County councillors in Powys have opened the floodgates for windfarm planning applications in parts of the county after approving new planning guidance.
The new interim development control guidance (IDCG) removes the council’s power to stop windfarm developments after a certain capacity is achieved on each site.
It also stops councillors considering the amount of cash offered by developers to communities to host windfarms when deciding planning applications.
The Welsh Assembly has limited windfarm development to seven strategic search areas (SSAs) across the principality.
Powys County Council had hoped to cap the energy potential at Carno North and Newtown South SSAs.
But a report to board members said capping development levels was not a credible basis for the development of wind energy policy.
Other changes included removing a set cash contribution from the developers for each turbine.
The new document does, however, retain its restriction on developments to SSA boundaries only.
Planning officer Steve Packer told board members: “We need to let people know the old guidance is no longer to be relied on.
“The biggest issue was community benefit. Central government has accepted that developers can offer cash to communities without it being directly in mitigation of impact on the community.
“Substantial sums are potentially involved here, but I had to agree the IDCG wasn’t the right place for it.
“The decision has to be on the acceptability of the proposal, not what developers are offering.”
He said the council was now employing a support team to look at the community benefits from each scheme, which was also trying to overcome “a great amount of suspicion that Powys County Council will grab hold of it and use it for the council’s own purposes”.
Mr Packer said: “The Welsh Assembly has also made it clear we can’t cap development in SSAs.”
“We cannot start refusing planning applications once we meet our wind power generation targets because they are minimums rather than the maximum.”
23 April 2008
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