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Decision on controversial plans for weather mast delayed

28 Jun 2024 5 minute read
Residents in the Staylittle, Dylife and Llwyngog area are against a weather mast proposal which could lead to a wind farm being built nearby.

County Councillors have voted to postpone taking a decision on controversial plans for a 122.5 metre weather mast.

The proposal for the meteorological mast near Staylittle back in front of the council’s Powys County Council’s Planning, Taxi Licensing and Rights of Way meeting meeting today, (Thursday, June 27).

In March councillors threw out the original application even though planning officers had advised they should approve the scheme.

A fresh application for the mast by Esgair Galed Energy Park Limited was lodged with the council in April.

The firm is the development vehicle for Bute Energy, who specialise in developing wind and solar energy parks.

Wind turbines

The weather mast is seen as the precursor to a potential development of 220 metre high wind turbines earmarked for the area.

Resident from nearby Dylife, Staylittle and Llwynygog are already campaigning against the windfarm proposal and 99 objections to the weather mast application were received by the council during the consultation process.

Planning officers again recommended that councillors approve the application.

Dr John Bimson spoke against the proposal and explained that the mast could have a detrimental effect on endangered birds which includes several species of birds of prey.

Ospreys

Dr Bimson said: “Osprey should be a particular concern being a relatively new and scarce breeding species in Wales.

“Two pairs of Osprey have nested and raised young at Llyn Clywedog in 2023, and two pairs are nesting again this year.”

“The proposed mast would be on route between Llyn Clywedog and Bugailun that Ospreys are known to take.”

This means that they may be at a higher risk of colliding with the structure.

Dr Bimson told councillors that with potentially more of the Ospreys coming to the area from Africa to nest and raise their young the risks “increase” as they would be “unfamiliar” with the landscape.

He believed the new application failed on “several important points.”

Approved

Rob Mitchell of Carney Sweeney the planning agents for Bute Energy said that seven similar applications for other weather mast had been approved by the council during the last five years.

Mr Mitchell said: “There were no statutory or technical objections to the (original) proposal.

“The applicant decided not to appeal the refusal and seek costs against the council as it might have done.

“Instead, the applicant has listened to the committee and resubmitted the proposal supported with further information on landscape and visual matters, ecology and method of construction.

“It will not be a prominent feature on the landscape.

“The open moorland will remain as the defining character.”

He “urged” councillors to heed the views of professional planning officers and statutory consultees and approve the development.

Tone

Cllr Jonathan Wilkinson said: “I found the tone of Mr Mitchell’s presentation just a little regrettable, I thought I was being slightly hectored and at one point even told off for the decision that was previously made.

“It’s not really for a developer to come to a Planning committee and imply that we should somehow be grateful that they didn’t appeal and pursue costs.

“It’s up to us to look at the evidence independently and without prejudice to make a decision on that basis.”

Cllr Claire Hall said: “I can’t see from the report that NRW were consulted and wonder whether their ornithologists had an input to the additional information supplied by the applicant.”

Planning officer Lorraine Jenkin said that NRW had not provided any comments on the application.

Planning officers then took a moment to check whether NRW had been contacted about the proposal.

Planning professional lead Peter Morris said: “We’ve just checked, and it doesn’t look as like they (NRW) have been consulted and there is an issue there.”

Due to this Mr Morris believed the committee were not in a position to “make a decision today” and further consultation is needed.

He recommended that the committee defer the application which was put forward by Cllr Hall and seconded by Cllr Adrian Jones

The committee voted unanimously to defer the application.

Following the vote, committee chairman Cllr Gareth D Jones said: “I feel we have to get everything right; we need to be open and transparent and make the right decision.”

The Esgair Galed Windfarm wind turbine scheme, which was revealed in January would roughly be situated, northwest of Llanidloes, southeast of Machynlleth and south of Llanbrynmair.

Any future wind turbine planning application would be deemed a Development of National Significance (DNS) and be processed by Welsh Government planning inspectors at Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW).

If built the wind turbines would create 171 MW of electricity which would be enough to power between 113,000 and 179,000 households a year.


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