Onshore wind developer, RES UK wrote to me this week, copying in the local media. Thought I'd share it. While I understand that RES would be cross (very cross) that the Minister refused it's planning application, JR is normally about 'process' - not running the same arguments over again. I also understand why being refused permission to do just what they want will have come as a culture shock to the all-powerful energy company and it's army of barristers. Anyway, thought I'd share it with you. Personally I it's very weak. So much so that I feel the formal appeal to DECC will have been a bit more focused. Would like to see it.
Dear Mr Davies,
In response to your comments reported recently in the Shropshire Star (22nd October 2015) and the Powys County Times (23rd October 2015), I wanted to take the opportunity to write to you to explain in detail why RES is proceeding with a Judicial Review claim in respect of the UK Government’s refusal of our Llanbrynmair Wind Farm project:
(1) Lack of adequate explanation for overturning Planning Inspector’s recommendation
The decision by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to overturn the judgement of its own independent Planning Inspector has not been adequately justified. In particular, DECC has not fully explained why it has disagreed with the Planning Inspector’s judgement that the benefits of the scheme outweigh its impacts. It should be emphasised that, during the 12 month high profile Mid Wales Public Inquiry, the expert Planning Inspector spent considerable time visiting all of the proposed wind farm sites, reviewing extensive representations and listening to community groups to establish whether the potential impacts of each proposed development were outweighed by the benefits of the scheme. In the case of Llanbrynmair Wind Farm, the Inspector’s judgment was that the project should be granted approval.
If RES’ Judicial Review of DECC’s decision is successful, the UK Government will be required to look again at the merits of our Llanbrynmair Wind Farm proposal and either reconsider its position in light of the Planning Inspector’s advice or to fully and robustly explain why it is taking a different view.
(2) Welsh Government and local support
The Welsh Government has consistently demonstrated widespread support for renewable energy, evident in planning policy and guidance note ‘TAN8’ which designates areas suitable for wind farm developments. Llanbrynmair Wind is located within one of the identified TAN8 Strategic Search Areas, and is therefore supported in principle by the Welsh Government.
In September 2015, the Welsh Government Environment Minister called the decision to reject plans to build wind farms in mid Wales "short-sighted" and that it was "hugely disappointing" that communities in Powys could lose out on millions of pounds of investment as a result. The Minister also expressed concern that businesses would find it difficult to understand why the UK Government had not followed the advice of its Planning Inspector, stating: "We want to make sure that people want to invest in our communities, make sure that we have energy security long term."
There has also been - and remains - a considerable level of support within the local communities in Mid Wales for the onshore wind projects that were considered through the conjoined Public Inquiry, as evidenced by the formation and activities of the Powys Wind Farm Supporters Group.
(3) Potential loss of significant investment into local businesses and communities
RES estimates Llanbrynmair Wind Farm would deliver at least £8 million in local economic investment through the use of local companies and services up to the first year of operation alone. In addition, local communities would benefit from some £7.5 million in community benefits over the project’s lifetime. This includes an annual £180,000 Community Benefit Fund in addition to RES’ innovative Local Electricity Discount Scheme which offers an annual discount of £152 off the electricity bills of some 750 residential, commercial and community properties within 5km of the turbines at Llanbrynmair.
These community benefits could make a very significant difference to local communities at a time when Powys County Council is having to make substantial budget cuts to numerous local services. RES does not believe that these significant business, supply chain and community benefits should be lost to the local area without full scrutiny of DECC’s decision to override its Planning Inspector’s judgement.
(4) Full and fair scrutiny to maintain investor confidence in Welsh and UK infrastructure
In the seven years that Llanbrynmair Wind Farm has been in the planning process, RES has invested several million pounds in the project - only to find that, despite Welsh Government support and a Planning Inspector’s backing, this significant financial commitment, which would deliver very substantial inward and community investment, risks being written off. It simply cannot be in the interests of Wales, England or the UK infrastructure sector for planning decisions relating to investment of this magnitude not to be fully and fairly scrutinised, and this full and fair scrutiny is what RES is seeking through the Judicial Review.
I have sent a copy of this letter to the Shropshire Star and Powys County Times and would like to emphasise that RES remains committed to working with Welsh Government, Powys County Council and local communities to ensure that the significant benefits presented by Llanbrynmair Wind Farm can be achieved.
Managing Director, Western Europe