Save the Conwy

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Dan Yates.
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Save the Conwy

Post by Dan Yates. » Wed Jun 15, 2016 12:06 am

Can we trust the National Trust?

Did you know the National Trust are major stake holders in the proposed RWE Afon Conwy hydro scheme? We are asking all our followers to write to the Trust and ask 2 things:

Please withdraw your support for RWE’s Conwy Falls hydro scheme.

Please consult with your members and other users of the Snowdonia National Park before continuing with your hydro building policy.


How to do this and template letters on our website:
https://savetheconwy.com/2016/06/13/can ... nal-trust/

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RichA
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by RichA » Wed Jun 15, 2016 1:49 pm

Worrying. Can we email as opposed to posting letters?

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Chalky723 » Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:01 pm

The National Trust spend a lot of time & money keeping people off of huge swathes of the nation under the pretext of "protecting it for the nation", I'm not surprised that they're doing this for rivers too....

C
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Dan Yates.
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Dan Yates. » Thu Jun 16, 2016 7:38 am

Cheers for the replies. RichA you can obviously email no problem the email addresses are on the letterheads. Personally I feel a physical letter with your signature always has more impact but would rather it was emailed than not sent at all. Don't forget you can edit the letters or even write a fresh one to reflect your own concerns

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Save the Conwy

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Poke » Thu Jun 16, 2016 8:20 am

Old school letters written and posted.
Hope it's of use!
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RichA
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by RichA » Thu Jun 16, 2016 1:16 pm

Done. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Franky » Thu Jun 16, 2016 2:27 pm

Depressing but hardly a surprise. It's a long while since the National Trust behaved like anything other than a profit-making organisation. (I assume it *doesn't* make a profit, otherwise how could it be a charity?)

I thought the point of national parks was to act as a statutory brake on development within their borders?

From http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/student ... ionalparks:
The Environment Act 1995 revised the original legislation and set out two statutory purposes for national parks in England and Wales:

Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage
Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of national parks by the public

When national parks carry out these purposes they also have the duty to:

Seek to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the national parks
I know that several national parks have large reservoirs (Haweswater, Ladybower) in their borders, but these reservoirs already existed when the parks were created in the 1950s. The whole point of the national parks was to avoid continuing uncontrolled exploitation of vulnerable areas of natural beauty.

I'm writing here not as a paddler (the damming of a single river doesn't affect my paddling habits as I live in the south-east), but as someone concerned that so many of our institutions are reneging on their commitments to aims other than making money.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Chalky723 » Thu Jun 16, 2016 3:16 pm

Done, had to blow the dust off the envelopes, but they're in the post!!

C
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RichA
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by RichA » Thu Jun 16, 2016 8:14 pm

Emails sent to both people earlier today. I got a response from Elizabeth Wagstaff on behalf of Justin Albert this evening. Did anyone else get one? I used the template letters with a few minor additions. The response was a two page letter, with one particular bit of note:
Our specific involvement since 2012 has been in developing the design of the weir on NT land and influencing the design of the turbine and outfall on neighbouring land. More recently we have also been advising on the protection of specific trees. This is not a National Trust project but we feel our involvement so far has allowed us to influence the design and impact of the construction in a way that we believe has delivered a better, more environmentally sustainable and aesthetically beneficial proposal.

From a landscape point of view our Architectural Panel studied the site and proposals, and some elements of its feedback to the RWE consultation have resulted in changes and improvements to the proposed design. We have recognised that standing aside from or opposing the scheme would not have stopped its development, and that it would have been simply moved further downstream to an area where we believe it would have a more damaging aesthetic and ecological impact. At present we have not seen any evidence that our actions or decisions in this respect have been wrong.
My emphasis.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Dan Yates. » Fri Jun 17, 2016 8:22 am

Yep

STC got that one as well to our longer letter, the template letters were a shortened version of our full submission. We are formulating a response, the fact of being able to move the intact downstream is not really true, they could do it and it would be more damaging as stated in the letter but it would also be prohibitively more expensive and unlikely to be passed. It would also reduce the "head" so produce a lower profit. I am under the opinion that Justin Albert although the head man only has the facts as far as he has been told by those working on this project, STC will try to politely correct him on a few points. It is probably better that everybody doesn't write again as it will make our new letter , when it goes, less likely to be read.


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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by morsey » Sun Jul 31, 2016 9:44 am

A short film for Save the Conwy campaign.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by chriscw » Tue Aug 02, 2016 2:29 pm

Can anyone give me a list of hydro electric schemes that we Canoeists and Kayakers do not oppose? I am not commenting on the merits of this particular one merely asking the general question.
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by mostly_upsidedown » Tue Aug 02, 2016 4:22 pm

Canoeing/kayaking is the only valid use of rivers and we are morally superior. We therefore oppose all hydroelectric schemes. Climate change? Yeah, whatever…

We will also oppose all hydro schemes abroad, and we will burn huge amounts of carbon flying to remote rivers in order to paddle them before they are ‘lost’. No matter that people in developing countries have no electricity, our leisure is more important.

Tryweryn? Washburn? Every single weir that we play on? Yeah, we have a blind spot about the potential for river modifications to work in our favour.

The developer of the Conwy scheme attempted to engage with the kayaking community and other user groups in order to get data on what river levels were desirable for various leisure activities. They were insulted and rebuffed.

Rant over.

Changes in financial incentives/tariffs and a relative lack of suitable sites mean that fewer hydro schemes are likely to come through the development process in the future. But it would be nice if we could engage positively and consider the bigger picture. If developers understand what the user requirements are, they will accommodate them wherever possible and everybody wins. Shouldn't need to remind the kayaking community of this, but in the case of weirs/fish passes the consequences of not discussing our needs with scheme engineers could lead to structures that recirculate and form potentially fatal stoppers.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Poke » Tue Aug 02, 2016 4:33 pm

chriscw wrote:Can anyone give me a list of hydro electric schemes that we Canoeists and Kayakers do not oppose? I am not commenting on the merits of this particular one merely asking the general question.
Two recent ones that I can think of are the Mawdach one, and the Ogwyn one. I certainly saw a bunch of knee-jerk reaction about the Mawdach one on Facebook, but once the nuances of the scheme had been pointed out*, people seemed to be rather more accepting.

The equivalent on the Conwy would be around Conwy falls itself - an Archimedes screw or similar going via the pre-existing fish pass. Infinitely less damaging to both environmental and tourism, and still ticking the governments 'green' boxes.

*Short scheme, small volumes, through an an area that has already seen significant historical modification, with minimal impact on kayakers.
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Adrian Cooper » Tue Aug 02, 2016 5:11 pm

chriscw wrote:Can anyone give me a list of hydro electric schemes that we Canoeists and Kayakers do not oppose? I am not commenting on the merits of this particular one merely asking the general question.

http://www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/foru ... hy#p769051

This discussion around an Orchy Trib whilst not getting a seal of approval was not roundly condemned.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by stonercanoe » Tue Aug 02, 2016 8:06 pm

Hydro scheme on the Monnow. Archimedes screw, paddled past it a few times, causes no problem to navigation.
Don't remember being consulted though! It is constructed off an existing massive weir that used to power a water mill.
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Dan Yates. » Tue Aug 02, 2016 9:09 pm

Save the Conwy can list amongst others the Ynni Ogwen, Ynni Padern, Mawddach scheme and the scheme on the river down from Aber falls as positive hydro schemes. However a better way to word it is that the Conwy scheme is the only one being proposed in England or Wales (out of a large number) that is currently being actively objected to by kayakers. As can be seen from the film it is far from just kayakers objecting and the impact this scheme will have in reducing climate change is so insignificant it cannot warrant the damage to the local environment.

I have no idea where the view that kayakers have not engaged with the developers comes from. Save the Conwy has met with the lead engineer Billy Langley on many occasions and although we disagree with him completely the relationship has always been polite and even friendly. The developer has been informed in detail as to the flow rates for kayaking but all that has been offered is 8 hrs reduced abstraction (still at a rate to high to allow kayaking) on 6 weekends during the summer (when the river is unlikely to be going anyway).

So mostly-upside-down i don,t know where you get your information from on the way you feel the campaign is being conducted or where you are from or even what your name is but if you have any questions or concerns about what Save the Conwy is doing please DM us on our facebook page and we will endeavour to answer them.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Simon » Wed Aug 03, 2016 8:41 am

Just by chance I was working with Billy Langley (the Conway lead engineer) on a different hydro scheme in Scotland, and we had a chance to chat about the Conway. Billy is quite a reasonable guy and happy to inform himself about kayaking and negotiate. The problem he had was who does he speak to? Who represents kayakers?

There are organised official bodies like the WCA. There may be local kayak clubs. There may be pressure groups and campaign groups set up for individual issues like "Save the Conway". And there will be many individual boaters with their own views on the matter. But do any of these groups have the right, or the ability, to speak and negotiate on behalf of all boaters?

We all know that many boaters reject the authority of national governing bodies, let alone clubs or pressure groups, to speak on their behalf. Even if individual boaters accept that such groups may be helpful and dong a good job, the boaters are often poorly informed about the details of what is going on. So we end up with an amorphous mass of individuals and groups all doing their own thing - some doing very useful stuff, some less so. And all these groups and individuals are often uninformed about the activities of the others, and often disagree with them in detail.

Billy had assumed that there would be some official body he could speak to, to try to reach mutually beneficial arrangements. But that was not the case. When I explained the canoeing culture to Billy he understood it and had some sympathy with it. He is a bit of a radical himself. But that does not solve the problem. People like Billy want and need to negotiate with kayakers, but when they actually try to do so they find it virtually impossible because there is no single organised group to negotiate with, and no single agreed canoeists view on how to deal with hydro schemes.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Dan Yates. » Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:43 pm

Billy is very keen to negotiate with kayakers. Unless it involves moving the position of the intake, the position of the outtake or any significant change in the amount of water taken (ie significant enough to make any difference in kayaking). RWE love to be able to say they have consulted with kayakers, residents, environment groups etc but have not made a single change in proposed design or operation as a result. Most groups involved in the Conwy scheme gave up on consultation with RWE after final plans had been submitted and when it became clear they were willing to make no real concessions and they were consulting only to fulfill their obligation to and as some form of PR exercise.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by morsey » Wed Aug 03, 2016 1:57 pm

Simon wrote:People like Billy want and need to negotiate with kayakers, but when they actually try to do so they find it virtually impossible because there is no single organised group to negotiate with, and no single agreed canoeists view on how to deal with hydro schemes.
I understand Simon presenting the view for consideration of Billy's position, not aiming to shoot the messenger, but I am afraid that doesn't stack up as a viable for not properly negotiating. At best it's a smoke screen to absolve responsibility.

When a company attempts to place an engineering project in a sensitive location they have to expect consultation from many areas, to expect to have their work done for them with collated and collective views is a bit of a rich request. There are multiple groups representing canoeing and campaigns and project managers have to work with all of them, same as they have to work with county councils, regional councils, parish councils, National Parks planning, NRW, NT, RSPB, WT, etc...

Paying lip service and negotiating are different entities.


As a benchmark of where absolutely not to place a hydro scheme the Conwy is that demonstration.

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Simon
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Simon » Wed Aug 03, 2016 2:42 pm

Agreed Morsey,

I also explained to Billy that for many canoeists - including me - the Conway Falls and the Fairy Glen have a special, almost mythical, status. And for those people his attempt at a hydro scheme was a bit like seeking to put a wind turbine on top of Stonehenge.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by chriscw » Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:34 pm

Thanks for the replies to my earlier question about hydro schemes that paddlers have not objected to and that in some cases are now operational. I think it is useful to remind ourselves and others that we are not just g in a manger my river hands off people.

In this case abstraction is being mentioned as well as the hydro scheme. Does this mean that the plan includes removing water from the Conwy for other uses elsewhere of just taking it out at an upstream location, passing it through turbines and then returning it at some point further downstream.

I understand that if a river were dammed purely for a hydro scheme that once the header lake behind the dam were full then average flow would be unaffected although both peak flow and minimum flow could be greatly affected so perhaps rainy periods at certain times of year would not result in increased flow downstream of the scheme and therefore paddling days and the natural rhythm of the river would be affected even if no water was actually removed.

I found the film interesting but of course apart from potential damage during construction there did not appear to be much mention of the effects of the scheme on the river.
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Adrian Cooper » Thu Aug 04, 2016 2:53 pm


Dan Yates.
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Dan Yates. » Thu Aug 04, 2016 9:14 pm

To answer your question Chris the scheme will abstract water upstream of Conwy falls and pipe it some 2 kms around the falls and the Fairy Glen SSSI before returning it to the river. There is no real impoundment or header lake so river flows will be greatly effected, this is one of the 2 main environmental concerns of operation(rather than construction) the other being the physical barrier blocking sediment transfer and adding an extra barrier to migratory fish. Although it is not clear on the RWE website when you read the abstraction licence application they plan to remove up to 80% of the flow over a 0.5 cumec base level. So markedly reduced flow rates the majority of the year. 0.5cumecs is Q95 so the river only drops that low for 5% of the year. Obviously massive floods would be relatively unaffected percentage wise as well as the turbine will max out but again they are not common.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by chicklechives » Fri Aug 05, 2016 12:18 am

Sad fact is that it has nothing to do with the environment or generating electricity, it's just a subsidy harvesting scheme.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Simon » Fri Aug 05, 2016 9:58 am

"Sad fact is that it has nothing to do with the environment or generating electricity, it's just a subsidy harvesting scheme."

From what I have seen in Scotland I think you are partly right. A lot of the smaller projects are driven by landowners wanting to get a good return on some spare capital, and the subsidies are what drives their involvement. But this is not necessarily a bad thing. It can be seen as Government policy effectively using subsidies to promote the use of "green" technology rather than nuclear or coal etc. The environmental motivation is at a government, rather than a local level.

I think the issue is not whether these tings should be built. I think as many as possible should be built, and government subsidies to achieve that are fine. The issue is how to regulate them so that a good balance can be found between the economics of maximising power generation, and the need to protect recreation and conservation interests.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by Dan Yates. » Fri Aug 05, 2016 3:32 pm

I think whether these schemes are considered "green energy" can only be decided on a case by case basis. To give hydro a blanket "green" label is naive. It is low carbon but then nuclear is low carbon as well.

Before thinking that these schemes will have any impact on climate change or contribute in any meaning full way to power production you really need to look at the figures. Not including the large impoundment schemes in mid wales and Scotland the run of river schemes currently being built produce too little power too infrequently to be anything other than machines for turning river flow into cash.

The Conwy scheme is relatively large but it would take 2000 such schemes to produce the power of a single coal power station. Rainchasers list 200 odd sections of river, some larger and most smaller than the Fairy Glen section of the Conwy. You would have to dam everyone of them 10 times over before you could turn off a single fossil power station. Is that really worth it? You can argue that sensitively built community owned run of river schemes are a good way to rebalance the rural economy but in terms of overall power production and tackling climate change they are useless. 1 or 2 off shore wind turbines produce the same power as even a large run of river scheme at a fraction of the environmental impact, surely that puts some perspective on it.

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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by DaveBland » Fri Aug 05, 2016 4:33 pm

Ooo a bit of politics on a paddling forum. Whatever next.

Regardless of views of hydro it seems the issue with the Glen one is that it was considered valuable enough to put an SSSI on it to protect it, but then it's ok to ignore all that for a bit of cash/electric generation.
Making power always trashes something somewhere - it's inevitable. We should just make sure we don't trash the nice places.
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Re: Save the Conwy

Post by chriscw » Mon Aug 08, 2016 4:12 pm

Thanks for answering my question so basically they are using 1 and a half miles of pipeline to get the header needed to run a turbine thereby more or less emptying the river and of course this explains the concern about construction in the SSI because I'm guessing that this is where the pipeline will be.

There are better green power ideas like Nuclear power stations, the modern smaller reactors not behemoths like Hinkley point. Also of course using existing weirs on the Thames and other rivers especially where the weir in question has little safe play potential at the moment.

Government subsidy rules would appear to need considerable re drafting.
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