Warning that ‘double size’ wind farms would blow away tourism in Conwy
Plans for wind turbines ‘double the size’ of the current crop have been opposed in Conwy amidst fears for tourism and the landscape.
If the plans get the go-ahead, the proposed Awel Y Môr wind farm will stretch between Colwyn Bay and Llanfairfechan adjacent to the existing Gwynt y Môr site.
The wind farm would be around 10.5 km off the Great Orme.
At a special planning committee meeting of Conwy’s local authority, councillors heard how the wind farm is a national significant infrastructure project.
Cllr Andrew Hinchliffe feared beautiful views, such as those enjoyed from Llanfairfechan, could be ‘destroyed’.
“From where we are now, we can only see the present turbines over Llandudno, which is very surprising, but these will be double the height and extending right across the vista, which I find very difficult,” he said.
“I think this is far too much. If they were going to build this, surely turbines could be much further out and less intrusive on our landscape.
“I think we’ve got to suggest they make them less obvious because I think they are going to destroy our vistas and our historic landscape.”
The meeting was part of a pre-planning committee statuary consultation process. The consultation gives Conwy County Council, as well as other public bodies, the chance to have their say before October 11.
The developer, RWE Renewables, has put forward two options:
Option A for 48 ‘large’ wind turbine generators, with a rotor diameter of up to 300m and a blade height of up to 332m above Mean High Water Springs.
Option B for up to 91 ‘small’ wind turbine generators, with a rotor diameter of up to 220m and a blade height of up to 252m above Mean High Water Springs.
But Conwy planning officers advised councillors to oppose the plans, citing damage to the visual landscape, sea scape and harm to tourism. Conwy also had concerns about the impact on conservation areas such as Llandudno, which relies on its Victorian heritage.
The council report also raised fears of noise pollution created by the wind farm’s construction.
Conwy planning officer Ceri Thomas said: “We do recognise that national planning policy, both at a UK and a Wales level, very strongly supports offshore wind farms. That is the reality of the situation. So we are not objecting to the principle of offshore wind energy,” he said.
“But we do have particular concerns in relation to this particular scheme.”
Cllr Ken Stevens had concerns about the visual impact.
“I’ve seen no visualisations of what this would look like from Penmaenmawr seafront,” he said.
“As things stand now, we have a totally pristine and natural view from the tip of the Great Orme to Puffin Ireland.”
He added: “The most we can do about this is make a protest because it is central and local government policy, so basically all we can do is choose between (option) A or B.”
Cllr Sue Lloyd-Williams said the wind farms could damage the views of rural areas overlooking the coast.
“We have to be aware, as Ceri (Thomas) has already noted really, large scale renewable energy can have absolutely significant and detrimental impacts on the environment, landscape, saturation and of course tourism,” she said.
“Not only tourism on a coastal front, but it also impacts on our wards closer up the valleys, and to be honest, the impact can be felt throughout my ward as well.”
But Cllr Peter Lewis proposed councillors went against officers’ recommendations and supported the wind farm plans.
“I have to say I take a totally different view because I just wonder as a nation where we are proposing to get our future energy needs, unless we actually support these developers offshore,” he said.
“For that reason, I would take a contrary view to the officers and propose we support the development consent order.”
Cllr Nigel Smith backed Cllr Lewis, seconding his proposal.
“I would ask our committee members to be mindful of the fact that we have declared a climate crisis,” he said.
“And also, we (Conwy County Council) decided that we would go carbon neutral by 2035 ourselves in Conwy. Like Cllr Lewis, I’m concerned about how we will generate our electricity going forward, and obviously wind turbines are one of the options. I do have reservations about the size of these turbines, and it is really disappointing that we are not looking at an application today for a tidal lagoon, which I think would be the better option because it generates electricity 24 hours a day with the tides. rather than relying on wind.
“But we are not looking at a tidal lagoon today, so I will be happy to second Cllr Peter Lewis’ proposal because I’m concerned about the future generation of fuel that we need to power our country.”
But Cllr Ifor Lloyd said renewable energy from wind wasn’t reliable.
“Just as a counter argument to what has been discussed by Cllr Lewis and Cllr Smith, if they remember for three months prior to this bit of wind we are having now, they (the turbines) stood still and produced no electric at all,” he said.
“You have a lot of wind and a lot of electric at one time, and you cannot store that. So we haven’t got the infrastructure at this moment in time to put them (the energy) into hydrogen cells, so we haven’t got a hydrogen factory in the area, so unless we are going to invest in that first, we are putting the cart before the horse. It just sticks in my throat. There are different ways of producing energy renew-ably.
“Cllr Nigel Smith touched on tidal energy, but we do have hydro schemes we could potentially use because we do have a lot of rain because of climate change, so why don’t we tap into that?”
He added: “They (turbines) are very big. They do impact us, and they are very inefficient, and they are not very reliable, so this is more unreliable renewable energy (rather) than reliable renewable energy.”
Eight members of the planning committee voted in favour of following officers’ advice and objecting to the plans. Two voted against, and one councillor abstained.
Conwy County Council will now send a report objecting to the plans before a planning application is made by the developer.
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