Rhodri Morgan announced today that the Assembly Government is to lease land in its ownership for the construction of wind farms. The BBC contacted me (as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales) for comment, which led to an 'appearance' on the Richard Evans Programme. Also on was Gordon James of Friends of the Earth.
I agree with Gordon about most things but not on the subject of future energy generation. He is fully in support of maximising the construction of wind farms on the mountains of Rural Wales - and he is adamantly opposed to new nuclear generation under any circumstances. I think that he and the Assembly Government is wrong on both of these issues.
I accept that some wind farms could go ahead where Planning Authorities and local communities are in support - but I do not believe that wind farms are sufficiently efficient to justify the damage that large scale construction of them will inflict on the Welsh landscape. I have always been vehemently opposed to the Assembly Government's TAN 8 planning guidance document which identifies 7 large tracts of Wales (Strategic Search Areas) where there will be an irresistible presumption in favour of permission being granted. Over the next few months, planning permission is going to be granted for hundreds of the things. As it happens, I accept that today's announcement is logical and I didn't oppose it specifically. If we have to have all these confounded wind turbines, they might as well be located where they will do least damage - and so it is logical that the Forestry Commission land should be considered. Even if the Assembly Government is behaving just like every other property owner and trying to maximise financial benefit from its asset - under the guise of doing social good!
I have more sympathy with Gordon James about new nuclear power stations. I have always been a sceptic because of cost and waste disposal uncertainties. But I fear it is too late. There is an approaching gap in energy provision which cannot be filled without resorting to new nuclear generating capacity. The lights are going to go out. There will first be panic - closely followed by a mad rush to nuclear with corner cutting and risk taking. Better by far to accept that we have reached the point of no return and proceed in an orderly way. Or is this too defeatist. Mrs D thinks so. She has a strong opinion on this issue. Even I would like to be proved wrong.