Controversial plans to build the biggest onshore wind farm in England and Wales in the Rhondda have been given the green light by the UK Government.
The controversial 76-turbine Pen Y Cymoedd wind farm will be built on land south of the Heads of the Valleys road after the £300m project was given development consent by Energy Minister Charles Hendry MP.
Its developers, Vattenfall, say their scheme could pump £1bn into the Welsh economy and create more than 300 jobs.
The project had been a cause for concern for many living in the communities of Blaencwm, Blaenrhondda, Tynewydd and Treherbert.
Rhondda Cynon Taf council initially rejected the proposal, but in October councillors raised no objections after planners removed three turbines from their original plan.
A large number of the turbines – each nearly three times the height of the 169ft Nelson’s Column – will be visible on the hillside above Blaenrhondda, with others towering above the opposite side of the valley.
The remaining turbines will be in the Neath and Port Talbot catchment.
Newly-elected Treherbert councillor Irene Pearce said that many residents were concerned by the number of turbines.
She said: “We’re not against renewable energy – we’re against so many huge wind turbines appearing on our mountainside.
“A lot of people were concerned with these plans and at the sheer size of them.
“We want a public meeting with the planners to discuss the wind farm. There wasn’t one when the plans were first released.” The Glyncorrwg Action Group has voiced its opposition, saying the wind farm will destroy the rural character of the area.
They say that forestry land will be ruined with between half a million and one million trees and thousands of tons of peat destroyed to make way for the turbines.
South Wales Alternative to Turbines secretary Jack Frost, who is also a member of Green Valley Action Group, said: “This wind farm will spoil one of Wales’ most beautiful areas.
“The heads of the valleys are largely unspoilt and this will ruin it for walkers, naturalists and hikers.
“I imagine you will be able to see these beasts from the Rhondda and across the valleys, they’re absolutely huge.
Once a final investment decision has been taken by Vattenfall, construction could begin as early as next year and the turbines could be generating energy in 2016.
Energy Minister Charles Hendry said: “Onshore wind plays an important role in enhancing our energy security. It is the cheapest form of renewable energy and reduces our reliance on foreign fuel.
“This project in South Wales will generate vast amounts of home-grown renewable electricity and provide a significant benefits package for the local community.”
Piers Guy, Vattenfall’s head of onshore wind development in the UK, said: “We are delighted that Vattenfall’s Welsh flagship project has been consented.
“Pen y Cymoedd is a major project that could be worth more than £1bn to Wales.
“We have consistently stated our commitment to making sure that we maximise the value of Pen y Cymoedd to the region and to Wales. This is now our priority.
“This project shows what onshore wind energy investments can offer Wales over the short and long term.
“Through this project we will be supporting the delivery of national and local priorities – from creating local jobs, supply chain opportunities and apprenticeship schemes to supporting tourism initiatives, community services and facilities.
“Our 25-year investment makes us one of the most significant community investors in Wales.”
Vattenfall will now review the letter of consent in detail before committing to a forward programme for the proposal.
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