Three more controversial wind farm developments planned for Mid Wales will be examined by a public inquiry, the UK Government has announced.
An inquiry announced earlier this year for schemes in Llanbadarn Fynydd and Carnedd Wen in Powys will now also investigate proposed projects at Llandinam, Llaithddu and Llanbrynmair.
Powys council rejected planning applications for all five developments earlier this year.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “The planning process allows for a public inquiry to be held where a local authority has raised objections to a new energy development.
“Due to the County Council’s objections to these five wind farm proposals for Mid Wales, the Government has decided that evidence on the benefits and impacts of these proposals is best considered at a joint public inquiry for all five applications.
“This will provide an opportunity for all of the evidence to be independently examined by an inspector from the Welsh Planning Inspectorate before a final decision is taken.”
There are currently 25 new wind farm bids being made by green energy firms across Wales, with heavy concentrations in Powys and Pembrokeshire and smaller-scale schemes across the country.
Carnedd Wen is among the biggest schemes planned in Wales.
The RWE npower renewables’ 150 MW project west of Welshpool, would see 50 turbines standing 137m high.
The structures would stand 17m higher than Cardiff’s tallest building – the BT-owned Stadium House – or 30m loftier than The Tower, in Swansea’s Meridian Quay.
It is one of many schemes in Mid Wales, including Llanbadarn Fynydd, that Powys council has no authority to reject – all proposals over 50MW are determined by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
CeltPower Limited’s Llandinam proposal is for a 126MW scheme, Fferm Wynt Llaithddu Cyf’s Llaithddu project is 66.7MW and RES UK & Ireland Limited’s Llanbrynmair scheme is 100MW.
Protesters say the plans could destroy Wales’ ability to continue marketing itself as a place of unspoilt beauty.
Montgomeryshire-based Alison Davies, who chairs protest group Conservation of Upland Powys, said people will stop visiting Wales if wind farm developments are allowed to continue.
She said Montgomeryshire depended on its many thriving caravan park tenants who will go elsewhere if they find themselves surrounded by wind farms.
“They’re helping to support businesses that have significant employment within the caravan parks, but also beyond that in the pubs, the hotels, the restaurants and the shops,” she said.
But some Montgomeryshire residents claim communities are being ripped apart by wind farm developments.
“To put it simply – we feel intimidated,” one anonymous farmer from Montgomeryshire said.
He added: “If you’re not totally against wind power then people think you’re bonkers.”
Former head teacher Buddug Bates, from near Llanfaircaereinion, also supports plans in Powys
“We’re scared to support any kind of alternative energy openly,” she said.
“I had a terrible experience at a public meeting in Meifod recently.”
But Montgomeryshire AM Russell George welcomed the announcement.
He said: “Given the level of community opposition, I fully expected more applications to move to the public inquiry stage.
“In my view, this is another positive step forward in the campaign to stop onshore wind farm developments in Mid Wales.
“This inquiry was triggered by Powys County Council rejecting all these applications.
“The decisions made by the council were not just sound in principle but they also exposed in the application process, some of the poorly contrived thinking and inadequate planning that the associated developers had put forward.”
He added: “What this inquiry will do will ensure the communities who will be affected by these schemes will be able to have their say and formally lodge specific evidence which will have to be taken into consideration when UK Ministers make their final decision.”
A Government spokesman said that details of the public inquiry were yet to be finalised but it is expected that a pre-inquiry meeting will take place in spring 2013, with the full inquiry to commence later next year.
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