They have been described as the ‘technological equivalent of Japanese knotweed’.
Now councillors in Carmarthenshire are fighting to block the controversial plan to raise a row of pylons across the county to connect new wind farms with the National Grid.
Neither the Welsh Government nor Carmarthenshire Council has any power over the decision – which as an energy matter can only be determined at UK government level.
UK Government Energy Minister Greg Barker will decide on the path of the pylons between the massive wind farms to be built on hills and forests around Brechfa and the sub-station at Burry Port – a distance of some 20 miles.
At a meeting of full council in Carmarthenshire on Wednesday, members voted to plead with the minister to insist the cables are laid underground.
As well as a unanimous support of the motion, calls were also made to contact the Welsh Local Government Association to begin a Wales-wide petition calling for the issue to be debated at Parliament.
The Motion was put forward by Plaid Cymru following a meeting with councillors and representatives of Western Power, which is responsible for building the link.
Members believe the 132,000-volt power lines should be buried underground, rather than be carried on wooden poles. Multinational companies Npower and RWE, who are building the wind farms, are paying Western Power for creating the link. They should also pay for laying the cables underground, said Coun Cefin Campbell, who represents part of the Tywi Valley.
“As this part of Carmarthenshire is an area of natural beauty and historical importance, which depends heavily on tourism to sustain the economy, it is only right that the companies building the turbines should pay for burying the cables out of sight. After all, Npower made profits of nearly £400m last year, so it’s not as if they can’t afford it.
“We need to put a stop to the blight of electricity pylons which are fast becoming the technological equivalent of Japanese knotweed because once they are rooted it is one hell of a job to get rid of them.”
Plaid Cymru says the issue clearly shows, once again, why energy should be controlled by the Welsh Government.
Coun Alun Lenny said Energy Minister Greg Barker had given the go-ahead for the wind farms without even visiting the county.
“This was a man who told Jonathan Edwards MP that he didn’t need to visit the site – he could make the decision from Whitehall or Kathmandu, he said. No wonder local people feel so alarmed and powerless in the face of such arrogance. The issue clearly demonstrates the democratic deficiency that exists in Wales when it comes to energy.
“We are not allowed to decide upon anything above 50MW. How can we expect the Welsh economy and the economy here in Carmarthenshire to grow when we have no control over our natural resources and power which is produced here.”
The council’s deputy leader Pam Palmer said that work by National Grid to lay a 190-mile gas pipeline from Milford Haven to Tirley in Gloucestershire underground in 2007 illustrated such work could be done.
She added:“Dare I say that writing to the UK Energy Secretary will probably not make much difference. Your objections didn’t before.”
She asked that the council contact the Welsh Local Government Association to create a Wales-wide online petition.
“We may well get 100,000 signatures and it may well then be discussed in Parliament.”
Coun Mansel Charles, who represents Llanegwad, where the pylons are proposed, said that local people have already started a petition of objection.
“People in several communities – such as Brechfa, Horeb and Felingwm – are vehemently opposed to the plan to erect pylons through the Cothi Valley and across the Tywi Valley,” he said. “The 10-week consultation period has already started, and as a local councillor, I urge people to express an opinion as soon as possible.
“I’m not at all happy with the timing of this important consultation, which is being held mainly over the summer holiday period. So I’ve asked the company to extend the consultation into the autumn.”
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