Hundreds of protesters have demonstrated at the start of the largest public inquiry into wind farms ever to take place in Britain.
An alliance of 21 organisations – 17 of them Welsh conservation and protest groups – met at the Royal Oak Hotel in Welshpool to hear and oppose wind turbine plans for northern Powys by six large-scale energy developers.
Proposed wind farms at Llanbadarn Fynydd, Llaithddu, Llanbrynmair, Carnedd Wen and repowering Llandinam, are well above the Welsh Government’s 50 megawatt jurisdiction.
And the public inquiry, which could take almost a year to complete, has been convened because Powys County council, as a consultee for large wind farms over 50MW, refused to support their construction.
Campaigners fear the large-scale developments – some with turbines more than 443-feet-high which is the same height as the London Eye – would trigger the desecration of 600 square miles of the most beautiful countryside in Britain, involving the construction of 800 or more turbines and a 50-mile pylon route.
They claim numerous forests, peat bogs and the livelihoods of the tourism and farming industries in the area are in jeopardy, as well as the unspoilt views from Snowdonia and other national parks.
Campaigner Rhys Owen said: “I estimate that around 500 people joined the protest which is a good turnout when you consider that most people are working.
“I think it is totally illogical to destroy such a beautiful area of Mid Wales to try to save the planet.
“The Danish wind farm model isn’t working, they have not reached their carbon footprint targets and the tax payer is paying for it – we taxpayers are in the same boat.”
Jonathan Wilkinson, chairman of Montgomeryshire Against Pylons and Windfarms said: “The carbon targets for Britain have already been met.
“And the planning framework is changing fast, with such developments being considered unacceptable unless they have the consent of the local people.
“In this case well over 80% of local people, polled by independently counted community council referendums, are opposed.
“This act of mass destruction and vandalisation of the countryside must be stopped.”
The campaign stems from a National Grid consultation to expand the electricity infrastructure in Mid Wales.
National Grid is proposing a massive new substation and connection through Powys and Shropshire and is currently undertaking surveys to identify how the connection should be built, including where it could be overhead or underground.
Up to 2,000 campaigners demonstrated against the Mid Wales wind farm plans at the Senedd in May 2011.
And opponents of turbines and pylons handed over a petition signed by nearly 7,480 people to the inquiry yesterday.
With potentially more than 800 turbines in the planning system, the grid has to supply either underground cables or pylons to carry overhead power lines so that the electricity is available to the rest of the UK.
Powys County council has earmarked £2.8m from reserves to fund the inquiry prompting concern from some councillors that the inquiry could bankrupt the council.
One of the applicants, Vattenfall, aims to construct and operate a 59.5MW wind farm at Llanbadarn Fynydd.
Patrick Robinson, of Vattenfall, said :“We start this inquiry process confident that there are no reasons that would mean this scheme cannot or should not be approved.”
Plans for wind farms over 50MW are dealt by the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).
In London, as in Cardiff, they are part of the target to achieve 15% of British energy from renewable sources by 2020. Combined, the planned output of these large wind farms could be over 500MW.
Even though it is Decc and the UK Government involved with granting permission to these large wind farms, many in Montgomeryshire blame the Welsh Government’s TAN 8 policy for the situation.
In 2005 it established three “strategic sites” to encourage wind developers to build turbines so electricity would come from a cleaner and greener source than ageing coal power stations.
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