A massive wind farm planned off the Welsh coast could cause major environmental and economic damage to one of the country’s most famous beauty spots, an influential council committee has been told.
Campaigners fear the huge project would affect the character of the famous Gower Peninsula. The £3bn Atlantic Array scheme would see more than 250 turbines erected between Lundy Island and Gower by Swindon-based RWE npower renewables.
The size of the Isle of Wight, and bigger than the 160 turbine North Wales Gwynt y Mor project, the turbines could be more than 350ft tall, higher than Wales’ tallest residential building, Swansea’s Meridian Tower. But if turbine numbers are reduced to 180 they could be double the 350ft height at 700ft.
The project, still at the consultation stage, will be decided by the National Infrastructure Director overseen by the Westminster Government.
Swansea council’s development management and control committee is being recommended to reject the proposal.
A planners’ report says: “The council has significant concerns and objections regarding significant adverse seascape, landscape and visual effects on the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Gower AONB.
“Areas most affected cover the peninsula’s south west including many of the most scenic, attractive and well known parts of Gower (Rhossili and Three Cliffs Bay).
“It’s around 27km [16 miles] long and 13.5km [eight miles] wide at its extremities, greater than Gower itself.”
The report says tourism in Swansea, worth £230m and supporting 4,500 jobs, could be affected.
White Consultants, commissioned by the council said in respect of Three Cliffs Bay and Worm’s Head (Rhossili): “The array would form a significant change in the views of these popular locations resulting in moderate to major effects.”
The council’s ecologist also warned the array could affect species of dolphins, whales and porpoises, all the creatures being protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
The National Trust has objected, saying: “Renewable energy proposals having a high environmental impact, like Atlantic Array, present a dilemma.
“Local impacts on landscape, setting and habitats have to be balanced against longer term benefits of avoiding climate change.
“It’s now clear regarding the Atlantic Array, the impacts are so severe we must object to the whole proposal.
“Squeezed between two sensitive coastlines, we do not believe it is possible to locate a large scale wind farm here without the damage substantially outweighing benefits.”
Steve Crowther of Devon’s Slay the Array campaign group said: “North Devon earns £360m from the millions who visit annually.
“Do they come to see an unspoiled rugged coastline and seascape? Or a horizon lined with industrial machinery?”
The Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership added: “We’re concerned this industrial scale development clearly visible from Gower would have a dramatic and detrimental effect on its character.”
Carmarthenshire Council’s planning committee has not objected though it voiced concerns over seascape and visual impacts, particularly from Pembrey Burrows.
Rob Thornhill, RWE’s Development Manager for the Atlantic Array, said: “Polls show the effect of wind farms on tourism is negligible at worst.
“Last year we completed a public opinion survey regarding Atlantic Array which included field work around the proposed site, including Worm’s Head.
“The survey suggests overall, combining all locations surveyed, 89% of visitors would not be discouraged from visiting the area because of Atlantic Array, with only 2% suggesting they would not visit again.
“Atlantic Array is important to the UK as it could make a significant contribution to helping it become less dependant on fossil fuels from abroad, produce up to 90% of the domestic electricity consumption for Wales and represents a significant opportunity to the UK and South Wales economy.”
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