A historic windfarm debate, broadcast live on the internet, took place at County Hall last week.
Jeremy Patterson, chief executive of Powys County Council (PCC), said windfarms were matters of ‘very great concern’ to the county.
The meeting followed an announcement by National Grid that it will announce its preferred site for a 20-acre electricity hub, and transport route, by the end of March.
“I know you have strong feelings on this, and perhaps feel as though you have not yet been allowed to debate as fully and freely as you’d like,” Mr Patterson told councillors before the debate began.
“It’s very important that any of us are not deemed to have predetermined anything. That doesn’t stop you from having a view, but you mustn’t express such a strong view that people think you have a closed mind.”
Alan Sotheby, head of planning, then gave a presentation outlining the ‘Powys windfarm scenario’.
Mr Sotheby explained there are 10 planning applications – including the 20-acre ‘hub’ – where Powys’ planning committee will be the deciding authority, and six larger applications where Powys’ cabinet will be a consultee only.
If the cabinet objects to an application then a public inquiry would be held.
In a question-and-answer session, Councillor Bob Mills alleged that members had never been given ‘a balanced view on windfarms’ and added that windfarms on land are ‘not highly productive’.
Cllr Simon Baynes asked how the cabinet would come to their decision. The monitoring officer Clarence Meredith said other councillors could address the cabinet and the opinions of local members and groups would inform the cabinet’s view.
Alan Sotheby said he anticipated bringing windfarm applications before the cabinet and planning committee ‘during the life of this administration’, before May.
Cllr Viola Evans asked what could be done to prevent ‘windfarm ghost sites’ if they break down or become inactive.
“It’s very important we don’t end up with these, as they are an eyesore,” said Mr Sotheby.
“As part of granting permission, there is a 106 agreement to remove turbines should they stop generating electricity for more than six months, and the land restored to an agreed state.
“At present the Countryside Council for Wales’ preference is for the concrete pads to remain in the place.”
Colonel Timothy Van Rees, a member of the planning committee, said only one windfarm application at Tir Gwynt had been granted after an “exhaustive site visit, extensive debate and the widest possible consultation.”
Another, at Llanfihangel, had been rejected.
Cllr Peter Harris asked why the cabinet should make a decision rather than the full council. Mr Meredith said it was the law.
Cllr Gary Price then asked if the cabinet could delegate the decision to full council, and Mr Meredith said that decision rests with the cabinet.
Councillors voted in favour of the motion, proposed by Graham Brown and seconded by John Brunt, calling for a review of TAN8; that the council is in favour of sustainable energy but more should be done to promote other types; and that it is essential windfarms do not damage biodiversity, human health, fauna, flora and many others.
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