Friday, July 29, 2016

My submission to Sec of State re quashed wind farm decisions

Dear Secretary of State...

Re-determination of planning applications by RES UK and Ireland Ltd and RWE Renewables Ltd to build onshore wind farms at Llanbrynmair and Carnedd Wen in Montgomeryshire. 

"This letter is my response to your invitation (dated 6th July) to comment on the two above re-determinations (Carnedd Wen and Llanbrynmair) which the Secretary of State will make following the quashing of the two previous refusals made by his predecessor in 2015. It should be treated as a joint response to both re-determinations.

I am the Member of Parliament representing Montgomeryshire, and am opposed to both of these developments. I took part in the Mid Wales Conjoined Public Inquiry which took place between June 2013 and May 2014. Large numbers of my constituents made their opposition clear to the Inspector at the Inquiry. Large numbers of us cooperated in opposing the wind farm developments, particularly the associated transmission infrastructure, which we believe would cause great damage to the economy, landscapes and environment of Mid Wales. We were pleased that the previous Secretary of State refused the Llanbrynmair and Carnedd Wen proposals, and were desperately disappointed when the two decisions were quashed. We hope that the two developments will again be refused by the new Secretary of State.

My principal reason for opposing these two wind farms is the cumulative impact they would have on one of the most beautiful parts of the United Kingdom. The greatest damage would be inflicted by the necessary grid infrastructure, without which these wind farms could not be built. The central feature of this infrastructure development would be the 'Mid Wales Connection Project' proposed by National Grid to serve the wind farms. It would a 42km 400kV carried for most of its length from North Shropshire on 50 meter high pylons along the length of one of our beautiful area's narrow valleys into the heart of Montgomeryshire. It is a transmission line dedicated to wind farms, so it seems clear to us that once built, it would lead to perhaps another 15/20 wind farms, utilising the unused capacity. There is a 'trigger point' of guaranteed connection sites before the Mid Wales Connection Project would go ahead. I have been very surprised that both National Grid and OFGEM have refused to tell me what that 'trigger point' is, flying in the face of public commitments made by both bodies about transparency. National Grid has also refused to contemplate undergrounding, except for a short length around the village of Meifod. The line would cause particular damage around the village of Llansantffraid, and surrounding areas where tourism is of great importance. In the vicinity of the village, the proposed line crosses the Vyrnwy 12 times in 3 miles.

In my evidence to the Inspector, which I repeat in this submission, I emphasised that the wind farms and the power line, while separate projects, should in fact be considered as one single project. The electricity cannot be transmitted to the Grid from the wind farms unless the line is built. I believe that at an early stage in the Inquiry, the Inspector asked the developers to show how the power could be transmitted without the Mid Wales Connection Project. After initially claiming this would be possible, it was admitted that this is not feasible. In addition, there has been an attempt to portray the Mid Wales Connection Project as contributing to 'a stronger network' to serve the Mid Wales economy. This is totally baseless and no more than false justification. Local protestors, including myself and Powys County Council, pressed the Inspector to adjourn the Inquiry until an environmental assessment of the impact of the transmission line was carried out. We were both disappointed and mystified why the Inspector refused to accede to this request. The absolute linkage of the proposed wind farms and the Mid Wales Connection Project was clear to all, when National Grid ceased all work as soon as the planning applications were refused.

In conclusion, this letter should be regarded as an appeal to the Secretary of State to honour the Government's 2015 manifesto commitment to only support onshore wind farms where they have the support of local people. The applications at Llanbrynmair and Carnedd Wen are very strongly opposed by local people, by Powys County Council and by both the local Assembly Member and Member of Parliament. These two wind farms, and the damage they would cause have been hanging over the heads of the people of Mid Wales for far too long.  I appeal to the Secretary of State to reaffirm the previous decisions to refuse permission for them.

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