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Duke 'plans wind farm land swap'

A wind farm in north Swansea could be one step closer to reality, a county councillor has said.

Anti-wind turbine campaigners say the Duke of Beaufort, one of Swansea’s most prominent landowners, has been buying up swathes of land for the scheme.

The duke’s family trust, the Somerset Trust, has just added 24 acres of rough grazing land at Velindre to a farmstead in Craigcefnparc it bought two years ago.

A spokesman for the duke’s estate stressed there were no plans on the table for a wind farm in the area.

But local campaigners remain concerned.

Under ancient rules the 80-year-old duke, David Somerset, also owns thousands of acres of Swansea’s common land, on which some anti-wind farm campaigners have claimed he wishes to build wind turbines to be used by the npower energy company.

Staunch anti-wind turbine campaigner councillor Ioan Richard, who represents the Mawr ward on Swansea Council, said: “This latest acquisition is obviously being done by the duke in confidence of getting planning permission with npower for a massive wind turbine power station in north Swansea.”

Councillor Richard believes the newly acquired land will be “swapped” for common land at Mynydd-y-Gwair, which is earmarked for a wind farm.

Under planning laws, owners of common land wishing to build on it must replace it acre-for-acre with other land, which has to be declared common and opened up to the public.

“They have bought it for a land exchange,” said Councillor Richard. “All they have to do is knock down the fences and declare it common land.”

No formal planning application has been submitted for the Mynydd-y-Gwair site, and mountainside group Save Our Common Mountain Environment (Socme) says it plans to fight any proposal tooth and nail.

Socme chairman Glyn Morgan said it was important that the scheme was stopped.

He said: “The construction and presence of the proposed wind farm would destroy this area.

“We will fight with all legal means available. Mynydd- y-Gwair is a beautiful place and should be safeguarded. It is the heritage of all of us.”

Speaking on behalf of the duke’s estate, Edward Dixon, assistant agent at Knight Frank Estate Agents in Bristol, which handled the sale, said the rough grazing land had been leased to a farmer yesterday, and he had no knowledge of any wind farm plans.

He said: “The land has been let to a nearby farmer. I cannot say how long the lease is, as that is a private matter. The old farm itself has been let to a family.”

By Emma Judd

Evening Post

26 September 2007

Save Our Common Mountain Environment (SOCME): www.socme.org