Monday, March 09, 2009

Disruption on the roads of Montgomeryshire.

Big fuss about the impact that wind farm construction traffic is going to have on the Montgomeryshire town of Welshpool. There's a widely advertised public meeting in the town tomorrow night. I'm hoping to go, and been trying to brief myself beforehand. There are so many aspects to this debate. The Mayor will have difficulty stopping discussion running off down sundry side roads.

Essentially, I expect the meeting to be limited to 'information' - and even that could be a bit vague. Until planning applications are actually submitted, developers can change their plans. At present, the suggestion seems to be that approaching 600 lorry loads will be involved in transporting the 65 turbines planned for just one site near Llanbrynmair. Each load is likely to be 5 metres wide, almost 50 metres long and 6 metres high. There would have to be major realignment at the roundabouts each end of town, and some demolition of the pedestrian access bridge over the by-pass to the railway station. This would all be very disruptive. There is also the issue of weight, with loads possibly being in excess of 100 tonnes - but I suppose the threat of damage to property does depend on how many wheels are under them.

Although I come from a sceptical standpoint, I want to try to minimise impact and maximise compensation. So I've been following up the idea of helicoptering the turbines in. This is not yet realistic. There is research being carried out (in Canada) into developing helicopters which will transport the sort of weights involved, but I'm told that its 5 years away from a prototype, and probably 20 years from commercial availability. So that's out.

Another issue is compensation. At present, 'community benefit' is paid to the area where the wind farm is located, but not to towns which suffer disruption during construction. I suspect that this could be an issue for tomorrow night's meeting. I don't know how narrowly the discussion will be contained, but it may spill over into the timetable for construction of the essential 400 kv cable needed to carry the power to the Grid. We shall see. Anyway, I'll report back after the meeting.

UPDATE. Well over 200 people turned up at the meeting. At last it could be that the debate is moving on to include the impact of cables, pylons, and constuction traffic. The meeting voted about 195 - 22 to oppose what many of the assembled decribed as the destrucy=tion of their town.


Anonymous said...

Was on the road to Cardiff yesterday Glyn to meet a mutual friend and was stuck by taffic lights all over your fair county..Newtown road for 10 mins..Llanddinam for 5 mins and again on the way to Llangurig for mins!! However the delay left me behind in appointments all day which led to me arriving at the Car Park of Trinity College CARMARTHEN at 12.45 just in time to park next to our hard working Deputy First Minister who asked me why I was carrying a hudge bag of food etc into the University?

I answered that it was for my son who was stocking up to save his cash for Ieuans Top up fees!

Fear thats another Christmas card list I am off Glyn!

Anonymous said...

Was Mick Bates there? He is the biggest advocate of windfarms - but after that resounding vote of 195-22 against - might he change his mind? After all it could mean a huge loss of support for him in the next elections in 2011. Mick has always been one to sit on the fence and see which way the wind blows! If it means votes, perhaps he'll start listening instead of blustering - which he's famous for!

Glyn Davies said...

I once became so incenced about waiting at a series of traffic lights in Montgomeryshire that I wrote a 'tetchy' letter to the Chief Executive of the Council (Mike Greenwood it was) - and he told me to leave home earlier. That was before the Council had a PR department. Don't suppose Ieuan will care about you - its his own side that bothers him when it comes to top-up fees.

Glyn Davies said...

Anon - No, Mick wasn't there. If the meeting is likely to be supportive of wind farms, Mick goes, and if its likely to be unsupportive Lembit goes.

To be fair to Mick, he is openly supportive of on shore wind farms. He used to say different things to different audiences, but I caught him out. Over the last year or so, he has been consistent and open about his support.

An Observer of planning issues said...

This blog is long and could be much longer but it deals with the planning controls over wind farm developments (or lack of...) and the abilities of our own County Council as planning authority to handle large scale wind farm applications.

Whether wind farms will be approved or not is no longer a local matter but one for Government - not the Welsh Assembly Government but Westminster through BERR (the Dept for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform). Little wonder then that most development proposals are for wind farms in excess of 50 MW, the threshold for taking it out of local hands. Roll back the clock then to a few years ago when TAN 8 was being prepared (with the assistance of a secondment planner from Powys County Council, incidentally). Remarkably there was little dialogue between the Assembly Planning Dept and other Depts most notably the Highways Directorate. The TAN 8 process was rushed through on the back of fairly superficial constratints sifting exercise. The Highways Directorate at WAG was not asked to undertake their own assessment as to whether potential wind farm sites could be safely accessed. The MOD too had either insufficient time or were not sufficiently involved regarding its low flying requirements and the planner advising WAG took old MOD information which sought to protect extensive areas of uplands for military purposes thereby limiting the areas of search for wind farms. TAN 8 targets within the Strategic Search Areas showed relatively modest energy producing targets for each SSA e.g. 70 MW for Newtown South (Llandinam area)because it was anticipated that the MOD would maintain their previous position and giving credence therefore to the eventual modest target. We now know this information was not a limiting factor and the MOD have revised their requirements. This has resulted in an explosion of interest from wind farm developers who are safe in the knowledge that the MOD will not oppose, that Montgomeryshire/Radnorshire uplands have no landscape protection designation and that it is BERR who will decide the fate of wind farm applications - and we all know that Mid Wales is viewed by both our Assembly Government and certainly our national Government as a peripheral/marginal area of Wales and the UK and able (in a political sense) to perform the role of sacrificial lamb. Isn't it ironic therefore that Powys' Chief Executive lost his job because of unguarded comments about the abilities of Powys Councillors to make strategic decisions...ON WIND FARMS no less! We hear that there is a lack of experienced professional planners within the County Council, which may be true if other bloggers are to be believed (and I hear that there is a new man in charge in the Montgomery Planning Dept who is not even a planner - what is going on there?). Shame really as Mr Kerr who I believed was a competent and a charasmatic leader could have been better advised had there been planning expertise at Powys - before making those embarrassing remarks in a wind energy magazine - and Mr Kerr presumably will have still been in a job right now!

So we have misguided national policies on wind farms (TAN 8); we have a planning authority who is in abject disarray and meltdown on the planning front; we have a Government who is apathetic to Mid Wales; oh, what next? Pylons across our cherished landscapes including our beautiful Severn Valley.