The company behind a planned wind farm on a mountain outside Swansea is convinced that the project is still deliverable despite it receiving a Welsh Government knock back.
RWE Innogy UK already had the necessary planning consent for the controversial proposal at Mynydd y Gwair in Felindre but needed the go-ahead to exchange common land to make it viable.
Deputy Minister for Farming and Food Rebecca Evans, though, ruled against the company’s offer of alternative land in exchange for the deregulation of common land.
The company’s project development manager Gwenllian Elias said: “Mynydd y Gwair is a very deliverable and well-designed project – it is within Welsh Government’s own TAN 8 designated development area, already has planning permission from the City and County of Swansea, and a ‘seal of approval’ as a value for money scheme from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, in its first CfD 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 £50 million in capital investment as well as local jobs, apprenticeships, and annual community investment funding of £240,000. We will need to review the reasons behind the decision with a view to resubmitting a new common land application, in order to protect these benefits for Wales and the wider environment.”
Gower MP Byron Davies and regional AM Suzy Davies joined campaigners who have been fighting wind farm plans on the site for 24 years in welcoming the Welsh Government ruling.
Glyn Morgan, of Socme – Save Our Common Mountain Environment – said: “We are glad to note that the decision reflects the valid concerns put forward to us by many local residents, as well as national and international visitors, over the years that we have been seeking to protect this irreplaceable common land.
“For example, the decision notes that the character and nature of ancient routes, such as sheep hefts and public rights of way, would not only all be affected, but in some cases would disappear, if the applications had been granted. A risk to the hydrology of the wider neighbourhood was not addressed by the applicants, despite the issue having been identified prior to the applications being made. The replacement land proposed is acknowledged to be inappropriate, and it is noted that no agreement has been reached with graziers. Even in the long term the public would have been disadvantaged by the change in the character of the common.
“There are so many good reasons to applaud the Welsh Government’s sound aim of protecting common land that we hope RWE will re-consider its ambitions with regards to Mynydd y Gwair and announce, finally, after more than a decade of worry for the hundreds of thousands people 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 do not want to see massive construction works destroying its complex habitat.”
Mr Davies said: “This is wonderful news. I have backed the residents in their fight against the wind farm on Mynydd y Gwair for years and it is a victory for them and especially for Glyn Morgan and the Socme.group.
“They never gave up – not even after Swansea Council granted planning consent in the teeth of huge public opposition. This mountain possesses a fragile ecology that would have been irreperably damaged if the scheme went ahead. And the wind turbines would have been visible for vast distances, blighting the landscape.
“I just hope that the developers will now throw in the towel. They should recognise when they are beaten. The people of Swansea and Gower have spoken – they do not want this windfarm at any price. If this scheme were in England, new powers granted by the former Government gave the final say on such schemes to local communities, Unfortunately, the Welsh Labour Government has so far failed to give these powers to the people of Wales. I hope they have a change of heart very soon.”
Mrs Davies said: “This is final vindication of the stance taken by the people living around this mountain who argued unwaveringly that this scheme was wrong on so many counts.
“It has been a long, exhausting fight but residents were determined. This victory belongs to them. Judicial Review may still be an option for the developers. However, the UK Conservative Government’s decision to scrap subsidies for onshore wind farms casts doubts on whether this particular development will still qualify for them. That should be the kiss of death to this misjudged project.”
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