Plans for a controversial wind farm at a beauty spot near Swansea have won the support of councillors – by just three votes.
There had been considerable local opposition to the proposals at Mynydd y Gwair in Felindre, with claims turbines will spoil the area’s natural beauty.
Last year Appeal Court judges in London overturned an earlier decision allowing a 19-turbine plan.
Councillors backed a new 16-turbine scheme by 27 votes to 24.
It followed a decision by energy firm RWE npower renewables to resubmit its application for the wind farm.
The company said the 48 megawatt (MW) project would provide energy for nearly 25,000 homes.
It involves building the 16 turbines, the tips of the blades measuring some 400ft (121m) tall, on a 1,200ft (365m) high hill overlooking the Bristol Channel.
“We are thrilled with the result,” said Bethan Edwards of RWE npower renewables on BBC Radio Wales.
“It was a lengthy meeting and there was robust debate throughout the meeting where all the issues were considered, including a lot of the concerns that were raised by Mr Morgan [objector Glyn Morgan].
“We have a common land application to be submitted and that is the next stage of the application, and obviously throughout that we will be proactively working with the commoners and with the local people to deal with their concerns.
“What we’re really excited about is the potential for the economic benefits and the green jobs that this project could create for Swansea.”
The proposals for Mynydd y Gwair have been the focus of a long running dispute.
Reacting to the council’s decision on Thursday evening, local farmer Glyn Morgan, chairman of action group Save Our Common Mountain Environment (Socme), told BBC Radio Wales the energy firm’s plan was “total destruction of an environment”.
“It will totally change the area from an agriculturally-based landscape to an industrial one,” he said.
“Everybody who has driven across Mynydd y Gwair towards Ammanford in the last three or four months will see those monstrosities that are being built on Mynydd y Betws.
“We argued that putting two wind farms next to each other will incredibly increase the accumulative effect – you will just see blades and the total destruction of an environment.”
Mr Morgan said the group was disappointed by the decision, but said the case was not a foregone conclusion because the company still had to apply to the Welsh government.
“We shall have to take a bit of time now and regroup and see what our options are,” he said.
“They will still need planning… because it is to be built on common land so it’s not a cut and shut case at the moment.”
The company said it would look to replace common land and it wanted to work with the commoners throughout the development “to minimise any impact that the project may have on them and their livestock”.
The original plans for Mynydd y Gwair were rejected by Swansea councillors after it emerged the original 19 turbines would rise to a height of up to 127m (416ft).
It led to a public inquiry, which again rejected the plans, before a High Court judge agreed to the proposals in July 2011.
However, the Appeal Court then blocked the development in March last year.
The court said it recognised that a wind farm would be acceptable on the current site, if harm to the peat land could be avoided.
The company said the updated design with the revised plan was “entirely suited to its location”.
Meanwhile the head of the UK’s largest renewable energy producer warns that Wales will lose out on wind farm investment unless the planning process speeds up.
Ian Marchant, chief executive of SSE, says proposed projects in Wales are taking longer and costing more than in other parts of the UK, notably Scotland.
FOR AND AGAINST
• Two petitions with 776 names and 1,263 letters of objection
• Objectors include Save Our Common Mountain Environment group, Mawr Walking Club, Swansea Ramblers, Rhiwfawr Action Group, West Glamorgan Commoners Association, Brecon Beacons Park Society and Pontarddulais Town Council
• 504 letters of support, including on economic benefits
• South Wales Chamber of Commerce writing in favour
Source: Swansea Council
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