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Windfarm protesters blast hearing venue

Residents opposing controversial plans to put a wind farm in the Amman Valley are furious the inquiry is to be held in Llanelli.The £35 million project has county council support, but received almost 500 objections from residents. If plans go ahead, 16 turbines – standing at 110 metres – would be erected on around three hectares of land on Betws mountain.

Former county councillor John Dorian Evans spoke out at a recent pre-inquiry meeting at Llanelli Town Hall. “I think it is appalling the inquiry meeting is being held here rather than Ammanford,” he said.

“How are those who don’t drive expected to get here?” he asked.

“They would have to get public transport, which is unreliable, when they could have walked the relatively short distance from Betws to Ammanford.” Assembly planning inspector Stuart Wild, who is conducting the inquiry, said it was Carmarthenshire Council’s choice of venue.

The council’s policy liaison officer David Poulter said: “The Planning Inspectorate set fairly stringent requirements. The must be hall big enough to house all the people who might wish to attend. There will be quite a large number of expert witnesses and lawyers, and there is also a need for ancillary services such as a room for the inspector to retire to, photocopying facilities, and the hall must be accessible in a wheelchair.

“The number of suitable venues is limited. Had there been a suitable venue in Ammanford, we would have gone for it. We selected Llanelli as a relatively accessible place.”

The Assembly called the meeting before the full inquiry begins on September 16. Its aim was to determine the scope of the inquiry.

The Assembly’s final decision on the project – which was approved by Carmarthenshire Council last year – could be as far away as mid-February. Chris Williams, project manager at Eco2, the company behind the plans, said it was hopeful a decision would be made before then.

“We are pleased the plans will undergo a full and thorough inquiry, but we’re hopeful the minister will make a decision before the end of the statutory limits,” he said.

India Pollock

Evening Post

30 May 2008