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Peer condemns Carwyn over stance on windfarm protest

A Welsh peer has condemned the “shocking” attitude of the “Cardiffcentric” Welsh Government towards protesters campaigning against wind power in Wales.

Deputy High Court judge and QC Lord Carlile of Berriew 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.

Opponents of plans for a 20-acre electricity sub-station with 100 miles of pylons connecting 800 wind power stations to the National Grid have staged demonstrations in Welshpool and Cardiff. They were supported by hundreds of others campaigning against proposals for wind power developments in other areas of Wales.

Lord Carlile has warned that if Carwyn 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 travel to his Bridgend constituency to talk to him.

The peer 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, Liberal Democrat peer and former Montgomeryshire MP. 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 refused to meet a delegation from the protesters on the day 2,000 people attended a protest rally outside the Senedd in Cardiff on May 24. The protesters are calling on the Welsh Government to review its Tan 8 wind power policy – as promised at the time it was put in place – and in the meantime to call a halt to all onshore wind power projects.

Two days after the rally, Mr Jones told the Renewables UK Cymru’s conference that the next 10 years must be “Wales’ energy decade” – but he has refused 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. Then on Friday Carwyn Jones appeared to respond to public concern by telling the National Assembly that the Tan 8 capacities “should be regarded as upper limits” – and said proposals for some areas earmarked for wind power were excessive.

Russell George, Shadow Minister for the Environment and AM for Montgomeryshire, said: “We welcome that Ministers have finally given in to the strength of public opinion on wind-farm developments.

“This shows what can be achieved when communities come together.

“However, the First Minister’s statement that the capacity of areas designated for windfarm development in Tan 8 should be seen as upper limits is totally at odds with the guidance he developed and supported as Environment Minister in 2005.

“It was short-sighted of Carwyn Jones, as the Minister who introduced Tan 8, not to anticipate the associated pylons and electricity substations which would be needed to support such large-scale wind farm developments.

“The First Minister should now concede that Tan 8, the guidance he is responsible for, is not fit for purpose and is in need of an urgent and thorough review.

“Ministers need to take action to revise their planning guidance to guarantee the protection of our natural environment to avoid the accusation of making hollow pronouncements.”

Montgomeryshire Against Pylons chairman Jonathan Wilkinson said the sub-station and miles of pylons would inevitably affect the fabric of lives in local communities.

“Mr Jones, as the First Minister for the whole of Wales, has a duty to meet us and listen to our concerns,” he said.

“The longer he delays, the more difficult the eventual meeting will be.”

Mr Wilkinson added: “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.”

The Tan 8 document identifies Montgomeryshire as one of seven strategic areas for wind farms in Wales, with a target of 800 megawatts of electricity from onshore wind power by 2020.