objection is here:

You can use the template letter below to get started, write about the parts of the project that concern you the most. Is it the environmental impact or the loss of kayaking, are you a local business owner concerned about the impact on tourism ?

New objection template

These emails or letters all need to go to Aled Lloyd (Head of Development Management)

Please if you haven’t yet sign the petition launched by the Snowdonia Society here:

Conwy Falls in the winter by Peter Glyn Firth

Conwy Falls in the winter by Peter Glyn Firth

Planning Officers Recommendations

By | Campaigns, Save the Conwy, Uncategorised | No Comments

Comment on Planning Officer’s report:

After careful consideration Save the Conwy feels the Planning Officers report does not adequately investigate the planning application and presents its report with apparent bias. We feel it does not give the Planning Committee enough information to make a well informed decision.

The report can be found here:

Our comments on the report are listed below:

In listing permanent features of the development 2 major factors are missed.

  1. A large 100m long impoundment of water upstream of the intake weir.
  2. A significant reduction of flow of water through the Fairy Glen.

Non-statutory/interest groups listed

Only 3 groups have been listed here, despite many other groups listed as being consulted further up the document.

No mention of:

Strong objection by Canoe Wales – governing body for paddle sport in Wales.

Strong objection by Snowdonia Active

Objection by North Wales Wildlife Trust

Objection by Betws y Coed Anglers Club / Gwydyr Fishery – owners of the fishing rights affected by this scheme.

The objection of a campaign group, Save the Conwy, with over 2500 followers who have been engaged with the developer and affected groups from the outset .

The language surrounding the public comments shows bias.

Over 650 individual letters expressing concern.

Should this not be objecting , my personal letter and that of Save the Conwy strongly objected within the frame work of the planning policy of the national park, it did not merely express concern. To say the objectors fall into certain groups; anglers, kayakers and local businesses is also untrue and aims to portray them as self-interested. Personally my objection and that of Save the Conwy was broad based. This also totally ignored the 351 objection that came through the Woodland trust’s supporters that are presumably concentrated on environmental factors.

The statement

32 letter of support for the scheme have been received who have generally highlighted the benefits of hydro eclectic schemes of this nature, being clean, renewable energy source with long term benefits.

Shows the Planning Officer already holds the opinion that this scheme will provide long-term benefits, this is meant to be what he is impartially assessing.

The benefits of the scheme shown as

The benefits of an HEP scheme of this nature (5MW) are quoted as an average generation of electricity up to 15,000 Megawatt Hours, annual average carbon dioxide offsetting of up to 6,450 tonnes and up to an equivalent of 3177 domestic homes supplied by the electricity generated.

This shows average power production over the year and then claims the equivalent of 3177 homes supplied forgetting that the figure is an average and for 35% of the year no power is produced. The main problem with these schemes is the irregularity of supply and this is not considered here at all.


It is considered that the environmental and visual effects can be adequately managed and mitigated against through rigorous conditions during the construction phase and post construction. A position that is backed up by the responses from statutory consultees who have not raised objections to the proposed scheme. It is considered that sufficient powers are in position between the various agencies including the National Park Authority to ensure no long term harm to matters of importance.

Is this true? The form of / method for enforcing these conditions should be spelled out before permission is granted. Does recent experience with projects such as this back up this claim?

Other areas of concern:

Visual impact of the weir: your officers have expressed concern over the visual impact of the weir construction in the long term

Why only concerned by the visual impact of the weir. Save the Conwy submitted an experts report to planning concerned with the safety of the weir design shown in the plans. This was with regards to both its design and position.

Visual impact on Rhaeadr y Graig lwyd (Conwy falls) the extraction regime will ensure that the falls will remain a visually impressive feature. The exact nature of the extraction regime is yet to be considered, this will be done as a part of the extraction licence application with NRW. If not considered appropriate the licence will be denied.

Conwy falls will no doubt remain impressive, but obviously less impressive. The concern for ensuring this is then passed to NRW to consider after planning permission has been granted; surely this must also be the SNPA’s concern.

Only a very small part of the development site falls within an area that has been included in the inventory of ancient woodlands………..

…… However, the application does show extensive compensatory native broadleaf planting extending to approximately 2.5 acres.

New planting is not considered compensatory for loss of any (however small) amount of ancient woodland. New trees are by their very nature not ancient and nor will they become so with in the life span of the proposed hydroscheme.

A detailed assessment of the effects of vehicular movements in association with this proposal has been undertaken.

But no traffic management plan has been submitted. In fact the Welsh Highways Agency response to the application although not objecting in principle lists an enormous amount of information missing from the application that must be in place before development begins. This surely should be in place before planning permission is granted.

Based on survey work and vehicle counts it is predicted that this proposed development will result in an increase in overall traffic movements in the order of 2.6% for the A470, 0.59% for the A5 and 2.59% for the B4406. There will inevitably be peaks and troughs in vehicular movements depending on on-site development phase activities

The traffic aspect of the EIA has obviously not been studied in any detail or is being deliberately presented in the best possible light. Suggesting there will be peaks and troughs is correct. Up to a peak increase of 144% on the A470 (data taken from EIA Vol 1 Table 11-11).

Also an increase in overall traffic flow is very different from an increase in HGV traffic. Taking data from the B4406 as an example, based on August traffic flows there would be a 35% increase in HGVs. Based on October traffic flows this would rise to a 42% increase in HGVs (data taken from EIA Vol 2 Pt 2 – Tables 5.10 & 7.1).

The officer has also not picked up on the fact that 3 out of the 9 traffic surveys were carried out on an August bank holiday to give a higher baseline figure for traffic increase to be measured against.

There is also no consideration of traffic stoppages that will be required .

‘The Welsh Government has indicated that should the tunnel be constructed using ‘drill and blast’ methods there may need to be temporary road closures of up to 20 minutes to safe guard road users.’ (EIA Vol 2 Pt 2 – 8.10.2)


Recreational concerns:

The concerns of the angling fraternity and the use of the river by kayakers in terms of the water level in the depleted reach of Afon Conwy will be a matter that is raised at an appropriate time when the extraction regime is considered by NRW.

Concerns of the 2 biggest user groups of the affected area, who arguably will also be the 2 groups most affected have been passed over for consideration after planning permission has been granted. Recreational needs cannot be fully resolved by NRW during the abstraction licence process (abstraction licences do not normally consider recreational needs and there has been no evidence of this in similar scheme built in Scotland). Recreational needs must be the concern of the SNPA.

  • The opportunity for people to understand and enjoy the National Park actively, whilst maintaining areas of tranquillity and solitude, thus promoting aspects of health and wellbeing.

From the SNPA development plan.

A recent RWE hydroscheme on the Braan in Scotland was rejected by planners until the scheme was altered (outlet moved upstream) to meet the needs of recreational users.

It is considered that this proposal does not conflict with Eryri Local Development Plan policies

As I see it the proposal contradicts the plan multiple times mostly with regards to

3.19 Whilst large-scale energy power generation projects are incompatible with National Park status an assessment of renewable energy in Snowdonia considered that 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 needs. These included small-scale hydro, domestic wind turbines, photovoltaics, biomass and landfill gas.

In its effects on both a fragile ecosystem and the local community the scale of this project is not small. The power produced is also not intended for “domestic or community needs “as Snowdonia is already a net power exporter and the power is to be sold to the grid by a multinational power company.


On balance it is considered that the potential benefits in approving such an HEP scheme of this nature are not outweighed by the disbenefits of the scheme. The disbenefits are considered not to be long term and can adequately be mitigated against through conditions. In addition any short term disbenefits during the construction phase can also be managed to minimise disruption and harm to matters of environmental concern.

RWE’s own EIA submitted to the SNPA lists the benefits of the scheme as

‘minor contribution towards meeting the government’s regional and national targets for renewable energy.’ (EIA Vol 1 – 13.7.2).


‘The residual effects associated with the construction, operation and decommissioning phases of the Development have been identified as being overall negligible or of minor adverse significance with regards to socio-economic, land use and recreation effects. Whilst the Development will introduce a potential £12million project into the local area, and although the Applicant has historically demonstrated a commitment to procuring local services on projects through supply chain initiatives, there is uncertainty as to what proportion of the overall project costs would be spent in the local economy and therefore what level of benefits would arise.’ (EIA Vol 1 – 13.8.1)

With the obvious downsides of:

Loss of a very important recreational resource.

Risk of damage to unique and irreplaceable habitat.

Major disruption to local community and businesses.

I fail to see how this conclusion has been reached.

The Planning Officers report appears to have not fully investigated all aspects of the application (particularly that involved with construction traffic). Left a large number of concerns to be dealt with after planning permission has been granted (such as effect on kayaking and fisheries). Not fully considered expert opinion sent in objection letters (such as the Woodland Trust’s and Snowdonia Society’s concern over environmental damage and Save the Conwy expert’s information with regards to the danger posed by a new weir).

The Planning Officers report shows either a lack of thoroughness and use of a critical eye when assessing the application or a bias in favour of schemes of this nature.

NOTE: text in red is taken from the planning officer’s report, text in blue from the Snowdonia National Park Development Plan. 

Woodland Trust / Coed Cadw

By | Campaigns, Save the Conwy, Uncategorised | No Comments

The Woodland Trust have sent a strongly worded objection to the proposed hydro scheme, as the Uk’s leading woodland conservation charity their objection is both well informed and carries enormous weight. Save the Conwy is very greatfull for both the objection letter and the media exposure




Some excerpts from the Woodland Trust’s objection:

The Trust finds this to be very concerning and highlights the lack of consideration given to ancient woodland by the applicant, despite stating the woodland will be subject to negative impacts. Throughout the planning application’s available documentation the applicant has largely failed to fully consider the irreversible damage and loss to ancient woodland that would occur as a result of this development.

The Trust is in favour of green, renewable energy and in principle isn’t against hydroelectric power schemes. However, we believe that any green energy project that results in the destruction of such a precious and irreplaceable habitat as ancient woodland could never truly be considered as ‘green’.

The Woodland Trust strongly objects to the planning application. We believe this site to be of importance on both a county and national level. The direct loss and damage to ancient woodland and veteran trees in a SSSI designated area is highly inappropriate and entirely unacceptable. 

Support their campaign here : steele

Where we are now.

By | Campaigns, Save the Conwy, Uncategorised | No Comments

Just an update on where we are up to. The Community Councils have all met to discuss the planning application and a member of Save the Conwy along with concerned residents have given their views at them. Thanks to all that attended and emailed their views.

We still need you to email or post your personal objects to the planning application. This is the most important thing you can do, and please spread the word to anyone who you think may be concerned. Perhaps you want to object on behalf of your buisness, canoe club, fishing club, photography group?

Please use this template letterhead and write your personal response underneath.

The Snowdonia National Park have indicated they will accept objections sent next week but no later.


A view of RWE work at Dolgarrog 2013.

Community Council Meetings

By | Campaigns, Save the Conwy, Uncategorised | No Comments

Save the Conwy was pleased to attend the Betws y Coed community council meeting last night. Concerned local residents and business owners were also present. It was a great place to meet people directly affected by the proposal and the council was attentive and sympathetic to the community’s concerns.

Penmachno and Dolwyddelan council are meeting Thursday 14th May. If you are a resident of these communities please email them your views and attend the meeting if possible.

If you are from Penmachno the meeting is at 7:30pm Salem Chapel Vestry email:

If you are from Dolwyddelan the meeting is at 7pm in the community centre email:


Contact your Community Council

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The planning proposal will be discussed by both Betws y Coed and Penmachno community councils this week. If you live in either of these areas it would be well worth emailing them to let them know your view.

If you are from Betws y Coed email: (and please copy in Sian Godbert Councillor

If you are from Penmachno email:

Betws y Coed council are meeting on Monday evening so get those emails off soon.

Individual Planning Objections

By | Campaigns, Save the Conwy, Uncategorised | 3 Comments


Now is the time to get your planning objection in.

The planning authority dealing with the hydro scheme is the Snowdonia National Park . Speaking to the planning officer Mr Richard Thomas he suggested the most effective form of objection would come from individual planning objections from all those concerned via either letter, fax or email.

Please include your name and address.

Perhaps if you are a member of a fishing club, canoe club, walking club , photography society or other group you could send one objection which all members could sign and add their signatures to.

A template letter head including the address and planning ref and description is provided.

planning objection template

What to include:

Have a look at the planning application and the Environmental Impact Assessment EIA. They can be found here:

Remember the EIA is not an independent document. It is written to justify the scheme by a company who may bid to be main contractor.

Think about what is important to you, the community, the environment and the national park. Some topics you might want to cover

The National Park is the wrong place for a scheme of this size:

The Snowdonia National Park set out criteria for new developments in their development plan


The section on energy states

3.19 Whilst large-scale energy power generation projects are incompatible with National Park status an assessment of renewable energy in Snowdonia considered that 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 needs. These included small-scale hydro, domestic wind turbines, photovoltaics, biomass and landfill gas.

Although the power produced by the scheme is low, set at 5MW to avoid immediate dismissal by the national park and to allow it to take advantage of very generous FIT payments meant for households and farms. The damage and infrastructure is the same as that for a much bigger scheme. A £13 million pound project by a foreign owned power giant is not a “small-scale renewable energy developments to meet domestic or community needs”. Snowdonia’s power needs are already met by the existing 82MW of installed hydro making Snowdonia a net exporter of renewable power.  For the same document:

The 20 or so hydro power stations which are located in, or use water from, Snowdonia have a combined total installed capacity of some 82 Megawatts (MW). This is far in excess of local demand and results in the area being a net exporter of electricity.

All power produced is therefore to full fill needs outside of the park, not for “domestic or community needs”.

-Damage to the environment:

This will occur both during operation and construction.

See this link for a description of the special nature of the area to be affected, it includes a SSSI and ancient woodland, it sits within a National Park and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.–wildlife/protecting-our-landscape/special-landscapes–sites/protected-landscapes-and-sites/sssis/sssi-sites/fairy-glen-woods.aspx

-Loss of recreation:

Details regarding the damage to kayaking can be seen here

The river is one of the major Salmon spawning rivers in Wales / the UK to risk damage to such an environment through reduced reach and the insertion of manmade barriers is absurd. Fishing is a major recreational pass time and creator of income for the local area , rivers on which it depends either directly or indirectly need protection.

-Damage caused to local communities during construction:

This will be the one of the largest private construction projects ever to have been built within the National Park.The scale of disturbance and damage to local communities during the construction period will be immense. Construction is proposed to last 18 to 24 months but looking at RWEs record on the Dolgarrog refurbishment it is certain to be longer. Our Planning Engineer estimates that digging the tunnel section alone will require the removal of over 6300 m3 of rock, equivalent to 1400 18 wheeler lorry journeys on one of the narrowest sections of the A5. This section of the A5 is used by visitors from England to visit Snowdonia and the upper works will occur at the access junction to the community of Penmachno. With large depot areas at the top and the bottom of the Fairy Glen the area will become a construction site.  How many local businesses reliant on tourism can survive 2 years of disruption?

-Limited Benefit:

There are few perceived upsides to this scheme. The level of power produced is small and variable. Using RWEs own figures the peak production of 5MW is equivalent to less than 2 modern large wind turbines and the scheme will only produce this for a maximum of 54 days a year. Due to the schemes reliance of river levels for an estimated 128 days it will produce nothing at all. It is difficult to justify the environmental cost of this scheme even in relation to fossil fuel power stations. See

After the construction is finished (around 2 years) no employment is likely to be created by the scheme for the rest of its existence (the RWE scheme in Dolgarrog has run for around 90 years) and it will be run remotely from an existing RWE control center.

RWE plan around 100m of new path to enhance the area and a short section of existing path will upgraded to provide disabled access. However an existing footpath will be used as a construction road during the building of the scheme and the area around the construction site will be closed to walkers during the construction period.


Finally get something sent, by the beginning of next week if possible, it doesn’t matter how long or how short. I was told by the planning officer that if no one objects they think no one in concerned. Let them know your views


Feedback from Canoe Wales

By | Campaigns, Save the Conwy, Uncategorised | 4 Comments

Save the Conwy has had some feed back from Canoe Wales. They have set up a dedicated email account for your responses : . Don’t worry if you have sent to the old address they will continue to get forwarded.

RWE assert that the preservation of the Fairy Glen is only of interest to a handful of “expert kayakers” . So tell Canoe Wales a bit about yourself. Are you an expert or just a normal guy/girl searching for a bit of adventure. Are you local or does the Conwy provide a draw for you to travel to North Wales. Do you paddle on the Conwy regularly , occasionally , or never but still believe this classic is worthy of protection.

Remember time is ticking, the window for object is short , please try to get your emails of by the beginning of next week.