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Powys cannot restrict wind farms

An “unlimited” number of wind farms could be built in parts of Mid Wales under planning guidance proposals out for public consultation, it has been claimed.

Powys County Council had sought to put a limit on developments in three areas of the county once the target for wind energy capacity had been reached.

These three Strategic Search Areas (SSAs) of Mid and North Powys, were identified as suitable for wind farm development by the Welsh Assembly Government’s TAN 8 Strategic Document.

But the county has been told it cannot put such a limit on developments, after a similar policy adopted in Denbighshire was challenged in court and overturned.

The move means Powys County Council would be unable to prevent as many as 19 new windfarms being built in the three SSAs at Newtown South (south Montgomeryshire and north Radnorshire), Carno North (central Montgomeryshire) and Nant-y- Moch (Powys/Ceredigion border).

A Powys County Council spokesman confirmed that there were a large number of applications for windfarms pending in the county.

“There are five wind farms existing in Powys,” he said. “We have received applications for nine new ones, totalling 191 turbines.

“There’s not going to be a free for all for developers.

“Any large-scale wind farms will have to be concentrated in the SSAs.”

In Llandinam, the first large-scale windfarm in the area, Celt Power Ltd wants to replace the existing 133 turbines with 42 new 122m tall turbines.

Roger Williams, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnor MP said the “cumulative effect” of such wind farms on the open countryside should be taken into account.

“We are now told that the maximum target for electrical generation through wind is now the minimum target and that each wind farm planning application should be taken on merit. But I think planning authorities should take into account the cumulative effect that they have on the countryside.

“Lots of people in Radnorshire write to me about this. And I’m not entirely convinced that onshore wind farms make a significant contribution to reducing global warming.

“We can resist them on the grounds of over development of the countryside.”

Peter Ogden, director of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales said: “If Powys Council are prevented from limiting onshore wind farms, not only will that landscape be blighted further but the Environment Minister should be held personally accountable.”

The CPRW called on the Welsh population to oppose the plans.

But Mick Bates AM, said he wanted the next generation to embrace green energy as an alternative to oil or coal and he plans to add a “clean” wind turbine to his farm near Llanfair Caereinion.

“Wind energy is immensely effective and I want my six-month-old granddaughter, Seren, to grow up in a world that is not heavily impacted by carbon fuels.”

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesperson said: “The SSAs were derived following rigorous and comprehensive analysis to strike a balance between areas of the greatest wind resource and the need to protect sensitive areas; with for example the National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are excluded.

“The threat of climate change is clear and urgent and the Welsh Assembly Government is determined that Wales will play its full part in combating this threat.

“Supporting wind energy does not of course mean that this Government believes in overriding the proper planning process.

“All wind farm proposals are subject to a strict planning process, addressing siting, environmental, visual and community impacts.

“Local planning authorities may refine the SSA boundaries to exclude the most locally sensitive areas and have responsibility for deciding planning applications for windfarms under 50MW.

“For over 50MW windfarms, local authorities are a statutory consultee and where they object to the proposal a public inquiry is triggered.”

The public consultation closes on July 18.

by Sally Williams, Western Mail


5 July 2008