Environmental watchdog says ‘no current concerns’ after Glen Etive silt claim

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Environmental watchdog bosses say they have no current concerns regarding any ‘significant’ environmental damage being caused following reports of silt in the river from a new hydro scheme at Alt Charnan in Glen Etive.

The Allt Charnan is one of seven ‘run of river’ hydro schemes in Glen Etive for which developer Dickins Hydro Resources Ltd received approval from Highland Council planners almost three years ago, and is one of the four schemes located in plantation forestry on the west side of the glen.

The scheme is what is known as a ‘run of river’ scheme, whereby a small dam creates a weir pond higher up the burn, feeding piped water into a lower turbine house.

Two days before Christmas, the parkswatchscotland website and blog carried a report -accompanied by photographs supplied by local resident, John Sinclair – appearing to show the river at Allt Charnan coloured brown.

Parkswatchscotland, authored by conservation campaigner Nick Kempe, states: ‘A standard condition now for all developments is that mud and silt should not be allowed to enter our river systems.’

And referring to the hydro scheme, the blog continues: ‘The map of the development suggests the silt could not have come from anywhere except the intake area.’

Mr Sinclair reported his concerns about the possible silt problem to both Highland Council and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Parkswatchscotland adds: ‘So far, apparently, only SEPA has taken any interest but as yet there has been no sign of remedial or enforcement action.

‘Unfortunately, even where individual staff in our public authorities are concerned about planning conditions being breached, they have their hands tied because of the prevailing ethos which precludes enforcement action.

‘Our public authorities ostensible policy commitment to protect Scotland’s rivers becomes greenwash when they go brown and nothing happens.’

Parkswatchscotland goes on to flag up what it says is the lack of information on the local authority’s planning portal.

‘There were supposed to be weekly reports on the Allt Charnan scheme from an Ecological Clerk of Works, paid for by the developer,’ states parkswatchscotland.

‘The last one was over eight months ago, although whether this is because they have not been produced or because Highland Council has failed to publish them is not clear.

‘The purpose of appointing Ecological Clerks of Works is to prevent environmental damage – such as rivers being filled with silt.

‘Where such developments do go ahead, they should abide by the highest standards and our public authorities should ensure that happens.

‘I hope that by helping to publicise what is going on, our public authorities may be prompted to act.’

However, asked to comment, a SEPA spokesperson told the Lochaber Times: ‘We received a report from a member of the public on December 23 regarding silt in the Allt Charnan. Staff are investigating and we have no current concerns regarding any significant environmental damage.’

A council spokesman added: ‘The council is aware that there has been an issue with regard to silt affecting the watercourse at the Allt Charnan scheme.

‘The site is being continually monitored by the Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) who is working with SEPA to address this.

‘The ECoW continues to submit the weekly progress reports as required by the Construction Environmental Management Plan. There has been a delay in uploading these to the electronic case file.’