Locals unite to oppose wind farm plans
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
Residents of a small village in Neath Port Talbot have come together to oppose a wind farm that could be placed near their homes.
People living in Tonmawr say the plans for seven wind turbines, which would stand at almost 200 metres tall on land known as Mynydd Fforch Dwm, would cause a number of issues if developers Naturalis are given the go-ahead by the Welsh Government.
Naturalis is a joint venture between two leading renewable energy companies – Falck Renewables and REG Wind power – with the aim of powering millions of homes across the UK and Europe.
It says the seven turbines could generate 35MW, enough to power more than 25,000 homes across South Wales.
However, Joanne Elgie, 47, has started an action group against the proposals after she felt they could leave the village of Tonmawr in “complete chaos”.
She said: “Myself and other residents started this action group because we want to represent the people here and give them a voice, particularly as the majority in Tonmawr are against it.
“We are all for renewable energy and having these sort of wind farms, however the impact has to be properly weighed up, and in this case we do not think it is suitable.
“One of the main reasons we are against it is because of the way developers will have to transport the goods to build these structures, through a route of winding and narrow roads.
“The village of Tonmawr itself is very small with one narrow road in and out, so there is a very realistic chance that they will be completely blocked off from public use when the construction vehicles come in, meaning at times the village could be cut off.
“This would be complete chaos for people who live here, in accessing their homes, doing school runs, or even emergency services, and we don’t think it is fair if we can’t get in or out.
“Not only would they have to transport these huge turbines and blades through small valley roads that are only just wider than the width of a truck in places, but they would also have to bring tonnes of concrete in to build the supporting base and operational buildings around it.
“That would take hundreds of lorries and special vehicles to achieve, so as well as the roads being congested and blocked, we also have to think about the pollution that would cause.
“As we said, almost everyone in the area is behind the development of green energy, but in this part of Tonmawr we don’t think it is right.”
Joanne, who recently attended one of Naturalis’ exhibition evenings, also had fears over the scale of the proposals.
She said: “The plans for these turbines are for them to be around 200 metres tall which is a very large structure.
“Some of the research we have done suggests these could be some of the biggest onshore turbines in the country if they go ahead, as most that height seem to be placed offshore.
“This has created a lot of apprehension about the impacts of having something so large looming over the village, so we do want to make our voices heard while we have the chance.
“The area is also known for being a former mining area that has lots of old mines and tunnel systems throughout the mountains, which have slid at times.
“Residents here are genuinely terrified that parts could come down during construction and cause a lot more problems in the future.”
Annette Sparkes, 72, has lived in Tonmawr for her whole life and says she is also opposed to the plans, which would see turbines erected just a few hundred metres from her home.
She added: “I’m not against wind farms in general as I think they are very important, but putting them here in Tonmawr isn’t right, and the residents really don’t want it.
“These particular wind turbines would be almost 200m high which would be very imposing for residents to have over the top of them, and I know people are losing sleep over it.
“That’s without even thinking about how they would get them up there in the first place which would have a major impact on the area.”
A website for the Mynydd Fforch Dwm venture is currently active with a statement that outlines the planning process and how it will engage with residents.
It reads: “Mynydd Fforch-Dwm Wind Farm is a proposal by Naturalis Energy to provide clean, carbon-free energy to homes and businesses across South Wales, with a new renewable energy park near to the village of Tonmawr in Neath Port Talbot.
“Mynydd Fforch-Dwm is situated in a pre-assessed area for the development of new renewable energy. It is an ideal location for a new wind farm to provide clean, carbon-free electricity to thousands of homes and businesses across South Wales.
“Our plans for Mynydd Fforch-Dwm Wind Farm will go through the Developments of National Significance (DNS) planning process. In Wales, all energy projects above 10MW are subject to this new consenting approach.
“As part of the DNS process, Naturalis will consult nearby residents and stakeholders, by sharing detailed plans for the wind farm and inviting feedback.
“Following this early consultation, we will submit our planning application to Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW).
“PEDW will then carry out their own formal consultation, and send their recommendation to the Welsh Government. The final decision will be made by Welsh Ministers, who will either approve or reject the application.”
A representatives for Naturalis added: “We understand that the communities surrounding the proposed wind farm have concerns about the renewable energy project being planned locally.
“Following a round of informal consultation, through which we received 103 feedback forms showing 52% support for the principle of the project, we are now preparing a draft planning application and Environmental Impact Assessment in advance of a formal Pre-Application Consultation.
“This is when communities will be able to read the application in full alongside supporting surveys before providing feedback.
“All issues raised will be thoroughly addressed through our detailed environmental work, carried out by leading consultants over a long period of time.
“We remain committed to listening closely to local communities and running a meaningful consultation throughout the planning process.”
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