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Wind farms inquiry to start despite protests

A major public inquiry into plans for a series of wind farms in Mid Wales will go ahead next month after the Government rejected campaigners’ calls for it to be halted.

Members of The Alliance, made up of anti-wind farm campaigners and environmental groups from Shropshire and Mid Wales, asked a planning inspector to stop the inquiry.

But they have now been told that their request, which was passed to energy secretary Ed Davey, has been turned down and the inquiry will go ahead in Welshpool in June as originally planned.

The Alliance told planning inspector Andrew Poulter at pre-inquiry talks in February that any decision from the inquiry would be ‘inescapably flawed’ because four of the five proposed wind farms would be linked to a separate application by National Grid to build a power line through Mid Wales and Shropshire.

They argued the full route of the power line had not yet been decided and assessments needed to be done on the environmental impact of the proposed cable, part of which will be carried on overhead pylons, before a decision on the wind farms could be taken.

But the campaigners have been told the energy secretary has agreed with the planning inspector that the calls should be refused and the inquiry should go ahead, starting at The Royal Oak in Welshpool on June 4.

Jonathon Wilkinson, from The Alliance, said the group was disappointed but not surprised.

He said the group was ready to state its case at the public inquiry and had employed top London planning barrister David Smith.

Mr Poulter said in his response to The Alliance’s request: “None of the five wind farms before the inquiry would be dependant on the construction of another, and they could be operated independently of each other.

“The proposals before the inquiry and the necessary grid infrastructure can therefore be distinguished from each other and said to be separate projects, not part of a single overall project. I do not consider that a decision to approve any one of the wind farms would be inescapably flawed.”

The inspector said the full route of the proposed cable, which will take energy created by the wind farms from a substation at Cefn Coch near Llanfair Caereinion to the National Grid network at Lower Frankton near Oswestry, will be announced in the autumn.

He said: “The environmental information that will be assessed is therefore likely to change and develop during the inquiry. However, this would not be unusual.”