FRESH fears were raised today that revised plans for a hydro power scheme could take the “rumble” out of Rumbling Bridge, the iconic Perthshire beauty spot immortalised by celebrated Pre-Raphaelite painter Sir John Everett Millais.
RWE Npower Renewables has submitted new proposals for a run of river scheme on the River Braan after a previous application was rejected following protests that the project would destroy Scotland’s “Mad Mile” - a deep gorge between the spectacular Rumbling Bridge falls and the waterfall at The Hermitage and one of the most exhilarating and challenging stretches of white water in the country.
The new scheme submitted by the green energy company affects a much shorter stretch of river which will return all abstracted water below the Rumbling Bridge falls, near where canoeists and kayakers enter the water.
But opponents to the controversial scheme claim the revised plans will still affect the water flow on the river and,. in effect, “take the rumble out of Rumbling Bridge.”
And they are being backed by Richard Ashrowan, one of Scotland’s leading moving image and video artists, who has warned Perth and Kinross Council that the run of river scheme could “irrevocably” damage the iconic scene captured on canvas by Millais in the 1870s.
He states in a letter of the protest the council: “This historic place was the site at which J.E Millais painted one of his most important landscape works ‘The Sound of Many Waters’ - called by the Tate ‘a masterpiece of observation and large-scale ambition.’
“It is one of the most important landscape paintings of the pre-Raphaelite era. The site has been unchanged since he painted it, and any disturbance to the water flow would irrevocably alter this scene. Many artists, including myself, have made work in homage to the site and Millais’ depiction of it. It would be a tragedy if it were lost.”
Local angler Raymond Simpson, from Dunkeld, has also voiced his concerns about the impact of the scheme on the flow of water in the river and the pools above and below Rumbling Bridge where locals and tourists regularly swim in the summer.
He said: “I have looked at the new proposal and, although it is scaled down, it will still abstract water from the Braan above the swimming pools at Rumbling Bridge, thereby compromising this public amenity, adversely affecting water quality and taking the rumble out of Rumbling Bridge.”
Mr Simpson continued: “Loss of cultural; amenity is possibly the most important issue. The swimming pools above and immediately below Rumbling Bridge are extremely popular in the summer months. They even feature on the popular Outdoor Swimming website.”
And he added: “Millais’ view, upstream from Rambling Bridge, is an iconic image which has been used on local products and tourist pamphlets. This view would be diminished by the considerable loss of water passing under the bridge. In effect, the bridge would no longer rumble.”
A spokesman for the RWE Npower Renewables said the company had revised its proposal for the River Braan hydroelectric scheme following concerns on impacts to the water environment and the recreational interests of the area, raised during the original planning process.
He said: “The new proposals affect a much shorter stretch of river and include a tunnelled tailrace which will return all abstracted water just downstream of the Rumbling Bridge falls, near where canoeists enter the water. The previous proposal was to abstract further upstream from this and to return the water 1.5 kilometres further down from Rumbling Bridge.”
The proposed scheme will have a capacity of up to two megawatts, generating enough electricity to power 1,500 homes.The spokesman said: “Depending upon the planning process we anticipate that the scheme will commence construction in early 2014 and will take about 18 months to complete.”
The company’s planning statement states|: The operation of the proposed scheme will result in depleted mid-range flows between the intake and tailrace (a 420m stretch of the River Braan). This impact is currently being assessed by SEPA.
“The hydrology and landscape and visual assessment demonstrate that there will be a limited impact on the views of water over the Rumbling Bridge falls. The conclusions indicate that the proposed scheme has proposed mitigation measures to reduce the risk involved in the hydrological impacts as far as practicable and the nature of a hydro scheme involves some unavoidable risk relating to the construction in-river and changing the water flow.”
The report adds: “The proposed scheme is unlikely to have any moderate or major and hence significant adverse effects upon any recreational activities within the study area. The applicant’s consultation with the Scottish Canoe Association (SCA), a key stakeholder and previous objector to the original proposals, has shown that the SCA are content with the revised proposals, as the main stretch of interest to canoeists is no longer affected.”