Cannot go to the special meeting of Powys County Council being held at Welshpool Livestock Market on Wed.. Councillors will be debating their approach to policy on wind farms and associated transmission infrastructure. To some extent, the Welsh Government First Minster's statement of 10 days ago has drawn the teeth on this debate, but its still an event I would like to have been able to attend. Let's start by looking at the motion that is currently down to be debated.
'Powys County Council calls on the Welsh Government to carry out an immediate review of TAN 8, and to call a moratorium on all wind farm applications, whether pending or in pre-application stage until the review is completed. In carrying out the review, the Welsh Government is specifically asked to consider environmental, socio-economic, community, ecological, transportation, cultural, and cumulative impacts of the construction of wind farms and the necessary infrastructure in rural Wales. Powys County Council also asks that in carrying out this review, the Welsh Government carries out a cost benefit analysis of wind farm energy production when compared to alternative sources of energy'.
I'm not at all sure that this is now directed at the right target. Since this motion was first being worked on, we have had the Carwyn Jones statement, which has fundamentally changed things. The most important sentence was that the TAN 8 limits should be regarded as the 'upper limits'. To that extent, I rather like TAN 8. And the second most important sentence was that there is no need whatsoever for a 400kV cable/pylons to deliver these 'upper limits'. I rather like this as well. This needs to be reflected in the Council's thinking. These sentences, if translated into policy, would mean about 100 new turbines, no 400kV cable, no sub-station, (and buried 132 cables as well). Not everything protesters wanted - but nothing like as bad as we were fearing.
The real target now is the Westminster Government, which will be debating recently published National Policy Statements on Renewable Energy Generation before the summer recess. Its what I'm building towards. Because energy (over 50 Mv) is not devolved, TAN 8 is referred to in these 'statements' as no more that a 'material consideration'. Not good enough, and the Council should be saying so, loud and clear - and it should be a part of the motion. Energy is not going to be devolved, but we need to raise the bar a bit higher than 'material consideration'. What about something like 'presumption in favour' of the TAN 8 targets. And I would like to see something about refusal by the Council to contemplate a sub-station. That should scupper National Grid's hideous plans. And there should be some serious questions about what the Welsh Government is going to do about all these wind farms that were thought to be heading towards forestry land. Expect to see some changes in the motion. This is all enough to make me wish I was still a councillor.