News that rare red squirrels have been sighted in forests in rural Carmarthenshire should lead to the halting of a controversial wind farm development.
Opponents of the construction of 10 340ft wind turbines at the Blaengwen wind farm development on the edge of Brechfa forest, which is one of the Tan 8 strategic areas designated for renewable energy development, hope the sightings could have a major impact on their campaign.
The plans for the wind farm, near Pencader, were approved by Carmarthenshire councilors in March 2007.
The project, developed by Force 9 Energy in partnership with Catamount Cymru Cyf, is expected to produce 23MW of electricity by next autumn.
The campaigners, who are hoping to have the development called in by the Assembly, have had their position strengthened by Welsh wildlife presenter Iolo Williams.
Mr Williams recently revealed that Brechfa was home to small numbers of the lovable native species.
Mr Williams said: “They (red squirrels) were filmed in Brechfa recently for a series on S4C.
“The Countryside Council for Wales has put a lot of money into a project about red squirrels. I would hope they would keep an eye on what’s going on (at Blaengwen). If the wind farm impinges on them in any way, they should throw it out.
“There are maybe four small areas in Wales where red squirrels are holding on in the wild – and I mean just holding on. They are Anglesey, two areas in North Wales and here at Brechfa.”
He admitted he didn’t know the exact boundary of the wind farm or the distribution of red squirrels at Brechfa.
Blaengwen Objectors Group chairman Richard Payne said: “They’re going to be taking a certain amount of the tree lines down and the infrasound, and the sound of the blades, could kill the colony off. We’ve said several times that there was an endangered species there.”
Mr Payne admitted that, from the objectors’ point of view, the discovery of the red squirrel colony would be “a grace”.
A spokeswoman for public relations company Pendragon, which represents Force 9 and Catamount Cymru Cyf, said: “We did undertake a survey, and there were none (red squirrels) inhabiting the site at the time.”
She added there was no evidence that wind turbine developments had a harmful effect on red squirrels.
Carmarthenshire Council wind farm case officer David Poulter said: “There is no habitat suitable for red squirrels on the Blaengwen wind farm site.”
2 April 2008
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