From his farmhouse in mid Wales Jonathan Wilkinson looks out across a glorious stretch of the Vyrnwy valley, rolling hills and acres of woodland rich in wildlife.
But it is a view that could soon be lost forever.
The valley and the hills are under threat from huge wind turbines and electricity pylons that will stretch for miles in both directions in the biggest concentration of onshore wind farms in England and Wales.
The proposed scheme will extend across up to 42 miles of unspoilt Welsh and English countryside. It will include 800 turbines up to 600ft tall – some visible from the Snowdonia national park – a network of electricity pylons, and a substation spread over 28 acres.
Areas under threat include the Severne valley in Powys, the Vyrnwy valley in Montgomeryshire and parts of Shropshire.
Mid-Wales will be the worst-hit but many other areas to the north and south face a rash of wind farm development under the Government’s plans to encourage an expansion of renewable energy.
The proposals have prompted a flurry of interest from some landowners – including the Forestry Commission – eager to rent out land and receive up to £30,000 per turbine per year for 20 years.
They said they wanted to increase their income but landowners opposed to the schemes accused them of “selling out their rural heritage”.
The project is out for consultation and a final decision on the exact location of the mid Wales turbines and pylons is expected to be taken early in the new year by the Welsh Assembly government.
The proposals have provoked furious protests from opponents who say the “environmental vandalism” will ruin popular tourist areas, destroy unspoilt countryside and blight thousands of homes, farms and businesses.
There are also concerns that plans to concrete over peat bogs will cause flooding and the construction will mean residents and tourists enduring noise, dirt and disruption for a decade.
“This is a monstrous project,” said Mr Wilkinson, 49, a third-generation farmer who has a 500-acre dairy farm.
“We are not opposed to renewable energy but this will destroy vast areas of precious countryside and kill off the tourism trade.
“The authorities have completely failed to consider the devastating impact this huge project will have on people’s lives and livelihoods.
“The substation alone will cover an area of 28 acres – that’s a huge industrial development in pristine countryside.”
Wind farm companies have been drawing up plans for more schemes since the Welsh Assembly identified areas “suitable” for renewable energy projects.
Miles of pylons and a substation, or “hub”, will have to be built because many areas do not have access to the national grid.
The National Grid announced earlier this year that it was consulting on 10 “routes”, from 32 to 42 miles long, through mid Wales with a view to choosing one early in the New Year, subject to approval by Whitehall. The routes are where both the wind farms and the pylons would be located. The wind farms would be built by another firm, with SP Manweb already indicating an interest in building the turbines.
Campaign groups have been set up along the proposed routes to call for the scheme to be reviewed or scrapped.
They say said the wind farms would do “irreparable harm” to a thriving tourism industry based on hotels, restaurants and camp sites.
Michelle Lloyd, 46, from Kerry in Powys, a member of Stop the Pylons and Wind Turbines, said: “This is a beautiful area and tourism is its lifeblood.
“But who will want to come here, stay in the hotels and B&Bs and spend money in the shops when the hills are covered with ugly turbines and pylons?
“The project doesn’t make sense, not least because wind energy is so inefficient.”
Residents’ concerns grew when the National Grid announced its consultation on the proposed routes for the turbines and pylons in March.
Politicians and wind farm companies were surprised by the extent of the opposition to their plans when 2,000 people attended a public rally outside the Welsh Assembly building in Cardiff in May.
Glyn Davies, the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, who is fiercely opposed to the scheme said: “They should scrap the plans and start again.
“It will do enormous damage to a precious area. People move to and visit mid Wales because of its natural beauty.”
Mr Davies added: “The scale of this project is totally wrong. It would be a desecration of mid-Wales.”
Mr Wilkinson said that if the wind farms are built he would almost certainly have to leave the area. “I’m not the only one,” he said. “Others have told me they would have to move away too. It just wouldn’t be the same place.”
For now, however, the battle is still there to be won. “People are very angry about this,” he says. “But it will get much worse when the route is announced and we know exactly which areas face being ruined. Then it will really kick off.”
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “All applications for wind farm developments and electricity network infrastructure should be dealt with on a case by case basis, taking into account the views of local people.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding