Monday, March 28, 2016

Update on Wind Farms in Montgomeryshire.

Over the last few weeks, engineering works have begun on road straightening/widening in Montgomeryshire to accommodate the passage of wind turbine parts. This has led several people to contact me, asking what is going on. Generally, they had thought the Govt response to the conjoined Public Inquiry last year meant that no more wind farms would be going ahead. This was not so. In fact there is little new or unexpected to report. However, I will comment on the issues I've been asked about.

Firstly, there is Tir Gwynt, a wind farm development driven by a group of local farmers in the Carno area (inevitably supported by an international investor). This is nothing to do with the Public Inquiry. The development already has access to the Grid along existing power lines. This wind farm has to be producing power by April 2017 if it's to receive public subsidy. The turbines for this wind farm will travel through Welshpool, and on through Cwmgolau and Cefn Coch to the site. There is already engineering work being carried out in the Cwmgolau area, and perhaps elsewhere.

Secondly there is another wind farm known as Garreg Lwyd near the Radnorshire/Montgomeryshire border. This development was also not part of the Public Inquiry, and already has it's own access to the Grid, having no need for the Mid Wales Connection project, opposition to which has been at the heart of the protest movement. These turbines will travel through Newtown and I some engineering work in already taking place to facilitate access. And I am told that with typical wind developer sympathy for the areas they move into, the turbine movements will be in August, causing chaos on our roads at the peak of our tourist season! 

A third issue of interest are two proposed wind farms which were part of the Public Inquiry located in the Llanbrynmair area. They were refused by the Secretary of State, but the two developers concerned, RES and RWE challenged the Gov't decisions by seeking judicial review. The Sec of State decided the best way forward was to quash the two decisions she had taken, and reconsider the applications afresh. I do not know what the position is with these at present, because it would be improper for me to even ask any questions. These two developers are clearly intent on using any legal loophole they can to have their way. These two wind farms would need the Mid Wales Connection Project to go ahead for grid access. I will leave it to you to guess what I think of these two developers and their proposals!! 

Fourthly, there is a recent decision by the Powys County Council Planning Committee to grant permission for a wind farm near Carno which states an intention to connect to the currently suspended Mid Wales Connection Project. Must admit I was shocked by the Cllrs decision. The Planning Committee clearly lacks the courage that the whole Council showed two years ago when it refused applications. However, it would not have made that much difference because any appeal would have been to the Welsh Govt, rather than to the Westminster Gov't. I'm told the reason the Cllrs voted to support this wind farm was because they were frightened of the Welsh Gov't. This should worry the people of Wales. 

  Fifthly, I must refer to why the Planning Committee Cllrs were so understandably afraid. Since 2005, the Welsh Govt has been utterly determined to trash the Montgomeryshire landscapes with multiple wind farms and pylons. On March 1st, the UK Gov't devolved planning powers to local councils in England and Wales. On the same day, the Welsh Gov't took those powers away from Welsh councils and unto itself - simply so that it could approve even small wind farms, irrespective of local opinion. Thankfully, the granting of subsidy to these wind farms remains undevolved - which makes it unlikely that the Mid Wales Connection Project will go ahead. I will continue to do all I can to frustrate the terrifying determination of the Welsh Gov't, National Grid and a dwindling number of developers to trash our wondrous landscapes.


mairede thomas said...

I think that Labour, Plaid and the Liberals have already decided to give permitted development rights to large ‘community’ wind turbines. They will do this if they have a majority after the Assembly Elections. Anybody will then be able to put up a wind turbine without an environmental assessment or planning permission, and I suspect there will be no controlling conditions for AM noise. This idea probably won’t be in their election manifestos but the clear political intent can be found in the Assembly debate on the evening of 16th March, in particular the summing up by Environment and Sustainability Committee Chairman Alun Ffred Jones (Plaid), who said:-
“In terms of the themes that have emerged, I do think, as William Powell [Lib Dem]said, that planning policy in Wales needs to play a central role if we are to have any hope of achieving the targets in our own environment Bill to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050. I think we do have to prioritise local and community renewable energy projects, and those projects should be given permitted development rights. That could mean that we channel funding towards hydro, biomass, solar and wind energy projects in future, rather than major energy projects, although they, of course, will play a role.”

Further evidence can be found in Committee minutes of 26 November 2015. Welsh Labour Minister for environment and planning, Carl Sargeant, explained that he was refusing to include ‘landscape’ in the core remit of the Environment (Wales) Act, and he rejected the amendment moved by Russell George (Conservative). Llyr Gruffydd, on behalf of Plaid also rejected the inclusion of landscape in the Act . Carl Sargeant is clear that he has excluded landscape because to include it (as a core part of our natural resource) would stop wind turbines being developed. See the session recording, in particular at the start where Russell George sets out the clear rationale for why it is essential to treat landscape as a natural resource.

Jane Jarvis said...

I've decided we should all be stocking up on rotten tomatoes (other veg available) for when the convoys start trundling down the A483!