Staff blog: revisiting Maldie Burn

Helen McDade, the Trust's Head of Policy, reflects on a visit to look at a completed hydro scheme in Sutherland

Maldie burn powerhouse and loch glendhu detail

The Trust works towards improved protection of wild places and natural landscapes throughout the UK by contributing to strategic policy debate at UK parliamentary and devolved levels and by influencing decision-makers. We also act at a more local level, including assessing and sometimes opposing certain development applications which we consider would damage wild land.  In so doing we are guided by our policies which set out our approach to individual planning and infrastructure applications.

We are committed to policy principles that support the current targets of the UK Government and devolved governments for GHG emissions reduction, as these are the primary public policy tools directed at climate change mitigation.  In areas near wild land, the John Muir Trust is in favour of the development of sensitively-sited, community-scale renewable energy schemes which demonstrate that renewable energy may be produced without significantly affecting wild land and are reasonably adjacent to existing settlements. 

When it comes to individual hydro developments, it can be a tricky thing to imagine the end result accurately, even with extensive environmental information and visualisations and there is nothing to compare with going out on the site, or to surrounding viewpoints so we do this wherever and whenever we can.

Last summer I took the opportunity when at a Trustees meeting at Inchnadamph near Quinag in September to go and look at a completed hydro scheme called Maldie Burn, on Loch Glendhu. This 4.5MW hydro scheme was proposed a few years ago, with a “sister” project east of Loch Glendhu– Glendhu hydro. Keith Miller (who worked for the Trust) and I spent a day looking at the two sites when the applications came up, agreeing that we should oppose Glendhu but we would not oppose Maldie Burn. Reasons included the remoteness of the Glendhu project and the impact on the waterfall there whilst Maldie Burn was on a burn which had already got an old hydro scheme there. The Glendhu scheme did not go ahead, whilst Maldie Burn is now operational.

I welcomed the opportunity to go back to the site and see what had happened a few years after completion. I had been there while construction was under way and had felt then that it was more intrusive than I expected but on my return visit in September I was pleasantly surprised at how the scheme is bedding down and I feel the resulting development has been done well. Of course, I recognise not all schemes are managed well and I wasn’t in a position to assess impacts on nature. We’re sometimes criticised for not highlighting the better developments but, in this case, I’d say a “well done” on the construction. Walking back along the Loch, where much to our delight otters were playing, I felt uplifted.

Towards pipe restoration line

View towards pipe restoration line

Maldie Burn below abstraction2

Maldie Burn above abstraction