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Planning boss: Windfarm opposition is ‘futile’

17 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Wind turbines

Richard Evans Local Democracy Reporter

A planning boss warned that opposing plans for a windfarm would be “futile” before councillors reluctantly accepted the proposals.

RWE Renewables, a German multinational energy company headquartered in Essen, wants to build 200m-high turbines 4km north west of Cerrigydrudion at Alwen Forest Wind Farm.

Whilst it was mooted that the council should oppose plans for the nine-turbine wind farm, planning officers warned Welsh Government legislation would overrule any such opposition.

“National significance”

The plans aren’t subject to the usual planning process as they are regarded as a development of national significance.

Consequently, Conwy Council could only indicate whether it objected or supported the development as part of a pre-application consultation before Welsh Government makes the final decision.

At a planning committee meeting at Bodlondeb, Conwy councillors voted to object to only three of the nine turbines which were proposed for land outside of a “pre-assessed” area.

Councillors objected on the basis the plans would be damaging to the character and setting of the Hiraethog Special Landscape Area, which is made up of open moorland to the west of the proposed site.

A council assessment concluded the proposals would have a moderate or significant impact on the character of the eastern part of the special landscape area, affecting the land between Moel Bengam, Llyn Aled, and Mwdwl Eithin.

Discontent

Despite accepting the committee were powerless to stop the development in its entirety, several councillors expressed their discontentment at the plans.

Cllr Gwennol Ellis initially proposed councillors should oppose the application, despite it likely being overruled.

“These turbines are getting bigger and bigger,” she said.

“The blades can stretch to 210m in height, and these rural areas can attract people, visitors as a tourist attraction, and it is very popular with local people and visitors.

“This area is quite desolate, but the views are very pretty.

“There are so many habitats there for species. The concrete used for these anchors (bases) is massive.

“Does anyone know what chemicals are leaked into the environment?

“Farmers as well are facing a challenging time.”

She added: “Why do we need to give these turbine applications permission because this area is protected.”

Cllr Trystan Lewis agreed. He said: “It is not acceptable because there are some (wind turbines) there already,” he said.

“They should be at sea.

“We do need energy, but the effect on rural areas and local people is massive.”

Cllr David Carr added: “I’ve got concerns about the effect on wildlife. Wind farms should be at sea.”

“Welsh policy”

But Cllr Dave Jones disagreed. “We need these wind turbines, and it is Welsh policy,” he said.

“Whether on land or sea, we should be going with Welsh Government policy.”

RWE Renewables UK submitted a statutory pre-application consultation to Conwy’s planning department, seeking backing for the huge wind turbines at the 738-hectare site.

If eventually granted, six of the proposed wind turbines would be located in Conwy county within the coniferous woodland, forming a ridge between Alwen Reservoir and Llyn Brenig.

The other three turbines would be located in an area of Denbighshire protruding into Conwy, lying to the north of the county boundary to the south of the A543 Pentrefoelas/ Denbigh Road.

The plans include the construction and operation of a wind farm, grid connection, battery energy storage systems, and infrastructure.

“Dominates views”

There are already several existing wind farms in the area, including Llyn Brenig, which dominates views east of the B4501, as well as the twenty-seven 145m-high turbines at Clocaenog Forest.

Other nearby wind farms include sixteen 100m-high turbines at Brenig and twenty-five 75m-high turbines at Tir Mostyn/Foel Goch.

There is also planning permission agreed for a proposed wind farm at Pant y Maen, to the east of Llyn Bran and to the north-east of the proposed Alwen Forest Wind Farm.

This permission relates to seven 125m-high wind turbines.

“Futile”

Conwy’s head of planning Ceri Thomas said objecting to the whole proposal would be “futile”.

“We have discussed our approach with colleagues and also Denbighshire officers,” he said.

“And we do have to acknowledge that, as a large part of the site is in a pre-assessed area, it would be futile to object to the application as a whole.

“But we do have concerns in particular with regards to the three turbines at the north of the site because they are well outside the boundary of the pre-assessed area.

“They also have a greater impact on the viewpoints along the A545 and from the Hiraethog Special Landscape Area.”

RWE Renewables is required to carry out a statutory pre-application consultation with the council and other parties before they submit their application to Planning and Environment Decisions Wales, formerly known as the planning inspectorate.

Once the application has been submitted to Welsh Government, there will be a further consultation period in which the council will have another opportunity to make representations.


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Geraint
Geraint
1 month ago

Even if the the planning decision of Conwy council may well be over ruled by Welsh government I don’t see why they should not give their opinion on this particular scheme. All community / town councils have planning committees and their judgements are passed on as ‘observations only’ to their county planning committees. It could well be that local knowledge could well flag up a significant issue that could impact a judgement at a higher level. Far better to have all the facts and opinions in the open than having self censorship in place.

G Horton-Jones.
G Horton-Jones.
1 month ago

A development of National significance that’s rich Certainly not ours here in Cymru

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago

I don’t know if it is could be made to fall withing the Planning remit, but it would be good if such proposals could be turned down because the company’s shares are not 51% owned by local people. As Mr Horton-Jones says, lets have some national significance for Cymru, not just for England.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

The Senedd should throw this proposal out, there is nothing in it for Wales.

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
1 month ago

It’s never futile to express what you believe in

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