A public relations gaffe by a environmental management company has woken residents up to the prospect of another windfarm being built in Clocaenog Forest.
A press release made public by Spencer Environmental Care Associates (ECA), said the company had been awarded a contract by Forestry Commission Wales to carry out clearance work ahead of a major wind farm construction project on four sites commencing in the summer of 2012.
The information was released despite no plans being granted by the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) – the first port of call for any major infrastructure projects.
The release read: “The clearance programme is being carried out to make way for the installation of 237 wind turbines and will see the clearance of 386 hectares of (954 acres) of lightly-wooded and juvenile crops in Clocaenog, Dyfnant and Nant y Moch Forests in North Wales, plus Brechfa, Rheola and Pen y Cymoedd Forests in the south.
“The work will involve the removal of small and immature crops that are not viable to harvest, with the plans requiring only minimal felling of mature trees.
“Up to 50-metre radius around each of the turbines specify complete removal of vegetation, with the next 50-metres requiring clearance of any trees and plants that may be disturbed by air turbulence or effect the efficiency of the wind generation process.
“In addition to the turbine sites, Spencer will clear a network of 25-metre wide corridors for new access roads and the installation of cable runs, as well as prepare a series of lay-down areas for the large components.
“Added to this, some of the existing roads in the area will also require widening and therefore, Spencer has been tasked to remove vegetation 10-metres either side of these already established routes.”
But on contacting Forestry Commission Wales, the Free Press was told the press release had a number of ‘inaccuracies’ and that the contracts would only be awarded ‘if and when’ the wind energy developments has been granted.
The release has now been removed from Spencer ECA’s website.
The IPC is the independent body that examines applications for nationally significant infrastructure projects that support the economy and vital public services, including railways, large wind farms, power stations, reservoirs, harbours, airports and sewage treatment works.
No infrastructure plans can go ahead without the IPC agreeing to them first.
Clwyd West MP David Jones said he was ‘extremely alarmed’ that this work had been instigated, notwithstanding that consent to the development has not been granted.
“It is scandalous,” said Mr Jones.
“An application has not yet been made to the Infrastructure Planning Commission for consent to the construction of the wind farm.
“The application will be strenuously opposed and, in any event, it is very unlikely that consent will be granted in 2012.
“The forestry commission should not be doing anything at all before consent is granted by the IPC.
“Not only has the contract been awarded to Spencer ECA but detailed plans have handed over.
“The Forestry Commission has no business in second guessing what the IPC will decide,” he added.
A spokeswoman for Forestry Commission Wales said: “The contracts awarded to Spencer ECA for tree clearance will only commence if and when wind energy developments have been granted Planning Permission by the relevant Planning Authority.
“With respect to the proposed Clocaenog Forest Wind Energy Project; the application for Planning has not been submitted yet by the Developer (RWE npower).
“Following construction of any wind farm, the area affected by the development shall be restocked to an approved Forest Design Plan (FDP).
“This is in line with the overall objective of the Wind Energy Programme and in keeping with the Welsh Government’s Woodland for Wales Strategy.
“Forestry Commission Wales are managing the Wind Energy Programme on the Welsh Government Woodland Estate on behalf of the Welsh Government,” she added.
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