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Questions at Snowdonia national park as wind farm developer appointed

A leading wind farm developer has been appointed as a director of a national park fighting plans for dozens of giant turbines.

Jonathan Cawley, until recently the chairman of the wind industry’s trade body in Wales, is to become director of planning for the Snowdonia National Park Authority.

The appointment of Mr Cawley, who has led attempts to build a series of controversial wind farms across Britain, comes weeks after the authority announced it would formally object to plans for 80 turbines in the area around the park.

It will prompt concern among conservationists and residents, who fear turbines will “dominate” the landscape.

Mr Cawley, a former council planning policy manager, currently works at West Coast Energy, a developer with 14 wind farms across the UK.

He was appointed as chairman of RenewableUK Cymru last May, although he has now resigned from the post.

Glyn Davies, a Conservative MP who has been fighting a series of wind farm applications in Wales, said Mr Cawley’s plans for his new role were not yet clear and he had “clearly satisfied the people who appointed him”.

But he added: “Some of the people here are outraged and they cannot understand what is going on.

“It does look from my perspective and for a lot of us here as if they have appointed the fox to look after the chickens. It looks incredibly odd.”

Among the projects successfully proposed by West Coast Energy during Mr Cawley’s time as the company’s planning and development manager was the 12-turbine Tirgwynt wind farm near Newtown, Powys.

Snowdonia National Park Authority opposed the application due to fears about its “cumulative visual impact with other wind farm proposals in the vicinity”.

Mr Cawley also led proposals for four 415ft wind turbines on land owned by the Duke of Gloucester in Northamptonshire, telling a local paper they would “play an important role in the UK’s future energy mix”. In March conservationists won a High Court battle against the plans.

Before Mr Cawley’s appointment, Snowdonia’s park authority in March raised concerns about the impact that two planned wind farms would have on views from the park. Both were proposed by companies affiliated to RenewableUK.

In a report Aled Sturkey, the authority’s current director of planning, said proposals by RWE npower renewables for 50 turbines each around 450 ft high at Carnedd Wen, Powys would undermine the “integrity and quality” of the landscape within the park.

He also objected to separate proposals by RES for a 30-turbine wind farm around four miles from the park.

Mr Cawley said he resigned as chairman of RenewableUK Cymru a fortnight ago following the announcement of his new post, which he will take up later this month.

He said as the national park authority’s director of planning he would uphold its existing development plan and look after its interests. He will be responsible for the park authority’s policies and strategic plans.

He said: “I am a professional planner. Since I was appointed to the national park I have resigned as chair of RenewableUK Cymru. I am nothing to do with RenewableUK at the moment, so there is absolutely no conflict of interest at all.

“Once I start working for the park authority I will be working as a planning officer representing their interests. My role will be representing the aims and objectives of the national park authority. My previous hat at West Coast Energy will stay there.”

A spokeswoman for the park authority said Mr Cawley’s appointment followed an “extensive recruitment process”.

She added: “Immediately following his acceptance of the position Jonathan Cawley tendered his resignation notice with West Coast Energy Ltd and is currently working out his notice period. He has also resigned with immediate effect his position as Chairman of Renewable UK Cymru.”