Who’s lying? That is the question being asked of the Welsh Government and Powys County Council (PCC) over controversial wind and solar plans in the Local Development Plan (LDP).
Following changes to the plan, Powys people and anti-wind farm groups have rallied in a fierce backlash at the council, due to increased levels of provision for wind and solar energy in the LDP.
However PCC said in their defence that it was due to government pressure, but that argument has now been quashed by the First Minister Carwyn Jones.
In a statement to Montgomeryshire AM Russell George, Mr Jones said: “We have not directed Powys Council to amend their LDP.
“The reality is that it’s for the local authorities to adopt their LDPs, it’s for the local authorities to decide what to do with their LDP.
“The Assembly has no legal role or power to rescind the LDP of a local authority, nor can there ever be a vote on the floor of this chamber to rescind an LDP.
“It’s a matter of local democracy that a local council can produce its LDP, taking into account national planning policy and taking into account what the inspector says as part of that LDP process.”
County councillors in the past have said they are being pressured by the government, with Cllr Graham Brown claiming they were having to dance to their tune.
However Mr Jones’ quotes have been met with a host of questions from opposition groups, with Montgomeryshire Against Pylons (MAP) asking, who’s lying?
Jonathan Wilkinson, chair of MAP, said: “It is obvious that someone is telling a whopping, flagrant lie.
“They cannot both be right. National planning policy does not prescribe wind and solar proliferation outside TAN8.
“Reading between the lines it seems obvious that Carwyn Jones and the Welsh Assembly Government have been putting undue pressure on our councils to force through his objective of industrialising the beautiful landscape of Powys.
“If the First Minister has lied to the Senedd in saying ‘we have not directed Powys council to amend their LDP’, then his position is clearly untenable and he should resign forthwith.”
Ian Harrison, a representative of MAP, has also said this could be reviving the battle to stop wind energy on the Powys land.
In May 2011, thousands of people protested outside the Senedd against windfarm and pylon plans and it looks as if this may happen again.
QC and former Montgomeryshire MP Lord Alex Carlile has also weighed into the argument, believing Powys Councillors have been mis-informed.
He added: “There is no legal obligation for Powys to do this.
“It seems that PCC councillors don’t understand and they have been ill advised on national and Welsh Government policy.
“They need to sit down and discuss this, because they could pass things, that end up in the courts and be a waste of tax payers’ money.”
However the council has hit back and accused the groups of ‘playing with words’ over the plans.
Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Councillor Tony Thomas said: “PCC like all planning authorities in Wales is required to produce a Local Development Plan that complies with national planning policy which is set by the Welsh Government.
“It is true that the National Assembly has no legal role or power to rescind the LDP of a local authority, but that is because that role has been delegated to the Planning Inspector and if a plan does not comply with national planning policy it will be declared unsound.
“It is a council’s choice whether or not it takes into account national planning policy but if it does not it runs the risk of having its plan declared unsound and not having any planning framework in place.
“To suggest that it is entirely up to individual authorities whether or not they follow national guidance is playing with words.”
MAP and a group of anti-wind farm activists who are forming a new group in Radnorshire will be protesting at County Hall on Thursday. They will be outside County Hall prior to a full council meeting from 9.30am, with placards, protesting against the controversial plans.
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