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Builder blasts ‘Taffia’ for sabotaging energy plans

The Assembly Government’s rhetoric about combating climate change is hugely at odds with its own dismal record on delivering wind power, it was claimed yesterday.

David Williams, who runs a Cardiff wind power company eco2, launched an outspoken attack on the “Taffia” he said was sabotaging the idea of a truly sustainable Wales.

Mr Williams said he was “deeply frustrated” at a decision by Sustainability Minister Jane Davidson to call in his firm’s application for a wind farm at Mynydd y Betws, near Ammanford, after its approval by Carmarthenshire County Council.

He said, “Organisations like the Countryside Council for Wales and Cadw – which I see as part of the Welsh establishment or ‘Taffia’ – are regularly objecting to wind farms, and their objections are being taken seriously.

“No wonder the Assembly Government is way off meeting its own target to achieve an additional 800mw (megawatts) of onshore wind energy installed and operating between July 2005 and the end of 2010.

“To achieve this onshore wind target, an average of 12.3mw needs to be installed each month up to December 2010. So far, however, only two projects have been constructed totalling 46.5mw.”

The target of 800mw is enough to power 270,000 homes.

Mr Williams said there were a further six projects totalling 102.9mw which had been consented and were awaiting construction, with a further six projects in the planning process amounting to 198.8mw. Of these, some 171.8mw were subject to call in or call in requests.

He said, “This year, no wind farms were constructed within the strategic search areas identified in [the Assembly Government planning guidance document] Tan 8 in 2005.

“Wales is lagging behind both England and Scotland in the construction of wind farms. While in England the average timescale for a wind farm application being lodged with a planning authority to approval is eight months, and in Scotland seven months, in Wales it is 25 months. And in Wales the average time between putting forward an outline business case to operation is six years.

“It is all very well for the Assembly Government to have ambitious targets, but it means nothing if there is no chance they will be delivered.”

Mr Williams’s comments came as the Assembly Government released pictures of Snowdon showing the effects of climate change on the highest mountain in Wales and England.

The pictures, part of a National Trust photographic exhibition in the Senedd called Exposed – Climate Change in Britain’s Backyard showed, according to Ms Davidson, the impact of global warming.

She said, “I was shocked when I saw these two photographs taken just below the summit of Glyder Fawr, Snowdon. The first clearly shows rock ridges covered in wind blown ice while just over nine years later there is no sign of snow.”

An Assembly Government spokesman denied there was an inconsistency in approach.

He said, “We are fully committed to enabling the deployment of all appropriate forms of renewable technologies in Wales and are looking at ways to ensure that applications within strategic search areas are processed quickly.

“However in the case of Mynydd y Betws, the minister considers that planning issues of more than local importance are raised that warrant determination of the application by the Welsh ministers. In particular she has noted that the proposed development would be sited outside the strategic search area, could have an effect on scheduled ancient monuments and on UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority habitats and is sited next to three local authority boundaries.

“The decision should not be taken as indicating any opinion as to the planning merits of this or other similar applications.”

“Over the last year just one application has been called in by the Assembly Government – the Mynydd y Betws plan – on the expert advice of the minister’s statutory advisers, Countryside Council for Wales and Cadw. There is no evidence that the Assembly Government in the exercise of its planning responsibilities is slowing the wind farm development process down.”

A spokeswoman for the Countryside Council for Wales said, “We are not opposed to wind farms on principle, but decide on a case-by-case basis our approach to applications, taking into consideration all factors, including the impact on the landscape and the potential impact on tourism.”

Brown’s green commitments

David Williams’s criticisms come in the wake of Gordon Brown’s keynote speech about tackling climate change. Speaking at a WWF seminar in London on Monday, the Prime Minister:

Warned that if climate change was to be tackled effectively, “it falls to this generation to take the decisive steps in a global effort that will span all continents and last for generations to come”;

Declared that the UK Government’s “overriding aim” was to hold the rise in global average temperatures to no more than 2°C. This, he said, required global greenhouse gas emissions to peak within the next 15 years;

Called upon all developed countries – crucially including the United States – to agree to binding caps on carbon emissions from 2012 onwards;

Said the UK is, “completely committed to meeting our fair share” of the EU target for renewable energy to supply 20% of total energy needs by 2020.

By Martin Shipton, Western Mail


21 November 2007