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Police chief’s assurance over wind farm site traffic fears

The chief constable of South Wales Police has said officers would make sure emergency vehicles will be able to pass large vehicles carrying wind farm components in the Swansea Valley.

The newly-formed Communities Acting Together group fear a new wind farm on Mynydd y Betws, behind Rhydyfro, being built by Cambrian Renewable Energy Ltd, will see vehicles more than 50 metres long and weighing 150 tonnes travelling up the A474 through Pontardawe and up towards Cwmgors.

Opponents have claimed such loads will damage the route, lower property prices and potentially cut off communities if one stretch in particular, Gelligron Hill, which has had subsidence trouble in the past, collapses.

The biggest concern is that emergency services may be delayed as a result of not being able to pass the lorries.

Pontardawe councillor Linet Purcell took the opportunity to ask Peter Vaughan, Chief Constable of South Wales Police, about his thoughts on the safety aspects of such convoys when he addressed Neath Port Talbot Council last week.

The huge loads, made up of generators, turbines and their huge blades, will arrive at Swansea docks and travel up the Swansea Valley through Pontardawe.

Mrs Purcell said: “I would be grateful if you could tell council that this route is safe and that emergency vehicles will be able to pass?”

Mr Vaughan replied: “We have had no involvement in the selection of the route, our part in the process is to ensure the safety of the loads.

“We are being provided with additional funding to enable us to do that.

“All will be escorted by police motorbikes and we will make sure there are opportunities for vehicles to pass alongside.”

Any additional problems would be assessed by officers on scene accompanying the loads, he said.

“The load will have a police escort so you have the police officers there,” said Mr Vaughan.

Neath superintendent Joe Ruddy added: “As it comes closer to the time you will have regular updates.”

Planning for the yet-to-be- built wind farm, which has been bought by Irish utility company ESB, was originally recommended for refusal by Carmarthenshire Council, but later given the go-ahead by a Welsh Government inspector following an appeal.

Neath Port Talbot Council, meanwhile, approved the access road plans. It recently required the speed limit at the junction of the new access road and A474 to be cut to 30mph, with extra street lighting at the site entrance.

Amongst those campaigning for the improved safety measures was Sean Lacey, father-in-law of Welsh rugby hero Shane Williams, as the new access road is directly opposite his home.

He said: “Shane is fully aware of our fight, he has been to several protest meetings.”

An ESB spokesman said: “When we applied to improve site access the increase in road safety measures was an integral part of the process.”