Thirteen giant wind turbines will soon be towering over valley homes and the Brecon Beacons National Park.Neath Port Talbot Council has approved controversial plans for a wind farm at Maesgwyn, between Banwen and Glynneath.
But afterwards, Blaengwrach councillor Carolyn Edwards criticised the outcome and the way it had been reached – including the fact less than half the planning committee had turned up for a site visit.
She also suggested the Neath Valley area, which already hosts vast opencast coal mines, was having to endure more than its fair share of energy schemes.
She said: “I just feel totally frustrated. I feel we pay lip service all the time, saying we’re going to listen to residents and local members and work in partnership with other agencies, before bulldozing things through.”
The 115-metre turbines, which will each produce up to three megawatts (mW), will be visible from Banwen, Resolven, Coelbren, Seven Sisters, Glynneath and Cwmgwrach.
Head of planning Geoff White accepted the turbines would be seen from surrounding villages and from the Brecon Beacons, but recommended approval.
In a report, he said: “The fact they will be visible is not in itself a reason for refusal.”
Mr White pointed to the Assembly’s Tan 8 guidance, which has a target of 1,500mW of renewable electricity production in Wales by 2010. The current level is about 450mW and the Maesgwyn development will add around 40mW – or enough energy to power more than 15,000 homes.
Tan 8 also identifies areas where large wind farms should go and all but two of the Maesgwyn turbines fall within one such area.
Developer Pennant Walters originally wanted to put up 15 turbines, but planners decided two would overshadow Banwen and were not acceptable.
There were 45 objections sent in by residents, and concerns were also raised at public meetings, as well as by ward councillors.
The main source of grievance was the impact the turbines would have on the area’s countryside, as well as on tourism.
Managers at Brecon Beacons National Park also objected, saying the farm would ruin views from the park and its tranquility. The Countryside Council for Wales wanted a decision put off, pending more information, or the scheme turned down.
But Mr White said there would be no noise nuisance to park users and that, while catching the eye, the turbines wouldn’t dominate the landscape when seen from the park.
He added: “There is no substantive evidence to suggest that wind farms have an adverse effect on tourism.”
Pennant Walters will hand over £175,000 a year for community projects and must also restore the land after energy production ceases – expected to be in around 25 years’ time.
By Bede MacGowan
31 October 2007
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