Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wind Farms and Democracy in Mid Wales

More time to blog, now that we're in recess - until we return to Westminster on 9th Jan 2012. Though we're back to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Terrace (with hopefully a good view of the fireworks display and cost of tickets going to charity). May also be in London between 5th - 9th to discuss legalising assisted suicide if the much trumpeted Faulkener Report is published as expected. I've offered to speak publicly in opposition to a change in the law.

Another speech on wind farms in the House of Commons yesterday. Again cut short at the last minute. Had expected 10 minutes - only to be limited to six at short notice. Had wanted my speech to be titled 'Wind Farms and Democracy in Mid Wales' - but the Table Office refused to include the word 'democracy' deeming it to be too contentious. Promise I'm not making this up. Anyway, let me make the point here.

In response to a speech of mine on May 10th, Minister for Climate Change at DECC, made a serious of commitments about the importance of local support before going ahead with the Mid Wales Connection. At about the same time, First Minister of the Welsh Government also made commitments about opposing a 400 kV line, huge steel pylons and treating TAN8 guidance figures as the 'upper limit' of what should be allowed. This was all good news. We were being listened to. But that was then.

The big energy companies went to work - like the 'dark forces' in science fiction, issuing ever more hysterical threats to Governments and pouring money into 'community benefit' which most local people see as a form of bribery. These massive companies, fattened on public subsidy, just sunk their teeth into the hands of those that had fed them, demanding ever more of the public's money to feed their insatiable appetites. The result - two weeks ago I was shocked to read a BBC online report quoting the same Minister as stating there would have to be wind farms in Mid Wales, despite local people's opinion "in the national interest". And this from a Government committed to 'Localism. And lets see what the Welsh First Minister does in the New Year. Lets see if he has any spine to stand up to these bullies.

Perhaps the worst aspect of this is the pressure on the Powys Planning Authority - which has been given a deadline to approve the 6 applications that are large enough to be decided by DECC. I'm told that the applicants have not supplied sufficient ecological or environmental information. They have made no evidence available in respect of cumulative impact. There is no transport management plan. And there is no information about how the power is to be exported to the grid. Any other application would be dismissed. But not the terrifyingly powerful wind farm companies. They believe they are above normal planning rules. Like the banks, they think they are too big to fail.

And there's another point here. Powys Cllr. Bob Mills was banned from voting on any planning application for turbines because he had expressed his general antipathy in public. Yet the final judge in all the large wind farm applications will be Chris Huhne, who declares his messianic support for onshore wind whenever he's asked. Never was there an example of an individual with a more pre-determined opinion. The whole process is about as far from 'democracy' as can be imagined. But then "its in the national interest" - the rallying cry for the suspension of democracy throughout history. To adopt a Xmas theme, its total crackers - increasing fuel poverty, exporting jobs and destroying a beautiful part of the British Isles for miniscule purpose. Its so bad that the Welsh Government and DECC put the blame for what's happening on each other. Walk through the uplands of Mid Wales next summer. Enjoy its beauty, before its desecrated for ever.


JB said...

Is there no 'pre-determined opinion on schools then? The Powys cabinet pre-meetings would seem to me to exclude all of them voting for anything when the minuted meeting finaly takes place.

This priciple is not just potty but, much more seriosly, a refuge for despots.

Anonymous said...

If it is the "national interest" then why is the land not being compulsorily purchased (like land for motorways)rather than having to pay rent per turbine ad infinitum at massive cost? The landowners could rent it back for grazing if they want then. Take this away and see how many want the windfarms on their land then!!!

mairede Thomas said...

the problems you describe in Mid-Wales are eerily similar to the problems here in Ynys Mon.

On our island there are 50 odd applications for onshore wind turbines in various stages of the planning process. And certainly it's not a legal or democratic process up here.

First of all Councillors have submitted a good number of the applications yet they and some of their fellow Councillors feign an inability to discuss wind turbines, choosing instead to hide behind the 'pre-determined view' excuse.

Of course there is no democracy in our local government as Commissioners are now in charge and the Labour Welsh Assembly Government has told us mere citizens not to expect our Council elections in May when the rest of Wales will have a vote.

It is in this time of democratic vacuum that our island is facing a devastating blow to it's most successful industry.

More than 4000 people are employed in tourism. Since the Royal Wedding Ynys Mon has attracted even more tourists than ever before.

Any idiot knows that tourists will not return to this landscape when it is populated by wind turbines.

But that is the prospect we face because hardly anyone in our Local Authority, and nobody in the Welsh National Government is prepared to stand up to the developers.

I hope the people of Mid-Wales and North Wales will work together, stand together and stand up for what is right and what is in our interest!

JohnJ said...

Have you heard about Richard Jones, of Caerdegog Uchaf near Llanfechell,Anglesey he is embroiled in a dispute with nuclear power giants, Horizon, which wants to grab his land and build the new nuclear Wylfa B power station.
Richard Caerdegog and family are earnestly fighting to defend their land, their livelihood and their heritage from Horizon Nuclear who want to buy 65 acres of their land. The Jones' do not want to sell their land to Horizon.

Anonymous said...

Heard on radio shropshire a meeting held with farmers? at Nesscliffe village hall yesterday 19/4/12. Route decided but won't be announced until after the local elections. Farmers to get £8k per turbine on their land AND compensation for farmhouse depreciation. BUT no-one else will get any compensation even if their property is next to the farmhouse and their property is devalued. How can this be fair and just?