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Power firm told to resite wind farm

A power company hoping to build a wind farm on the outskirts of Swansea has been told to rethink where the 19 wind turbines will be sited to avoid valuable peat deposits on the land.

The Court of Appeal in London overturned a High Court ruling that gave RWE Npower Renewables Ltd a fresh chance at securing planning permission for the wind farm on moorland at Mynydd y Gwair on the northern outskirts of Swansea, and reinstated a Welsh ministers’ decision refusing permission.

Lord Justice Pill backed a planning inspector’s decision that the wind farm could not be allowed as presently envisaged because of “the harmful effect of the proposed development on the peat bog habitat”.

However, he said that, since the inspector had indicated that, in principle, a wind farm would be acceptable on this site were it not for this specific harm, it was open to the power company to reposition the turbines and access tracks so as to reduce the impact on the peat bog habitat, and make a fresh application for planning permission.

The decision has been given a cautious welcome by Glyn Morgan, farmer and chairman of the action group Save Our Common Mountain Environment. “We are pleased. Hopefully the wind farm will not come to Mynydd y Gwair,” he said.

“But we still believe that wherever they are placed, this sensitive landscape will be affected.”

Lord Justice Pill, sitting with Lord Justice Elias and Lord Justice Pitchford, allowed an appeal by the Welsh ministers against High Court judge Mr Justice Beatson’s ruling last July that their inspector had failed to give adequate reasons for his decision and caused “procedural unfairness” to the power company. At that hearing he quashed the Welsh ministers’ refusal of planning permission from February 2011, and ordered a reconsideration of the proposal by a fresh inspector.

However, yesterday’s ruling reinstates the original decision and means no reconsideration will be carried out.

Lord Justice Pill said: “The inspector accepted that a wind farm on the appeal site could be permitted. The issue was as to the precise position in which the turbines should be located.”

Lord Justice Elias added: “In short, there was a duty to protect the peat bog habitat.”