Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence

Written Evidence from Campaign For The Protection Of Rural Wales, Ceredigion Branch

  We submit the following in reference to the above Inquiry:

  1.  We regret that there has so far been no national debate on energy supply and conservation and welcome the present initiative by government.

  2.  We believe that the emphasis currently placed on developing wind energy in Wales is more a cosmetic gesture than a solution to the problems of runaway CO2 emissions. These need urgently addressing through national policies encouraging efficient public transport and restricting air travel. Given available statistics for their performance and costs, we believe it is not reasonable to claim that further windfarm development is in the national interest.

  3.  We believe the national interest will be more appropriately served by encouraging and subsidizing individual endeavour to employ other forms of alternative energy and that government should urgently emphasise the need for energy conservation.

  4.  Having seen Environmental Impact Assessments associated with several recent planning developments and in particular with those relating to windfarms, we are concerned about their quality and therefore urge that serious future consideration be given to allocating government expertise to monitor them.

  5.  In regard to landscape, we find it worrying that government and its advisers currently apply such subjective criteria when evaluating landscape/environmental importance. We urge that greater recognition be afforded perceptions and appreciation of landscape and its significance by those communities which use and manage them at the regional and local level. This is not to suggest that landscape should not be designated significant nationally. When such designation applies, it should be respected by adequately protected against development.

  6.  As regards the planning system, in our dealings over windfarm applications in this county a handful of concerns apply. First, it is clear that few locally elected councillors are trained to understand the implications raised by many types of application processed in the planning system. We therefore urge that training be instituted to help redress this problem, if not to consider introducing written examinations on national planning policies as a condition for those making decisions about planning matters. We are also concerned in Ceredigion that we have to pay a fee for sight of planning files which we believe should be available free under the Freedom of Information Act. Furthermore, we have been disturbed to discover and regret to report that in processing applications, the Planning Authority has demonstrably acted partially by not appropriately maintaining complete records. Although we have not discovered this in relation to energy matters, such a practice diminishes confidence in government.

  7.  We recognize and lament the parlous state of farming nationally. We are, however, disturbed that current diversifications, like windfarms (but also including other activities) can be promoted under umbrellas which divide neighbourhoods and disturb community harmony.

  8.  We are dissatisfied that the nature of windfarm sound (and that of some other developments) is rarely addressed in the planning process, as we believe it is inadequately understood, and we know that it can have unpredictable effects upon humans. In specific instances, it is only discovered when the turbines are turning, by which time it is too late to help those affected.

  9.  Finally, since Cefn Croes was built, Ceredigion's landscape appears strongly punctuated by wind turbines and the county now contributes a fair share to national generation targets. CPRW has a neutral policy towards some of the types of energy generation available. However, in Ceredigion though we share national concerns about addressing the government's intention to reduce CO2 emissions, we believe it now vital to initiate promote and invest in serious energy conservation projects at all levels.

29 November 2005

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