Group welcomes u-turn over Powys solar and wind energy plans

Reporter:

Jonny Drury

A group protecting rural Wales has welcomed an apparent U-turn on controversial Local Development Plans (LDP) for vast areas of solar and wind energy in Powys.

Earlier this year, new LDP plans released by Powys County Council (PCC) showed large areas would be open to renewable energy, with the council claiming it was a requirement of the Welsh Government.

This was denied by the Government, and more work was required by Powys.

The work has included considerations, such as:

l The Royal Air Force’s (RAF) low-flying tactical training area over a large part of western Powys.

l A buffer around the Sennybridge training area.

l Appropriate buffers for special protection areas to protect bird species, requested by Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

l A visual impact buffer placed around existing and proposed windfarms to take account of cumulative impact.

l A buffer to all designated landscapes which include two national parks and two areas of outstanding natural beauty.

l Consideration of grid connection and landscape impact.

Peter Seaman, chair of the Brecon and Radnor branch of Campaign for Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) is delighted with the news, but is still remaining cautious.

He said: “CPRW welcomes the news from Powys County Council that it is preparing a ‘U-turn’ on its renewable energy proposals.

“However our response is also tinged with considerable caution because if it had not been for CPRW’s vigilance, the original proposals  of the council would have escaped public scrutiny and their multiple failings continued to remain hidden. 

“We therefore will wait for the full publication when we can examine them in detail and come to an informed response.

“The council seemingly has no recognition of their gigantic neglect of public responsibility in proposing major policy without any regard to local circumstances.

“Nor do they demonstrate any understanding of the distress, huge commitment of time and financial cost their irresponsible actions have caused to many people and organisations.”

Extra work was sought on the plans, after demonstrators against the plans descended on County Hall earlier this year.

PCC’s strategic director for place, Paul Griffiths said: “The LDP is the most important planning document we have and it is essential that we have a robust plan in place. It is a policy for the future and it is vital that it is fit for purpose.

“Although the work is still in progress, initial findings show that applying the constraints has resulted in a significant decrease in the number and extent of proposed local search areas in the county that are available for both wind and solar energy development. The council will publish the results of this additional evidence on its LDP webpages on May 12.

“The finalised results will be submitted to the inspector as part of the LDP planning examination in advance of the deadline for hearing statements. It is likely that the council will be recommending changes to the LDP’s renewable energy policies to the inspector so that these can be discussed at the hearing session.”

Mr Seaman has thanked the huge numbers of supporters across the county, and said the organisation will continue to highlight the LDP inquiry.

He added: “CPRW is hugely grateful to the hundreds of its supporters across Powys who have given support, both by objecting to the LDP and by donating to its fighting fund.

“In the meantime, we will continue to highlight to the LDP Inquiry the council’s proposals in the plan that still fail to give proper recognition of rural Powys, its communities and its fabulous landscapes.”

Key LDP dates:

May 12 – Publication of the revised Renewable Energy Assessment and its accompanying landscape assessment.

June 5 – Deadline for Hearing Statements for LDP Hearing Sessions 15 and 16 on Renewable Energy

June 28 and 29 – Hearing Sessions 15 and 16 on Renewable Energy

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