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Dismay as London judge backs firm in wind turbine battle

Campaigners fighting plans for a controversial wind farm on common land north of Swansea have branded a High Court ruling which found in favour of developers “disgusting”.

RWE npower renewables wants to build 19 turbines on Mynydd y Gwair near Felindre – a scheme rejected by local residents, the community council, Swansea Council and, most recently, the Welsh Government.

But the firm sought a judicial review of Cardiff Bay’s decision, and now a senior judge has backed the company and told the Assembly it must think again.

The news from London has angered campaigners. Glyn Morgan, farmer and chairman of the action group Save Our Common Mountain Environment – Socme – said: “We are waiting to see the details of the judgement but you have got to ask where is the local democracy in this? When does ‘no’ mean ‘no’?

“This scheme is opposed by the local council, by the City and County of Swansea, and by the Welsh Assembly.

“Now an English judge comes along and overturns it – it is disgusting and it is totally unacceptable.

“We have been fighting this for years, and we will carry on because we know the impact it will have not just on the people living and working here, but on the wider community and on tourism.”

He added: “I hope the Welsh Government will not let this lie – they are there to represent the Welsh people.”

Campaigners and opponents of the turbines are due to meet today to examine the details of the High Court ruling, and to consider their next move.

Developers have had their eyes on the high ground north of Swansea for almost two decades with a number of different firms trying to construct wind farms there, the most recent being RWE which wants to build 19 turbines – which would stand 417ft high to the tip of their blades – along with infrastructure and more than 8.5 miles of access track.

The company’s application was originally submitted to Swansea Council in September 2008, with objectors submitting a 1,030-strong petition and more than 2,800 letters of complaint.

Although the local authority objected to the application, it had taken so long to do so that RWE appealed, prompting a lengthy public inquiry.

Then in February this year the Welsh Government refused planning permission for the scheme – prompting the hearing in London.

But now Mr Justice Beatson has granted RWE another chance of bringing its plans to fruition by overturning the Ministers’ decision.

The judge said the decision, and the inspector’s report on which it was based, were both “affected by a deficiency in the reasons”.

The company’s barrister, Gordon Nardell QC, had argued there was a “procedural irregularity” in the hearing before the inspector, in that he failed to alert RWE to his doubts about the impact of the scheme on the area’s peat bog habitat.

RWE say any such impact would be “minor in character” after mitigation measures were taken, but in his recommendations to Ministers, the inspector said the impact “was not merely ‘significant’, but serious enough to justify refusal of planning permission on this ground alone”.

Long-time opponent of wind farms Ioan Richard, who represents the Mawr ward on Swansea Council said he was “bitterly disappointed” at the outcome of the hearing.