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Assembly to rule on windfarm application

A public inquiry will decide whether controversial plans for the siting of a windfarm overlooking the Cynon Valley should be approved, writes Mike Prosser.

Developers Pennant Walters has appealed to the Welsh Assembly Government following the “non-determination” of its planning application by Rhondda Cynon Taf Council within the stipulated time.

Councillors were told at a special development control committee meeting last week that this means responsibility for determining the application now lies with the Welsh Assembly Government, which will call a public inquiry.

Nevertheless, it is still necessary for the council, as the local planning authority, to consider the application, with its conclusion being reported to the Welsh Assembly Government as the decision it would have made had the applicant not chosen to appeal.

Council planning officers are recommending that the application should be refused.

The applicant wants to build the windfarm south of the A465 road at Hirwaun on land known as Hirwaun Common, Mynydd Bwllfa and Mynydd Cefn-y-Cyngon.

But the plan has run into widespread local opposition, mainly on environmental grounds, with protest letters and petitions, including one with more than 1,000 signatures, having been submitted to the council, together with seven letters of support.

Pennant Walters wants to build 12 wind turbines up to 115 metres tall, together with ancillary infrastructure.

The turbines would have an operational life of 25 years, after which they could be refurbished, replaced or decommissioned.

Officers say the main issues to be considered are the effect of the proposal on the quality of the landscape, the effects on the cultural character of the valleys and the Brecon Beacons National Park and the effects on public and visual amenity.

The planned windfarm would produce 36 megawatts of electricity, which would represent a considerable contribution towards achieving Welsh Assembly renewable energy targets.

But there is no doubt, say officers, that the erection of 12 turbines in such a prominent elevated position would have a significant effect on the landscape.

The officers conclude: “It is considered that the unacceptable landscape and visual effects and any outstanding uncertainty outweigh the benefits of the proposal and that these effects are considered of such significance as to warrant the application being recommended for refusal.”

by Michael Prosser, Cynon Valley Leader

icWales

3 April 2008