Concerns that wind turbines proposal would affect bird species
Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter
Concerns have been raised that many bird species could be affected by wind turbines if they are built at a new Welsh location.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday, February 8, councillors received the Local Impact Report (LIR) on the planning application by Pennant Walters to build eight wind turbines on Mynydd Llanhilleth.
The LIR gives the authority a chance to outline the potential effect of the development on the area and also put forward the planning policies that the inspector should consider when evaluating the project.
The application is mostly across the border in Torfaen County Borough – but the western part of the site is close to the village of Llanhilleth in Blaenau Gwent.
The application for the turbines which would be 180 metres height is being dealt with by Welsh Government planning inspectors at Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW).
This means that Blaenau Gwent along with Torfaen are consultees rather than decision makers for the proposal.
A Welsh Government minister will eventually announce the decision based on a recommendation by planning inspectors.
At the meeting planning officer Joanne White explained that two of the eight wind turbines are in Blaenau Gwent
These are turbine three which is to the east of Llanhilleth and turbine eight which to the southwest of Tir Pentwys Quarry site.
Turbine eight is in the Welsh Government’s pre-assessed area for wind energy.
According to Mrs White the main concerns identified in the LIR are the cumulative impact the turbines would have both visually on the landscape and upon ecology and biodiversity.
This is especially the case when considering this development in combination with all other DNS schemes that are “coming forward.”
There was also a “lack of information to fully assess the quarry site” when it comes to protecting minerals there.
She added that environment body Natural Resources Wales (NRW) – had raised concerns that the access track to turbine eight could disturb the geological features for which the quarry is designated as a regional important geological site and is proposed to be a future SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest).
Overall, it was deemed that the development to have a “negative” impact on based on these issues.
Cllr Lee Parsons: “There are some issues in the report that I would like to make people aware of.
“This has been my birding area for the last 30 years.
“I have a feeding station adjacent to the proposal and I have been running that for the last 14 years.
“Kestrel and Red Kite are the birds that have been mentioned in there (report) there’s no mention of the likes of Nightjar which are schedule one (protected) birds.”
He explained that Curlew Recovery Projects are being set up all across the UK.
Cllr Parsons said: “There are Curlews on this land, I know this because I’m up there every day possible I can.”
He added that Meadowpipet and Skylarks that are the main host for the Cuckoo eggs can all be found on the common.
“All this has to be taken into account,” said Cllr Parsons.
Cllr Parsons said that he had taken photographic evidence to the developer and “made them aware” of every species of interest on the common.
He believed that a “desk-top report” on the birds and wildlife of the area should be conducted.
Cllrs Parsons: “There are many species that have been missed.”
Council ecologist Nadine Morgan explained that the applicants are following Nature Scotland guidance – who have researched the impact of wind farms on birds.
Ms Morgan said: “That’s why some species have not been included.
“It has been highlighted to them (Pennant Walters), but their response is that they are looking at target species of high risk such as the Kestrel and Red Kite.”
Cllr Wayne Hodgins said: “With turbine eight the stability question has been raised and raised.
“If NRW have major concerns there is something not right here.”
Committee chairwoman Cllr Lisa Winnett told councillors so that the LIR was submitted in time to PEDW she had seen and signed off the report before Christmas.
Cllr Winnett expected a planning hearing to take place to decide the application.
Processing the DNS application is currently suspended until February 19 to allow the applicants to submit more information to support the proposal.
Pennant Walters say that wind farm will generate 34 MW of electricity which is enough to power 21.500 homes for a year.
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