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Wind farm plans pose big threat to harbour porpoise

The fight to stop a wind farm development off Porthcawl has been taken to Europe.

Campaigners have contacted the Legal Commission in Brussels saying any attempt to build wind turbines at Scarweather Sands would disturb the habitat of the harbour porpoise, which is a protected species.

“The European Habitats Directive prevents any development which affects the habitat of endangered species,” said Denise Parker of the Porthcawl Environment Trust, which is spearheading the fight. “We want the directive implemented in this case.”

DEFRA (Department of Food, Rural Affairs and Agriculture) is currently considering issuing a licence for the wind farm. They are acting as agents for the Welsh Assembly Government.

Planning permission was granted in 2004.

“We have thrown a massive spanner into the works,” said campaigner Brian Saunders.

“That wind farm would be built by now if it were not for our campaign.

“Once we discovered Scarweather was used by harbour porpoises as a breeding ground, everything changed.”

The group has passed a dossier of information about the scheme to Brussels and the Eurocrats have indicated they can do nothing until the licence is issued as there is no threat at present.

“But once that licence is issued, the habitat and the species are threatened and they can refer the matter to the courts,” said campaigner David Lewis.

“The directive on habitats is very clear.”

The government has recently announced a massive expansion in plans to generate electricity from off shore wind farms but the trust is adamant Scarweather is entirely unsuitable.

“The sandbanks are a breeding ground for lesser sand eels, which is suitable food for young habour porpoises,” said Mrs Parker.

“The mothers and calves stay here for six months after birth so they can feed.”

The Scarweather scheme, proposed by United Utilities, is to initially build 30 wind turbines three-and-a-half miles of Porthcawl. Each would be 443 feet high.

“If the wind farm goes ahead, it will be a disaster for this species,” said Mr Saunders.

“The work of drilling down into the sea bed and installing these turbines, with lots of noise and vibration, will destroy the habitat and then the porpoises will be gone forever.”

The group is working closely with AM Alun Cairns and Euro MP Jonathan Evans, who has taken up their case in Europe.

The case is likely to set a legal precedent.

Mr Cairns said there is unequivocal evidence of the presence of harbour porpoises at this site.

“If this had been known when planning consent was being sought, it could have been turned down at that stage,” he said.

“But we will make sure the Legal Commission is kept fully informed as soon as any licence is issued.

“We want them to intervene and scrap it.”

by Deborah Rees, Glamorgan Gazette


27 December 2007