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Windfarm plan held up over landscape fears

A controversial proposal to put up 15 giant wind turbines in the valleys has been put on hold after a plea not to desecrate the land.

Pennant Walters wants to build the 45 megawatt windfarm at Maesgwyn, between Banwen and Glynneath, but local councillors fear it could be the first of many applications that will leave communities surrounded.

Blaengwrach councillor Carolyn Edwards said: “Why are we desecrating our landscape to provide energy for other areas?”

“It will have a huge impact on tourism, the environment, ecology and local living.”

The 115-metre turbines would be visible from Banwen, Seven Sisters, Glynneath, Resolven and Cwmgwrach, as well as the Brecon Beacons National Park.

But Councillor Edwards voiced fears over potential health problems, noise, TV reception, traffic caused by lorries during construction, and the effect on views from the Brecon Beacons.

And she was backed by fellow valleys member Edward Morgan.

He said: “This application is the first of many – the whole of this valley is going to be surrounded.”

The pair suggested it would be better to look at long-term windfarm plans for the area, rather than taking one application at a time. They pointed out the area had long been blighted by opencast mining and was due a break.

Other members, including Resolven councillor Des Davies, Glyncorrwg’s Glyn Rawlings and Pontardawe’s Mike James also voiced concerns.

Head of planning Geoff White pointed out that the majority of the turbines would be in an area designated for windfarms by the Welsh Assembly – known as Tan 8 regulations. He said the turbines wouldn’t dominate the landscape.

But it was pointed out that Neath Port Talbot Council had previously objected to Tan 8, deeming it unfair as it concentrated too many turbines in the county and could ruin tourism.

Cabinet member for economic development, David Lewis criticised the “usual suspects” for raising unsubstantiated red herrings, such as the TV reception claim.

Mr White had recommended approval – provided two of the turbines, those most prominent from Banwen, were excluded.

But members instead opted to visit the site before deciding on the application.

By Bede McGowan

Evening Post

20 September 2007