The Afon Las Hydro Scheme is a small scheme built in a beautiful part of the Llanberis Pass, one of the most iconic mountain passes in the UK. Part of the scheme lies within a SAC / SSSI . The SAC(Special Area of Conservation) status should afford this site one of the highest levels of environmental protection, it’s general location should afford it the highest level of landscape protection. In Save the Conwy’s opinion sites like this should be protected from all development but that however is not the point of this piece.
The scheme was applied for in April 2014 with North Wales Hydro Power Ltd as the contractor. A detailed CMS (construction method statement) was included in the application including many points designed to protect the site such as; heli-dropping all materials to the top, hand cutting and air digging the trench around trees and the felling of only 5 trees during the construction. The application was handled by guess who? That’s right Richard Thomas, our favourite planning officer, the one who original recommended the Conwy Falls scheme for approval. The scheme was rubber-stamped, it wasn’t even sent for the planning committee to consider. NRW also granted the abstraction licence.
Work started and evidently continued unchecked (despite the sensitive nature of the location) with no oversight from either NRW or SNPA . Then on the 4th of May a pollution incident occurred, machinery driving through the stream bed had diverted the flow down the access track leading to silt flooding down the stream, the Nant Peris and all the way to Llyn Padarn. After many complaints to the SNPA instigated by the Snowdonia Society a stop notice was eventually handed out.
Silt run-off causing pollution to the Nant Peris and Llyn Padarn.
The developer has now applied for a change in the planning conditions. The application makes for grim reading. It shows the original scheme was applied for with a completely undeliverable CMS that the developer had no intention of following. One that was built in the cheapest and easiest way possible ignoring environmental damage and the conditions under which it was granted. If the pollution incident had not occurred this total disregard for the environment and the SNPA would have continued until the project was completed.
The altered CMS that is now being applied for can be seen here:
To summarise it’s statements:
- We cut down loads of trees (25) in and around the SAC/SSSI that we weren’t allowed to, so are now are applying for permission to do that.
- We applied originally to helicopter all the stuff to the top of the site but that was going to be really expensive so we built an access road through the SAC/SSSI that we weren’t allowed to so are applying for permission to do that.
- We applied originally to hand dig the trench through woodland to avoid damage to tree roots but that was going to be reeeeeally hard work so we are applying for permission to excavate the trench with machinery now. Oh by the way we have already done that as well.
In river works.
Planning application is here:
The amendment is open to objections for the next 2 weeks or so. Please open the link above, click on the comments tab on the planning website and object to this re-application.
The right thing to do would be fine the developer, stop the works, remove any infrastructure already in-place and as best as possible restore the site. Anything else gives developers a green light to completely ignore planning conditions and do as they will. Anything else shows the SNPA to be impotent to it’s ability to control development in the truly special places under it’s care.
Just imagine if RWE felt it had a free reign to construct the Conwy Falls scheme in the cheapest possible way and just apply in retrospect for any damage done.