COUNCILLORS have rejected plans for a wind farm on the mountainside overlooking the Cynon Valley.
At a special meeting of Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s development control committee, members unanimously endorsed a recommendation from planning officers that the plans be refused.
The matter, however, does not rest there because the council failed to determine the planning application within the required time, developer Pennant Walters can now appeal to the Assembly for a decision from them.
A planning inquiry will be held later in the year, at which arguments for and against the wind farm will be heard.
The local authority will also be able to argue its case for refusal.
Pennant Walters want to build a 12-turbine wind farm on a wide tract of mountainside south of the A465 road at Hirwaun.
The turbines would be up to 115 metres high with an operational life of 25 years.
The company says the turbines would produce 36 megawatts of electricity, sufficient to power about 20,000 homes.
That would make a significant contribution to the Assembly’s intention to generate more electricity through renewable sources like wind power rather than fossil fuels.
But council officers say a wind farm would have a detrimental impact on the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Dare Valley Country Park, public rights of way and the standard of amenity people living near the site can reasonably expect to enjoy.
They say the development would also be out of accord with local planning policies.
The meeting, at the Michael Sobell Sports Centre, was addressed by around 10 members of the public, including several members of the Cynon Valley Ramblers, all of whom opposed the wind farm proposal.
They had concerns over its impact on the landscape, wildlife, tourism potential and economic regeneration and the minimal contribution they felt it would make towards local employment opportunities, the country’s energy needs and reduction of carbon emissions.
CYNON Valley firm Pennant Walters says the wind farm it wants to build on the mountainside overlooking the Cynon Valley would produce enough electricity to power around 20,000 homes.
It would contribute to targets set by the Welsh Assembly Government to cut dependence on fossil fuels as sources of energy and thus reduce carbon emissions which contribute towards global warming.
In a statement, Pennant Walters said: “Interest in renewable energy production, such as that produced by a wind farm, has risen in response to growing concern about the rise in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and the direct linkage that can now be made to resulting changes in the global climate.”
The burning of fossil fuels, says the company, is a major contributor towards greenhouse gas emissions, and reducing their use.
Increasing the proportion of power generated from renewable energy sources is seen as a vital part of reducing atmospheric emissions and stemming the acceleration of climate change.
It says development of more wind power is the only clear and realistic deliverable means of achieving the Assembly’s 2010 renewable energy target.
The developer wants to build the 12-turbine wind farmon mountainside south of the A465 road at Hirwaun.
“The environmental impact assessment has addressed a wide range of potential impacts on different aspects of the environment,” says the company.
“The findings of the assessment process have played a major part in the design of the wind farm.
“A range of other mitigating measures are proposed which should prevent most of the potential negative impacts identified becoming significant.
“It is predicted the negative effects of major significance would extend to a small number of landscape and visual, cultural heritage and public access aspects only.
“Positive effects have been identified through the generation of renewable energy, rural diversification and the establishment of a community fund, all assessed as being of major significance.”
The impact assessment considers that the main visual impacts will be upon Hirwaun, Penywaun and the southern edge of Aberdare and Abernant.
But the assessment recognises, says the company, that that the potential views of many residents even in these areas will be screened by buildings, vegetation and local topographical variations.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has rejected the wind farm proposals but the final decision will rest with a public inquiry to be called by the Welsh Assembly later in the year.
Government inspectors will then consider the arguments for and against.
PEOPLE whose homes would be only one kilometre from their nearest turbine are among those objecting to the wind farm plans.
Hirwaun firm Pennant Walters wants to build the 12-turbine wind farm on a wide tract of mountainside south of the A465 road at Hirwaun.
The site in general is described as “relatively isolated”, with Hirwaun and Aberdare both being around two kilometres from what would be their nearest turbines.
But a row of terraced homes at Bwllfa Road, Bwllfa Dare, would be separated from their nearest turbine by just half that distance.
Residents of the street have submitted 25 objection letters as members of the Bwllfa Residents’ Association.
But Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, although itself urging refusal of the application when it comes before a public inquiry later this year, says: “These letters do not generally address matters that are material planning considerations.
“Concern is expressed about the lack of public consultation both by the developer and by the council and the availability of information.
“Reference is made to the perceived closeness of the development to them, with a specific reference made to the potential for noise nuisance,” said the local authority.
“The letters relate to a perceived loss of house value, estimated to be 30 per cent, and ask who will compensate them for the loss.
“A detrimental effect on the natural beauty of the view from the back and front gardens is referred to as a major consideration when purchasing these properties.
“Reference is made to the position of the turbines affecting the standard of life in the terrace, and the letters conclude by advising that the residents have taken legal advice.
“Members are advised that the loss of a personal view and a perceived (or even actual) devaluation of property prices are not material planning considerations.
“The remainder of the letters can be categorised as being concerned on grounds of both visual and residential amenity grounds that are clearly material considerations.”
The council says 500 metres is generally considered a sufficient separation distance between a wind turbine and residential property to avoid unacceptable noise impact.
But it does concede that “some flexibility is advised”.
PLANS for a wind farm on the Cynon Valley mountainside have run into strong opposition.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, which is itself urging refusal of Pennant Walters’s planning application when it comes before a public inquiry later this year, says public response to the proposal has been overwhelmingly unfavourable.
People are concerned about possible detrimental effects on the local environment, wildlife, tourism potential and economic regeneration.
But the 12-turbine wind farm does have some supporters.
Among hundreds of letters and a small number of petitions submitted to the council, seven were in favour of the plan.
Supporters of the scheme say power generation from renewable energy is essential to alleviate global climate change.
They also argue the applicant is a local company and there may be an opportunity for increased local employment and that the site has been well chosen.
They also say the wind farm will not negatively affect tourism in the Dare Valley Country Park or the Cynon Valley as a whole and that other wind farms have become tourism attractions in their own right.
According to them, it will positively benefit tourism, and visitors may also gain a new insight into the “green” credentials of local people and Wales in general.
They add that the wind farm will not damage the landscape, and if it did it could easily be removed in the future.
Apr 10 2008 by Linda Elias, Cynon Valley Leader
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