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D-Day is looming for one of the borough’s most controversial planning applications ever.
Years of campaigning and bitter disputes will come to a head on Tuesday, when a planning appeal in Bridgend finally decides on the Newton Down wind farm.
The plan, submitted by Wiltshire-based Renewable Energy Partnership (REP), would see two 125m turbines – 50ft higher than Wales’ tallest building – erected on Newton Down near Porthcawl.
The idea drew unprecedented opposition, with detractors calling the proposed turbines “monsters”. More people sent in letters of objection to Bridgend County Borough Council than for any other planning bid.
The 640 letters were bolstered by a 1,174-name petition and snubs from Porthcawl, Laleston and Merthyr Mawr town and community councils, before BCBC planners said building the structures on the elevated World War II airfield would be like “dropping the Empire State Building into a quiet area”.
REP said it was “surprised” by the council’s opposition and that the “quality” plan was the result of “painstakingly developed” public consultation and environmental studies.
It argues Newton Down is of the very few possible locations for a small wind farm in the Bridgend borough and insist the planned structures will not be overbearing on nearby properties and will meet noise regulations.
Ken Watts, Newton councillor and Newton Action Group founder member, said the stakes could not be higher.
“It seems everything that has gone before has come down to one day and one planning inspector,” he said.
The Action Group held a last-minute strategy meeting last week. Coun Watts will be one of two members to speak at next week’s appeal.
“I think we have a strong case,” he said. “They describe the farm as small because it has two turbines, but anything that can be seen from Devon cannot be called small.
“For the financial benefit of a few for the short term, these monstrous turbines would destroy for a generation the visual amenity offered by the most beautiful and fantastic stretch of undeveloped coastline in both England and Wales.”
REP director Richard Hadwin told the Gazette: “Newton Down is a quality scheme painstakingly developed through public consultations and environmental studies over many years.
“It is in one of the very few, if not only, locations possible for a small wind farm in the Bridgend borough and hence an important opportunity to deliver the sustainable electricity that we urgently need.
“A free visitor facility has been developed which provides new far-reaching views for walkers, an education facility and the opportunity to get up close to a wind turbine for enthusiasts.”
But Regional AM Byron Davies, who will lodge written objections at the appeal, said the 400ft turbines will be a blot on the landscape visible for miles around and a scourge on people living in their shadow.
“Residents at Stormy Down fear the noise nuisance from the blades, which will be of considerable length,” he said.
“There is also the overpowering effect of such monstrous structures on the residential and visual amenity of these properties.”
He added that the site would be visible from the Glamorgan Heritage Coast and could impinge on Porthcawl’s tourism industry.
“It is 300ft above sea level and, if you add in 400ft turbines, they will be visible from a vast area as well as affecting the seaside resort of Porthcawl.”
The Newton Down proposals have divided opinion since 2008, when BCBC’s planning committee members refused REP’s bid to erect a 70m-high anemometer on the site to measure wind speed – a decision that was later overturned.
Original plans for a three-turbine farm were scaled back to two 125m turbines last year.
The appeal hearing takes place on Tuesday at 10am at the council offices on Angel Street, Bridgend. The inspector’s decision is expected within seven weeks after.
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