Welsh Government will have final say on Towy Valley pylons as opposition mounts
Welsh Government Ministers will have the final say on controversial plans for the construction of 60 miles of electricity pylons running from Carmarthen to Powys.
Bute Energy – which has opened an office in Cardiff, wants to run what is calls an “overhead electricity distribution line”, connecting Nant Mithil windfarm in Powys with the National Grid point near Carmarthen.
The company which is a developer of onshore wind and solar energy parks will begin consulting with local communities in March about their plans which have already caused uproar due to the plan’s impact on the Towy Valley.
Adam Price MS for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr told Nation.Cymru that there is, “Very strong local opposition – and action groups have been formed – along the proposed route of the transmission lines.”
The pylons in question are described as double-circuit pylons – meaning they have a metal tower with arms hanging out on either side.
Mr Price said: “Effectively they can be described as the motorways of the electricity transmission network. They are high voltage and potentially very, very large scale as well.
“Their impact in terms of visual amenity and the landscape in general is going to be huge … giant pylons the length and breadth of this 60-mile proposed route.”
“We (Plaid Cymru) have a petition which has gone up to 1,000 signatures and rising quickly. People love the Towy Valley and what it represents historically and culturally.
“The idea of it simply being trashed in this way – largely, it would seem because of considerations of cost. The choice of overground cables (pylons) versus underground does seem to come down to a question of cost.
“Should we, once again, be prepared to accept the desecration of local environment purely driven by profit motives. We’ve seen in the past in Wales the misuse of our own resources and the wilful ignorance of the views and interests of local people.
In their statement to the press, Bute Energy says: “In March 2023, we will be engaging widely with local communities including holding public consultation events to ask local people, landowners, and other stakeholders for their views on our proposals.”
Adam Price MS said: “Issues around timings aren’t exactly clear at the moment – that’s one of the concerns that people have. They want transparency around what are the key decision points in this kind of process.”
As regards the timescale for such a development, Mr Price added:
“Under these circumstances, there would be, normally, be some degree of pre-application,” in securing full planning permission for a development of this magnitude.
“But that would appear to be up to the company to decide the form that takes and the scale of it.”
Mr Price added that in a Development of National Significance (DNS) such as this:
“The aim is for that to be a 12-month process – it’s meant to be a faster process than was previously the case for applications of this scale.
“But there haven’t been that many Developments of National Significance since (it) was initiated.”
In 2021, Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru signed a three-year co-operation agreement to work together on policies where there is a common interest.
However, the question of transmission lines and planning law is outside of that agreement.
Nation.Cymru asked Mr Price whether the issue of pylons is likely to sour that working relationship between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru if Ministers decide to give the go-ahead to 60 miles of monster pylons.
He said: “Well, we take the positive view that we will make the representations on behalf of residents here, but also in other areas of Wales that are affected by this decision.
“We would hope and expect that Welsh Government would look on those representations positively and constructively. We should be investing in the long term and creating the kind of infrastructure that is appropriate for Wales.
“Given the nature of our environment we think there is a very strong argument in favour … of underground (cables) in countries like the Netherlands.”
More than 250 people attended a public meeting organised by Countryside Alliance Wales and led by its Director, Rachel Evans held at Llandovery Rugby Club last Friday 17 February, to voice their concerns about the possibility of erecting pylons in the Towy Valley.
Plaid Cymru MS Cefin Campbell who represents Mid and West Wales and attended the meeting, has asked Welsh Government Climate Change Minister Julie James for clarification on the subject of pylons.
He told Nation.Cymru that Ms James, “confirmed that the Welsh Government’s policy is that electricity transmission cables should be placed underground where possible.”
Bute Energy has confirmed that the planning application they intend to submit at a later date, will seek Welsh Government approval, rather than UK Government, because it is as a Development of National Significance (DNS).
This means that The Planning Inspectorate Wales handles DNS applications on behalf of Welsh Government Ministers.
According to Welsh Government, a DNS is a type of planning application for a large infrastructure project of national importance – for example, a wind farm, power station or reservoir.
Published in June 2017, A Guide to Engaging with the Planning Inspectorate states that it exists to deliver:
“An outstanding national planning and appeals service which enjoys the confidence and respect of Ministers, the public and all stakeholders. We aim to deliver this service in keeping with our values of fairness, openness, impartiality and timeliness.”
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