Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence


Written Evidence from the Glyncorrwg Action Group

  Following a meeting with Hywel Francis, MP Chair of the Committee he agreed that I could make a submission to the committee on behalf of the Glyncorrwg Action Group, they have agreed to my making this submission on their behalf. This group was established to fight against wind farms in this area, the first campaign was in 1994, I was involved in that fight. All my remarks are about wind energy in Wales.

  Before anyone accuses us of NIMBYISM, we have a wind farm in our backyard. This is the Fynnon Oer wind farm comprising 16 × 300 feet turbines which has been dumped on an upland area near to one of the most disadvantaged areas in the UK. The Cymmer ward is eighth in the Multiple Deprivation index of 865 wards for Wales; it also has the highest levels of ill health in England and Wales. Wind farm developers seem to plan their projects where they think there will be the least resistance.

  We are not opposed to renewable energy and not opposed to wind farms if they are acceptable to the local community. What we are opposed to is where big business forces a wind farm on a community.

   I would like to bring to the committee's attention the following:

    1.  The Wider Context

    2.  TAN 8

    3.  How It Affects Wales

    4.  Glyncorrwg/ECO2 Application

    5.  Recommendations

1.  THE WIDER CONTEXT

    —  The USA has 5% of the world's population but consumes 25% of the world's energy.

    —  I believe the UK will be one of the few countries in Europe to comply with the Kyoto agreement by 2010.Why are we rushing to fulfil our obligations when others do not see it as a priority?

    —  Within the UK Wales has 5% of the population but has 19% of the wind farms and generates 23% of the total amount of wind energy for the UK.

    —  Within Wales the area in which I live is expected to generate over 30% of the total energy from wind farms.

    —  In global terms all the efforts to combat global warming will be negated by the high consumption of energy in the USA.

2.  TAN 8

  The consultation process on the TAN 8 proposals was a sham. Glyncorrwg is in one of the areas thought by the Welsh Assembly to be suitable for wind farms to be sited. There was no consultation with individuals or the community about the designation of this site. I am not sure how much consultation was held with local councils.

  One gained the impression that it was being bulldozed through. I sent a letter to the Welsh Assembly on 22.9.04 saying, "This is not my letter of objection but I am writing to complain about the consultation process and to ask a number of questions to obtain information, which will help me in writing my letter of objection". I was sent a reply thanking me for my letter of objection! The area in which I live was referred to as Glyncorrwg, Neath when Neath is 10 miles away. This shows this plan was clearly drawn up by people who regarded Glyncorrwg as a dot on the map and had no idea of the location of the village.

  This was a textbook case study in how a consultation should not be handled and I am sure it will be used in Planning Schools in the future.

  1.  The consultation process was announced on 13 July just as the school holidays were starting and many families were obviously more concerned about their annual holidays. This was a cynical attempt to slip this announcement through when people's attention was distracted. This further undermined people's confidence in the planning process.

  2.  I live in an area, which is directly affected by these proposals, but I only found out about it in a small article in a local newspaper. Most people in this community do not know about TAN 8 or its far-reaching implications for this area. Why were there no public meetings on this issue in the areas most affected?

  3.  The time period was too limited, and spanned a time when many people were on holiday and many organisations do not meet. More time was required and a letter should have been sent to each household.

  The time period was extended but there was not sufficient time for many people to respond.

  TAN 8 gives advantage in planning terms to developers over local communities which is against the laws of natural justice. Local people should be able to determine their own destiny and not be overruled by outside bodies. It is undemocratic and unfair. The proposals will have a huge impact on this area and residents should have been better informed on what these proposals entail.

3.  HOW IT WILL AFFECT WALES

  The developments of large-scale wind farms will ruin many parts of the Welsh landscape and will seriously affect plans to attract more tourists. It would be better to invest resources in energy efficiency and in energy conservation. The uncertainty as to whether these wind farms will be allowed will blight areas such as Glyncorrwg and will be a burden to the people living here.

  Wales is being asked to provide a disproportionate percentage of the UK national target for wind farms. This has led to accusations of the Welsh Assembly being a "soft touch" and being closely associated with multi-national firms eg Gamesa which will benefit from this development.

  The TAN 8 proposals are ill conceived, naïve and of little benefit to Wales or its people. TAN 8 will damage the credibility of the Assembly and bring into question whether devolved government is best for this country. The Assembly should be fighting against these proposals not proposing them. I hope the Assembly will see sense and drop these proposals.

  How do the TAN 8 proposals fit with the Welsh Assembly social inclusion policy? This is supposed to be about helping disadvantaged places like Glyncorrwg. This has placed an added burden on this community.

  The new Welsh Assembly building has recently won a green award for building design. How surprising that they did not include wind turbines in their plans for the new building! Cardiff Bay is a windy place and a perfect spot for wind turbines. It could have been a showcase development for something they have a strong belief in for other places.

  All the above points have been communicated to the Welsh Assembly.

4.  GLYNCORRWG/ECO2 APPLICATION

    —  Most people do not want the landscape destroyed and there is great concern about the impact on tourism which we are trying to develop. We do not believe wind farms attract tourists, we think they deter them. Voluntary groups and individuals have worked hard to try to regenerate Glyncorrwg by visitors who love the peace and wild beauty of our hills. Wind farms will not help these developments.

    —  This area has suffered enough. For over a hundred years Glyncorrwg and the surrounding area paid enormous sacrifices in coal mining. The local landscape was seriously affected and many people suffered ill health from working in the mines. Now just as the scars are healing we are being asked once more to sacrifice the local landscape for the energy needs of the country.

    —  We are not convinced about the viability of wind turbines and we see this as an opportunity for multi-national companies to make even more money by imposing these industrial installations on small vulnerable communities.

    —  The proposed percentage of wind energy that this area will produce under TAN 8 will have devastating effects on the landscape. Surely the disproportionate contribution that our area will be making is totally unfair. Glyncorrwg is identified as being a ward of high deprivation which needs a lot of support in what it is trying to achieve. We are listed at 24 out of 865 wards in the Multiple Deprivation index for Wales. This will not help this community but place a greater burden on it and a strain on individuals many of whom are elderly or suffering ill health.

  What has happened as a result of TAN 8 is that developers are now hovering over the area like vultures. There is now a free for all. According to Neath Port Talbot CBC, 11 firms have expressed an interest in placing wind farms in the council area. I have heard that six of the proposals relate to Glyncorrwg and environs. The landscape of Wales is being bought and sold by developers many of whom are based in Europe, for example, Cefn Croes wind farm is owned by Falck based in Milan.

  The role of the Forestry Commission needs to be clarified. If the Welsh Assembly controls the Forestry Commission and is encouraging wind farm developers to use or have access to land through Forestry Commission land it has a financial interest in this matter. There is therefore a conflict of interest. This issue has been raised in Scotland, see The Scotsman article attached at Appendix 1.

  Eco2, a Cardiff based firm, has proposed to place six 400 feet wind turbines half a mile from the village. The turbines will be bigger than Big Ben and as high as the London Eye. A petition against the proposal has been circulated and a majority of people in the village have signed. Many politicians and civil servants talk about wind energy but have they thought about the effects it has on a small vulnerable community?

  The main concerns are:

    —  It will spoil an area of outstanding natural beauty

    —  Wind farms are ugly, inefficient and will spoil the wild beautiful areas around the village.

    —  It will undermine the attempts by residents, the local authority and other bodies to regenerate the local community after decades of decline.

    —  It will undermine work done to encourage tourism through the Glyncorrwg Pond project and mountain biking. This project has been established by local people to attract tourists, mainly for mountain biking. Recently one of the bike trails was hailed as one of the most popular in the UK. A considerable amount of public money and voluntary effort has gone into making this project a success.

    —  There is also concern about the effects on house prices, TV reception and wildlife.

    —  Many people feel that others will be deterred from visiting or moving to Glyncorrwg.

    —  Concern has also been expressed about the effects on health on this matter there have been two studies by GPs see The Daily Telegraph article attached at Appendix 2.

  Many individuals have been affected by this development and case studies can be provided if required. The developer has offered community benefits which many see as bribes. In this disadvantaged community this has swayed some people into accepting the unacceptable. Farmers who have lost income see wind farms as a meal ticket. Our fight against the wind farm developers is one of David against Goliath, big business against small vulnerable communities.

5.  RECOMMENDATIONS

    —  Glyncorrwg needs support and protection from the Welsh Assembly Government not labelling as a "strategic area" under a plan, which will seriously spoil the future development of this area.

    —  A moratorium should be called on any new developments to assess the viability of existing wind farms. Wales has contributed more than its fair share of energy from wind sources.

    —  There needs to be an independent review of the TAN 8 proposals.

    —  These developments should be more equally distributed within Wales and throughout the UK

    —  There should be more guidance on how close wind farms can be to houses

    —  Measures should be introduced to prevent the free for all by developers, that is taking place in areas such as Glyncorrwg

    —  Strict guidelines need to be introduced on community benefits.

    —  There should be stricter guidelines on consultation between the communities affected and wind farm developers.

    —  Help should be provided to anti wind farm groups to combat the ruination of their area. This is a David v Goliath situation.

    —  The role of the Forestry Commission needs to be clarified with regard to the Welsh Assembly.

  I was surprised to see the DTI civil servants using British Wind Energy Association statistics when they gave oral evidence to your committee on 31 January 2006. This is a trade association which promotes wind farms how can it be seen to be objective. It is also aggressive when encountering opposition. Does the Department of Health use statistics from trade associations when discussing smoking and alcohol consumption? The DTI web site also uses BWEA statistics; it needs to be fairer and to give both sides of the argument. At the moment it is blatantly biased towards wind farms. In a democracy this is unacceptable.

  There are powerful arguments against wind farms:

    Are they the best use of resources?

    Should more effort be put into energy efficiency and energy conservation?

    Would the money be better spent helping people to replace inefficient boilers?

    What is being done to reduce the number of cars on the roads?

    Why isn't more freight being carried on the railways?

    What is being done to curb pollution from air travel? No attempt has been made to control the number of flights or the expansion of regional airports.

    Should supermarkets encourage people to buy beans from Kenya or asparagus from Peru? These products have to be transported and this increases gas emissions. Why not place an emphasis on buying locally sourced products.

    What is being done by the public sector to improve energy efficiency?

    How many streetlights do you see that are on 24 hours?

    How many offices and shops do you enter where the heat is intolerable?

  Should not the above points have been considered before ruining parts of a beautiful country's landscape with these hideous installations? Wind farms are gestures; they are a knee jerk reaction. They have a part to play but please do not allow the further desecration of the Welsh landscape.

  Do not allow communities like Glyncorrwg to be sacrificed on a green altar.

14 February 2006


 
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