I am grateful to Jill Kibble, Chair of the Montgomeryshire Branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales for briefing me about the way in which Powys County Councillors 'rolled over' before the Welsh Government juggernaut last Tuesday. 60 members of the public heard the Council Cabinet decide to proceed with last minute changes to its controversial renewable energy policy section of the Local Development Plan. These last minute changes attracted unprecedented county-wide opposition, 593 of them. Objecting to raising the Powys renewable energy target from 50MW to 600MW and designating huge areas throughout Powys for wind development projects of up to 25MW, the equivalent of twelve giant turbines for each site, and solar development projects up to 50MW, the equivalent of 250acres of solar panels for each site. You do wonder just what Powys has done to be so brutally treated by the Welsh Govt - not vote Labour I suppose.
Council Planning officers reported that these were minor changes to the energy policy. I'm told they said this with a straight face. However in view of the public response, they did concede that revisions would be needed. The flawed report on which these proposals were based were adopted wholesale, without assessment, refinement or consideration of the Powys landscape, by the Powys CC LDP team. Forthcoming revisions are planned during the Planning Inspector’s examination of the LDP but no-one knows when or how this will happen. No-one is sure it will happen.
Cabinet members complained that the Welsh Government had put them in an impossible position, forcing them to approve all the changes or face the prospect of more years with no Plan to guide future development. "Roll over Fido, or no biscuits". The Council had promised the public to oppose further spread of wind farms in Powys. Now the Cabinet had renegaded on this promise because of pressure from Welsh Government. Local democracy - Welsh Gov't style.
The public looked on in despair as the Cabinet duly approved the changes without amendment. They seemed to acquiesce that any Plan however deeply flawed and dangerous to Powys, was better than none. Local democracy - Powys style. It's enough to make anyone who loves the landscapes of rural Wales cry.