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Peer condemns First Minister for ignoring wind farm protesters

Liberal Democrat peer and former Montgomeryshire MP, Lord Carlile of Berriew has condemned the “shocking” attitude of the “Cardiff-centric” Welsh Assembly Government towards protesters campaigning against a network of pylons, wires and wind farms across Mid Wales.

A Deputy High Court judge and QC, Lord Carlile is angry that First Minister, Carwyn Jones, and John Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development, have so far ignored all requests for a meeting with the protesters. He has warned that if Mr Jones, who has taken personal responsibility for the Welsh Government’s energy policy, does not agree to meet the protesters in Mid Wales, they will be forced to travel to his Bridgend constituency to talk to him.

Lord Carlile has offered to chair a public meeting or a “wind energy and landscape summit” at a neutral venue in Mid Wales, at which Mr Jones will be invited to speak alongside representatives of Renewable UK, National Grid and the protest movement.

“The Welsh Assembly Government’s attitude is really shocking,” said Lord Carlile. “They are behaving much worse than the government before devolution. This is Cardiff-centric government at its worst.

“The First Minister should make himself available for a meeting, otherwise the protestors will have no choice but to visit his surgeries.”

Mr Griffiths declined to meet a delegation from the protesters on the day 2,000 people attended a protest rally outside the Senedd in Cardiff on 24th May. The protesters are calling on the Welsh Government to review urgently its TAN 8 policy document and to stop all onshore wind farm development in the meantime.

Two days after the rally, Mr Jones told the Renewables UK Cymru’s conference that the next 10 years must be “Wales’s energy decade” and he has refused requests to review TAN 8. At the same event, Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan said politicians and businesses could not ride roughshod over local people’s opinion.

Montgomeryshire Against Pylons chairman, Jonathan Wilkinson and Myfanwy Alexander, a leading speaker in the protest movement, travelled to Hay Festival to try to meet Mr Griffiths. After a brief conversation with the minister, he agreed to speak to them but security guards then escorted them from a hospitality area before the meeting took place.

Protesters had planned to lobby Mr Jones, who was due to open the Owain Glyndŵr Centre in Machynlleth on Saturday18th June, only to discover that he is now sending deputy minister Alun Davies in his place.

Mr Wilkinson said: “The project proposed for Montgomeryshire will inevitably affect the fabric of lives in our communities and Mr Jones, as the First Minister for the whole of Wales, has a duty to meet us and listen to our concerns.

“The longer he delays, the more difficult the eventual meeting will be. I don’t think he has any understanding of the level of public opinion and scale of emotion that these proposals have stirred up in Montgomeryshire.

“The project conflicts with the Welsh Government’s own policies on sustainable development. To quote John Griffiths’ own definition of sustainable development: ‘…development that enhances the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of people and communities in Wales – now and in the future’. I challenge him to show how this definition applies to the proposals for Montgomeryshire.”

Lord Carlile has pledged his full support to campaigners opposing controversial proposals to cover the uplands of Montgomeryshire with wind farms, which will then be connected to the National Grid via a 19-acre substation either near Abermule or Cefn Coch and high powered cables carried by 26 metre and 46 metre pylons.

He says the Tan 8 document, which identifies Montgomeryshire as a prime location for wind farms, has failed to take into account the impact of the turbines on the beautiful landscape and should be reviewed.