Countryside campaigners fear Wales is heading for a repeat of the Tryweryn flooding scandal.
New planning proposals could see large infrastructure projects thrust upon rural Wales against the wishes of local people, says umbrella group Wales Environment Link (WEL).
Schemes to build dams, nuclear power stations, LNG terminals, large windfarms and coastal barrages would all be decided in England rather than in Cardiff, according to proposals outlined in the UK government’s Planning White Paper.
WEL chairman Geraint Hopkins said: “We are alarmed the proposals could lead to an unelected body riding rough-shod over the wishes of people in Wales and undermining the Welsh Assembly’s own policies.”
Consultations on the proposals have just closed – almost 50 years to the day after the parliamentary Bill to flood Cwm Tryweryn, near Bala, received Royal Assent.
Seventy people were forced to move from Capel Celyn in 1965, even though every Welsh MP bar one had voted against the scheme.
Liverpool Corporation, with the backing of English MPs, had driven through its plans to flood the 800-acre valley.
The event is credited with creating the wider nationalist movement and being seminal to the creation of the National Assembly for Wales.
Mr Hopkins added: “It is therefore deeply ironic that, in terms of local democracy here in Wales, the proposals in the Planning White Paper would effectively wind back the clock to the situation 50 years ago when Tryweryn was flooded.”
Decisions on major energy projects, over 50MW, are currently made by the UK Trade and Industry secretary. Cardiff is seeking devolution for such decisions, supported by WEL, a coalition of groups such as the CPRW, Coed Cadw, Snowdonia Society, National Trust Wales and RSPB Cymru.
However the White Paper, if implemented, will see planning control for major energy projects handed to the unelected Infrastructure Planning Commission, which would have just a single Welsh representative.
Wind farm objectors say decisions made by the commission would reflect UK national policy and could override Welsh preferences. They could even be swayed by commercial and political considerations, claimed Michael Williams, secretary of Cynghrair Hiraethog Alliance, which is fighting proposals for wind turbine developments across North Wales.
He said: “The concerns of local people will no longer be heard. If this goes ahead, the future for our Welsh hills and countryside looks very bleak.”
Llandudno hotelier Dennis Oliver believes parallels with Tryweryn exist with plans to develop off-shore windfarms.
If the proposed Gwynt y Môr project comes to fruition, 255 turbines will dominate the North Wales seascape.
He said: “Wind farm developers want to blight the seaside tourist industry in North Wales. Tourist areas in England will not suffer this blight. Not a single wind turbine is planned for South coast resorts.”
by Ed Casson
23 August 2007
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