Councillors concerned about the visual impact of what could be the biggest wind farm in Wales and England yesterday postponed giving their verdict on the controversial proposals.
Swedish-owned energy firm Nuon wants to site 84 wind turbines each nearly three times the height of the 169-ft Nelson’s Column on land south of the Heads of the Valleys road in South Wales.
The company says the planned Pen y Cymoedd wind farm would pump £1bn into the local economy over its 25-year life, through initial building work, ground rents and other payments to communities.
But yesterday members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning and development control committee decided to postpone giving a reaction, voting instead to visit the site of the wind farm first.
It would stretch between Neath and Aberdare with many of the giant turbines in Port Talbot’s Afan Valley.
It would generate aabout 300mw of electricity for the National Grid, helping the Assembly Government meet renewable energy targets under its climate change obligations.
The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change will have the final say on the project.
But Neath Port Talbot Council’s response to the proposals is eagerly awaited, as many of the 84 turbines, each 475ft tall, would be on the council’s land.
Weather permitting, the visit is likely to take place in January.
Councillors called for the site visit yesterday over concerns about the visual impact of the turbines.
The committee was told there would be “significant visual effects” in a number of places including Abergwynfi, Glyncorrwg, Tonmawr, Cilfrew, Resolven, Glynneath, Mynydd Margam, Tonna, the Coed Morgannwg Way walking route, St Illtyd’s Walk and Sarn Helen.
There have been 107 individual objections to the scheme plus a petition signed by 47 people with seven letters of support.
Local AM and former minister Brian Gibbons has called for a public inquiry into the plans and Aberavon MP Hywel Francis is backing objectors concerned that mountain biking, hiking and fishing in the Afan Valley would be badly hit by the project.
Bob Slater of the Glyncorrwg Action Group, which has already fought plans by ECO2 and Gamesa to site turbines around the village, said: “Glyncorrwg is being sacrificed on a green altar just to provide enough power so people can leave their mobile phones charging on standby.
“The turbines will tower over the village. This wind farm will have a disastrous effect on our lives and our scenery.
“Tourism, which is our hope for the future, will be severely affected because the turbines are to be all around the bike trails and close to the ancient Coed Morgannwg Way.”
Objectors, who have labelled community payments “bribes”, say the turbines would dominate valley communities, threaten fledgling tourism, kill birds and only produce intermittent energy.
A statement from Nuon said yesterday: “We accept that the council have requested a site visit. Pen y Cymoedd represents a substantial inward investment that will bring major benefits to the local economy and the environment.
“Over its 25-year lifetime, Pen y Cymoedd will inject more than £1bn into the local economy.
“We will support the retention and creation of around 300 jobs during the construction phase and 50 permanent jobs thereafter – and stimulate more job creation by using local suppliers during the construction and operation of the project.
“An additional £11m will be invested directly into the Welsh and local economy every year and we have ensured that local communities see direct benefit from this inward investment.
“We are committed to contributing around £1.85m annually to a community fund to be used to support and develop schemes that local people want.
“We will also fund a £350,000 mountain bike trail connecting the Neath and Afan Valleys and a £3m habitat restoration project that will enhance the area for tourism and biodiversity.
“As well as substantial economic benefits, our sustainable energy proposal will generate enough clean renewable electricity to power 111,000 homes each year.
“Pen y Cymoedd has been sensitively developed, following an extensive consultation involving more than 1,500 local people and various organisations and taking into account the views expressed to us.”