March 12, 2013

Carmarthenshire ‘heavenly’ commons at risk from wind turbine development

Welsh Country |

The Open Spaces Society, the leading pressure-group for common land, has objected to two applications from RES UK & Ireland Ltd for wind turbines and associated works on common land in Carmarthenshire.

RES wants to erect 21 wind turbines, 15 of them on common land, with met masts, access tracks, hard-standing, highway widening and fencing. The commons are Mynydd Llanllwni Common and Mynydd Llanfihangel Rhos-y-Corn Common, two prominent hills roughly ten miles south west of Lampeter.

RES needs the consent of the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, both for works on common land and to exchange some of the common affected. This is in addition to planning permission, which has been refused by Carmarthenshire Council and against which RES has appealed.

Says Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society: ‘These commons are very special. They are in a quiet corner of Wales, and are immensely beautiful. Here people have rights to walk and ride, enjoying the fresh air and the views.

‘If the development were to go ahead, this would become an industrial site, and no one wants to walk or ride around a factory. The turbines would be an eyesore and would destroy the lovely views.

‘The development would tear the heart out of the common; the proposed exchange land is on the edge and is no substitute.’

Adds Kay Hamza, a farmer who runs a holiday-accommodation business on the north side of the mountain and is a member of the Open Spaces Society: ‘It would be sacrilege to destroy our common, which has existed for hundreds of years. It is so wild and wonderful up there.

‘Our holidaymakers often enthuse about the local landscape in the visitors’ book. One wrote recently: “If this isn’t heaven, what is?” It would be terrible to lose this bit of heaven.

‘Our visitors also say that they will not wish to return if the common is desecrated with turbines ― and that would be devastating to our fragile rural economy,’ says Kay.

The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them.

Common is land subject to rights of common, to graze animals or collect wood for instance, or waste land of the manor not subject to rights. There are approximately 175,000 hectares of common land in Wales. The public has the right to walk on all commons, and to ride on many of them (such as the commons mentioned here). Before any works can be constructed on common land the applicant must obtain the consent of the Minister for Environment and Sustainable Development (via the Planning Inspectorate) under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, in addition to any planning permission. In the case of larger developments such as this one, the applicant is required to provide suitable land in exchange under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006, and to obtain consent for this from the minister too.

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