Campaigners have reacted with shock that plans for a major wind farm in Carmarthenshire have been allowed to move forward.
The Government’s Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) has formally accepted an application from a company to build 28 turbines in Brechfa Forest.
It does not mean a final decision has been made – that will be made next year – merely that the IPC will look at the application.
The news comes despite Carmarthenshire Council’s planning committee recently criticising the company for the way it carried out its public consultation.
Caroline Evans, of the Brechfa Forest Energy Action Group, said: “We are very shocked and surprised that the IPC has accepted this application to go forward to the examination stage because the county council is quite damning in its report.
The company behind the plans is RWE Npower Renewable, which wants to build the wind farm on land to the east of Alltwalis.
The project, called Brechfa Forest West, is so large it does not go to the county council through the normal planning process, but to the IPC.
A statement from the IPC said: “This is the first application for a wind farm in Wales to be submitted for consideration to the IPC and the decision to accept the application to proceed has been made ahead of the statutory deadline.
“The decision is based on a range of considerations, including the adequacy of public consultation undertaken by the developer.”
Project manager Bethan Thomas, from Npower, said: “As a responsible developer, we always undertake consultation with the communities surrounding our wind farm proposals. The difference is that for an IPC application this consultation is a more defined and structured process that had to be agreed with the local planning authority up front.
“I am thrilled that the validation of the application endorses that we delivered our consultation correctly, with a strong emphasis on community engagement.
“We have invited and listened carefully to the comments of local people and formal consultees, reviewing their feedback and revising our proposals where appropriate.”
From December 7, local communities and other interested parties will be able to formally register with the IPC to take part in the next stage of the consultation process.
A decision on whether or not to grant the development is expected to be made by the Secretary of State for Energy in 2012.
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