Guest post by Robert Owens
(where ‘saving the planet’ from climate change trumps democracy and the protection of the environment)
A brief summary of the history of this national scandal, involving the brushing aside of local democracy and the blatant flaunting of planning law:
1. In 2014 Hendy Wind Farm Ltd. applied for planning permission to construct a wind farm of 7 giant (110m) turbines at the beautiful site of Llandegley Rhos in mid-Wales, a site that includes a number of ‘scheduled ancient monuments’.
2. After much prevarication Powys County Council Planning Department ignored the overwhelming weight of evidence of harm to the landscape, heritage, tourism, amenity, etc. and, disregarding the shredding of application documents and missing environmental information, recommended approval. The Planning Committee, however, rejected that recommendation and refused to approve the development.
3. The developer then appealed the Council’s decision, resulting in an independent Planning Inspector hearing the evidence over a two week Inquiry in March 2018. In May 2018, in his carefully argued 115 page report, the Inspector again rejected the development, stating, “…the extent of harm to the landscape and historic assets leads me to conclude that the scheme fails to strike an appropriate balance between promoting renewable energy projects and protecting these interests as sought by national policy. It follows that, when taken together, the combined harm to landscape and heritage matters significantly outweigh the identified benefits.”
4. In October 2018 the Welsh Government Cabinet Minister for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, overrode the Planning Inspector’s recommendation and approved the wind farm proposal, asserting that in her opinion the benefits of the wind farm, in particular its displacement of carbon dioxide emissions (which have been estimated to contribute at most a fifth of a billionth of a degree Centigrade to global warming mitigation in the wind farm’s lifetime – which would be 150,000 times lower than can be measured) overrode all other concerns, whether they be local democracy (the scheme was bitterly opposed by local residents), landscape despoilment or environmental or wildlife damage. Such a terrifying precedent opens the way for wind farm developers to desecrate the landscape almost at will.
5. Construction work began on 20th November and continues at breakneck speed, at nights and at weekends, with no regard for permitted hours of work. The developers have stated that they are determined to erect one turbine before the end of January in order to be eligible for government renewable energy subsidies (Renewable Obligation Certificates) that expire on 31st January 2019. In order to meet this deadline the work is being carried out without any of the pre-commencement planning conditions being discharged. These conditions are all binding and the Minister’s consent is contingent upon the conditions being satisfied in full and discharged. In other words the construction is racing ahead despite [potentially~ctm] being unlawful. When challenged on why they were not enforcing planning law and issuing a Stop Notice on the works Powys County Council (who have a vested financial interest in the development) reply that their failure to enforce planning law was ‘expedient’ (i.e. ‘convenient and practical although possibly improper or immoral.’)
6. In its latest report Powys wind farm protesters lose legal bid to stop work the BBC repeat the statement, “Hendy Wind Farm Ltd said all it had done so far was deliver machinery and carry out pre-commencement surveys.” How are we to reconcile this statement with the picture below, taken on 19th December, of the near completion of the base for the first turbine? Clearly the statement is [likely~ctm] untrue – yet the BBC have accepted it.
7. The local branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales is now seeking leave to start a Judicial Review of the Minister’s decision in a bid to have the planning permission quashed – but even if this succeeds the first turbine (at least) will be up and running (and of course not removed).
If the need for more renewable energy truly trumps all other concerns what hope is there for either local democracy or the environment?