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Talks over wind farm plans sought after project agreed

Urgent talks are being sought with the developer behind the biggest onshore wind farm in England and Wales which is to be built between Neath and Aberdare.

Energy Minister Charles Hendry this week approved the 76-turbine Pen y Cymoedd project, which is expected to cost £300 million.

When the plans were originally put forward they were said to include turbines 145 metres high – three times the size of Nelson’s Column.

There will be community benefits, with developer Vattenfall investing in a £3 million local habitat project.

It will also put money into a community fund to provide guaranteed funding support for regeneration of more than £55 million over the next 25 years.

But there are fears about the impact on communities including Glyncorrwg in the upper Afan Valley.

Glyncorrwg Action Group chairman Lindsay Milsom said residents were disappointed by the approval.

“This is not so much a big society as a big bully society,” he said. “We feel we have been bullied by development companies circling the area.”

Aberavon AM David Rees and MP Hywel Francis have also spoken out.

“We are disappointed the concerns of local residents and our calls for a public inquiry have not been acted upon,” they said in a joint statement.

“We hope the developer will be working with residents, local councillors, the local authority and the Welsh Government to ensure that this development benefits the local area.

“We will be seeking a meeting with the developers as soon as possible to ensure that local residents’ concerns are taken into account.”

Construction could start next year. Vattenfall has estimated that the 299MW wind farm could power the equivalent of 206,000 homes a year.

At the moment final decisions about power stations over 50MW are decided by the Westminster Government, but the Welsh Government is now seeking devolved powers to deal with them.

Mr Rees and Mr Francis said: “We believe it remains a travesty that decisions on such important issues are not taken here in Wales. Whilst we fully support renewable energy, this is a landscape which has already been ravaged by coal mining. Local communities have worked hard to regenerate the region into what should now be considered an area of natural beauty.

“The proposal for the wind farm would be particularly intrusive for the residents of the Upper Afan Valley.

“These communities, with their highly attractive natural assets, are beginning to build a thriving tourist industry which could be impacted upon unless this development is managed both sensitively and with full consultation with our communities.”

Glyncorrwg councillor Glyn Rawlings has already stated he opposed the development.

But, he said, now it had been approved, the priority was to get the best possible deal for the people he represented.

“It will change the landscape completely,” he added.

Vattenfalls’s head of UK onshore wind development Piers Guy said: “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.”

Energy Minister Mr Hendry said onshore wind played an important role in enhancing energy security.

He added: “It is the cheapest form of renewable energy and reduces our reliance on foreign fuel.”