Bute Energy accused of threatening landowners in pylon survey access row
Landowners in mid Wales are seeking legal advice after receiving what they consider to be threatening letters from an energy company that wants access to their properties to survey for a long distance pylon network.
The letters are from land agents Bruton Knowles, who act for GreenGen Cymru, a subsidiary of Bute Energy, and state: “Further to our various recent contacts seeking to secure voluntary walkover survey access, we note that we have not received a signed licence form from you.
“As you are aware, GreenGen Cymru Ltd will be making an application for a Development of National Significance (DNS) planning permission under the Planning (Wales) Act 2015 to build a new connection between an Energy Park at Nant Mithil, Llanfihangel-nant-Melan [near Presteigne] and Llandyfaelog [near Kidwelly in Carmarthenshire].
“The application for the DNS will be examined by the Planning Inspectorate Wales. Before then, non-intrusive surveys need to be carried out to help inform the route of the proposed connection, how it will be constructed and investigate potential environmental considerations. The surveys will be carried out by specialist contractors who will provide identification and a letter of introduction from GreenGen Cymru.
“It is important to note that a request to undertake surveys on land does not mean that it will necessarily form part of the route or have infrastructure placed on it, as we are required to survey widely, in particular for ecological interest.
“Continued efforts have been made and indeed it would be much preferred to obtain voluntary consent to carry out the surveys and investigations, and our client GtrrnGen Cymru is offering an advanced compensation payment of £500 in recognition of any potential damage and disturbance caused. Additional compensation for damage would be considered at the relevant time if this amount is proved to be insufficient.
“Our strong preference is to agree voluntary consent to access land for surveys and investigations. If we cannot work with you to agree access, we would reluctantly have little alternative but to look at what options may be available to us, including consideration of issuing a 14-day notice under Section 172 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which would provide access to land on the expiration date of the notice. Under Section177 of the Act, it is an offence without reasonable excuse to obstruct another person in exercising the powers granted under Section 172 of the Act to carry out the surveys and anyone obstructing access could face a fine.
“Civil court proceedings can also be taken against anyone who obstructs, permits or incites others to obstruct the carrying out of surveys under a notice.
“As you will appreciate, GreenGen Cymru would rather not resort to potentially using any statutory powers and very much hope a mutually agreed arrangement can be put in place.”
A landowner who did not wish to be named told Nation.Cymru: “We are aware of a number of people who have received this letter and we are seeking legal advice about its content, which we find threatening in tone.”
Another source in the area told us: “If, as we believe to be the case, GreenGen hasn’t got a licence from Ofgem to operate an electricity network, they have no more right than you or I to demand access to people’s land. Instead, they are acting in a bullying and threatening manner.”
A spokesperson for Bute Energy said: “During the past year GreenGen Cymru has fully engaged with local communities to share information on its projects – including Towy Usk. All these projects will connect clean, green energy from mid Wales to enable the delivery of West Government targets to address climate change.
“The planning process requires us to conduct environmental and ecological surveys to ensure all work planned mitigates potential infrastructure impacts on wildlife and ecosystems. These are the surveys for which we have been seeking to agree access for over the past 12 months.
“There is no question of GreenGen Cymru bullying or threatening anyone. The company is simply following best practice in its long term communications with landowners to ensure that vital environmental surveys are carried out in a timely, co-operative and effective manner. The company remains committed to its goals of helping deliver on the Welsh government’s target for 100% of the nation’s electricity to be renewable by 2035. We will continue working closely with mid Wales communities to reach this vital goal.”
Asked whether the company had obtained an Independent Distribution Network Operator’s (IDNO) licence from Ofgem to own and operate electricity networks, the spokesperson said: “GreenGen Cymru has made an application for an IDNO licence to Ofgem to allow it to design, develop and operate a local electricity network.
The outcome of the application is expected in the near future.
“GreenGen is currently developing grid projects which are registered with Planning Environment Decision Wales.
We are following best practice by building relationships at an early stage with local landowners. We want to work collaboratively with them and the wider community throughout this process.”
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