Campaigners claim victory in long fight against wind farm overlooking Swansea – but firm behind proposal plans to submit new application
Campaigners who have fought plans for a controversial wind farm on common land overlooking Swansea for 22 years are claiming victory.
Renewables firm RWE Innogy UK Ltd (formerly RWE Npower Renewables) eventually won planning permission to site 16 turbines, each hundreds of feet high, on the site at Mynydd y Gwair, Felindre.
But now Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, Rebecca Evans has backed a planning inspector’s ruling refusing the company consent to offer alternative land in exchange for the deregluation of the common land at Mynydd y Gwair as part of the project.
It effectively means the scheme is blocked though RWE Innogy says it plans to submit a new common land exchange application.
Group campaigned against wind farm
The “Battle of Mynydd y Gwair” has involved two public inquiries, a court of appeal hearing and a judicial review.
It has also seen one of Wales’ richest men, Swansea born, Canadian based diamond entrepreneur Gren Thomas give a “four figure” sum to those fighting the wind farm.
Land on the site of the planned wind farm is owned by one of England’s richest men, the Duke of Beaufort, whose land and 52,000-acre estate in Gloucester have boosted his wealth to an estimated £110m.
Glyn Morgan, chairman of of Socme (Save our Common Mountain Envirornment) which has campaigned against the wind farm said: “We’re glad the decision reflects the valid concerns put forward to us by local residents, as well as national and international visitors over the years about this irreplaceable common land.
“For example, the decision notes the character and nature of ancient routes, like sheep hefts and public rights of way, would not only all be affected but in some cases would disappear, if the wind farm had been approved. The replacement land proposed is acknowledged to be inappropriate, and it is noted that no agreement was reached with graziers.
“Even in the long term the public would have been disadvantaged by the change in the character of the area.
“There are so many reasons to applaud the Welsh Government’s sound aim of protecting common land we now hope RWE will re-consider its ambitions for Mynydd y Gwair and announce, finally, after years of worry for the hundreds of thousands who rely on the common – whether for their livelihoods, enjoyment, or drinking water – that they no longer intend to fight the clear will of those who already depend on the common and who don’t want to see massive construction works destroying its complex habitat.”
‘Disappointing and frustrating’
RWE Innogy UK’s Mynydd y Gwair Wind Farm development manager Gwenllian Elias, said: “Mynydd y Gwair is a very deliverable and well-designed project – it’s within Welsh Government’s own TAN 8 designated development area, already has planning permission from Swansea council, and a ‘seal of approval’ as a value for money scheme from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, in its first CfD (Contracts for Difference) subsidy auction earlier this year.
“For this application to be turned down, despite the project itself aligning with Welsh Government policy on renewables and onshore wind is profoundly disappointing and frustrating.
“This project represents around £50m in capital investment as well as local jobs, apprenticeships and annual community investment funding of £240,000. We’ll need to review the reasons behind the decision with a view to resubmitting a new Common Land application to protect these benefits for Wales and the wider environment.”
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