All roads and bridges from Ellesmere Port to Powys must be assessed and remedial works carried out before giant 250 tonne transformers are transported to the selected 19-acre electricity substation site, a public meeting was told this week.
Around 300 people from Tregynon and surrounding villages packed into the meeting to express their concern and anger at plans to run 26 and 46 metre high pylons and highpowered electricity cables across the area.
So many people attended the meeting, organised by local county councillor Joy Shearer, at Tregynon Community Centre that an extra loudspeaker had to be placed outside to relay the speeches.
Concerns were expressed about the impact of the pylons and power cables on the landscape, the tourism industry, health and property prices.
The power cables are needed to connect windfarms to a proposed substation at either Abermule, near Newtown or Cefn Coch, near Llanfair Caereinion.
A 400,000-volt cable carried by 46 metre high pylons will then run from the substation to join the National Grid in Shropshire.
Speakers included Dale Boynton, development control manager for Powys County Council’s highways department, who said it was the council’s responsibility to manage the transportation of windfarm and substation components to the county.
The council was told by National Grid about the two proposed substation sites two months ago and there had been very little consultation. “The site will have only five transformers but they each weigh 250 tonnes,” he said.
“The result is that the lorries carrying them can travel at only 10-12mph and they take a long time to get from A-B.
“Most of our road structures, not only in Powys but Shropshire too, have not been designed to take these abnormal loads. National Grid has to assess every single structure and culvert along the route and identify all the remedial works that will be required before they can move out of port.
“They can’t have it all their own way, but we are at the beginning of a very long process.”
He explained that during meetings with windfarm developers it soon became obvious that the county’s road network was going to experience significant problems coping with thousands of abnormal loads of wind turbine components.
The council had been talking to Shropshire County Council, the Highways Agency and police forces between Ellesmere Port and Powys to discuss the transportation plans
“Nobody could believe what we were about to be hit with,” he said.
He said the council would be managing the schedule of abnormal loads to try to minimise traffic disruption but the proposed windfarms would take years to complete.
Glyn Davies, MP for Montgomeryshire, compared the substation and pylon proposals to the controversial project to flood the Tryweryn Valley to create a reservoir in theSnowdonia National Park against the wishes of local residents in 1965.
He warned that members of the National Assembly for Wales would be despised for generations to come if they did not stop the desecration of Montgomeryshire by revising the TAN 8 document, which has identified Mid Wales as a prime location for windfarms.
Mr Davies described plans to run 150 high pylons down either the Severn or Vyrnwy Valleys as “absolutely horrific” and said it would cause “horrendous damage”.
The only way to stop the plans, he said, was to change the minds of Assembly Members. Without that, the plans would be difficult to stop.He proposes to lead a massive demonstration to the Assembly’s Senedd in Cardiff.
“If they are going to do something to us that is so utterly outrageous and act like dictators, I want them to know that we know. I and an awful lot of people in Montgomeryshire will never forgive them,” he added.
“They are sacrificing the Mid Wales that we all care for and love at the altar of a false god – wind turbine.”
Local caravan park owners said that the substation and pylon proposals were already impacting on their businesses as potential buyers were now looking to other areas to locate their caravan holiday homes.
Mark Bebb, managing director of Shrewsbury-based caravan dealership Salop Leisure,said the company had been asked by 40 caravan park owners in the area to help them fight the proposals.He warned that the proposals would have a devastating impact on tourism in Montgomeryshire, which was worth £358 million and supported 6,300 jobs.
He said an estate agent had told him that 80 per cent of prospective buyers would not view a property close to overhead electricity lines. If the same impact appliedto tourism in Montgomeryshire, the industry’s value would be reduced to £123 million and the number of jobs supported would fall to 1,260.
He urged the people of Montgomeryshire not to be divided in fighting the proposals.“It’s really important that people stand together and fight to protect what theyhave and that is beauty,” he said.
“If the cables do come, then they must go underground and electricity users in the rest of the UK should share the cost.”
Stephen Edwards, from SP Energy, said the company had a legal obligation to provide a scheme to link windfarms to the National Grid that was economically and environmentally acceptable.He understood the opposition to the proposals but urged people to be constructive with their feedback before the consultation deadline, which had been extended until the end of June.
By working with local communities, it might be possible to put some cables underground, he said, but to put 50 kilometres of cable underground would increase the cost of the scheme from around £50 million to £500 million.
Geoff Weller, a retired chartered electrical engineer, said burying the cables underground could be done but it would be unprecedented anywhere in Europe.
He also warned that Scottish and Southern Electricity was awaiting a decision on the substation site before applying to run their own link from windfarms.
“All these consultations are the thin end of the wedge,” he said.
Closing the meeting, Mrs Shearer said: “The majority of people have said we have enough windfarms in this area. Without more windfarms, we don’t need the lines. The majority of Powys County Council’s Montgomeryshire councillors are sticking together and saying ‘No’. We now need to continue that message and take the fight to Cardiff.”
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