As you may be aware, a year ago (September 7th 2015), the UK Government announced the outcome of the conjoined public inquiry which was triggered by the objection of Powys County Council to five separate wind farm applications, plus an application for an overhead line. In my view, it was a victory for democracy when the UK Government’s Department for Energy and Climate Change rejected all but one of the applications. The developer of the approved application has decided not to continue with its project.
However, two of the developers (RWE and RES) of the Carnedd Wen and Llanbrynmair developments decided to seek a Judicial Review into the process by which the decisions on the wind farm applications were reached. The Secretary of State considered the position and judged that the best way forward was to 'quash' the decisions and reconsider them.
On 6th July, our MP, Glyn Davies responded to an invitation to comment on these re-determinations outlining his opposition to both of these developments, comments which I fully endorse. In his letter to the Secretary of State, he outlines the cumulative impact which these developments would have on Montgomeryshire. A copy of Glyn’s submission can be found on his blog.
I hope that after due consideration, the Secretary of State will come to the same decision as his predecessor did on September 7th last year. Although there is no statutory timescale for the redetermination of these applications, the Secretary of State aims to do this in ‘a timely manner’.
Now to turn to a number of wind farm developments that were not part of the Public Inquiry.
The Tirgwynt wind farm development in the Carno area was granted permission some years ago and the development already has access to the Grid along existing power lines. This wind farm has to be producing power by April 2017 if it's to receive public subsidy. The transportation of turbine components has been taking place throughout the summer and have been travelling through Welshpool, and on through Cwmgolau and Cefn Coch to the site.
The Garreg Lwyd wind farm near the Radnorshire/Montgomeryshire border (again this development was not part of the Public Inquiry) was approved by the Welsh Government in May of last year. This project will not connect via the Mid Wales Connection project. Before the Welsh Government approved this application, I lodged my objection highlighting the serious traffic issues it would cause in and around Newtown.
The full delivery of turbine components for this development is in progress (September) with all deliveries for the initial build expected to have been made by mid-December. These abnormal loads will travel along the A483, and travel along Pool road Newtown and up Llanidloes road. The abnormal loads will then be required to travel under Nantoer bridge on the A489. This particular bridge is also well known for large vehicles having difficulty passing under it and blocking the main trunk road.
The Abnormal Loads are being transported on specially designed heavy goods vehicles in a convoy of up to three components, escorted by escort vehicles including the police. Dyfed-Powys Police has set up a dedicated Twitter feed for the transportation of Abnormal Load deliveries through the Dyfed-Powys area. Follow @DPPAbnormalload for the latest information from the ground.
I have also been concerned by potential safety concerns relating to the designated lay-bys which have been constructed to accommodate and ease the inevitable congestion that will be caused behind the numerous abnormal and heavy goods vehicles which have and will pass through areas of Montgomeryshire to deliver components to both Garreg Lwyd and the Tirgwynt developments.
I wrote to the Chief Constable of Dyfed Powys Police to seek assurances that the Force was satisfied that the lay-bys are safe, fit for purpose and will be used for the intended purpose. Dyfed Powys Police have assured me that it now has no concerns after identifying that the lay-bys had not been equipped with dropped kerbs which would allow Police motorcyclists to safely access the lay-bys and there were insufficient hard standing areas to allow the motorcycles to be safely places on the centre stands. I have been informed that this has since been rectified by the developers.
Last month, I also called for clarity from the Welsh Government on who was responsible for setting the transportation conditions for both wind farms. I have on-going concerns that the Welsh Government failed to place conditions on the developers to survey properties along the transport route in spite of local residents’ concerns that the abnormal vehicles would cause damage to properties which are along the A483. I’m therefore astounded that Welsh Ministers have failed to impose explicit conditions on the developers to survey properties along the proposed route. I have written to the Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Environment to this effect.
The Blaen y Glyn Wind Farm near Llangurig, Llanidloes has recently been granted by the Welsh Government Planning Inspectorate. Powys County Council had presented a number of objections including on landscape and cultural heritage grounds. However, the view of the Inspector seems to give little weight to the visual impact of the proposed 6 turbines or the effect on the cultural heritage of the area, believing that on balance these effects would be “outweighed by the environmental and economic benefits of the scheme, especially in terms of wind energy generation.”
However, there are outstanding issues which I will be looking to raise in the National Assembly with the First Minister. The Blaen y Glyn development is outside of the areas identified for onshore wind in the Welsh Government guidance - TAN8 – so this is yet another reason to refuse the application in my view. It also opens up a number of other questions about the relevance of this guidance.
Finally, you may be interested to know that the Mynydd Y Gwynt Wind farm judicial review has been rejected. Please see the BBC report on the following link. However, the site is in Powys not Ceredigion: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-mid-wales-37713958
Furthermore, it ought to be remembered that when considering all of these developments, the Conservative UK Government, in its 2015 Election Manifesto, committed to only supporting onshore wind farms where they have the support of local people and has also committed to ending any new subsidies for onshore wind power. So, while planning permission may have been granted in the case of Blaen y Glyn, it may be the case that the developers will not see the project as economically viable to proceed. I also note that permission to take the power from the development to the grid has not been agreed, which is a further issue for the developers to overcome.
I hope that you have found this extended update on wind energy useful but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or views.