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Controversial plans for weather mast wind farm refused

The view towards Glaslyn nature reserve (Pic: Sally George)

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a temporary mast to assess weather conditions at a site between the Glaslyn Nature Reserve and Llyn Clywedog, have been rejected by Powys County Councillors.

At a meeting of council’s Planning committee on Thursday, March 14, councillors debated an application by Esgair Galed Energy Park Limited which is the development vehicle for Bute Energy, who specialise in developing wind and solar energy parks.

The meteorological mast would be 120 metres high, and it would also be there for a three year period.

Information gleaned from the mast could inform the firm whether the condition at the site is conducive for 220 metre high wind turbines.

The possible Esgair Galed Windfarm would roughly be situated, northwest of Llanidloes, southeast of Machynlleth and south of Llanbrynmair.

It would also be the subject of a future planning application which would be dealt with by Welsh Government planning inspectors.

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At the meeting councillors were told that 85 objections have been received as well as one letter of support and planning officers recommended approving the proposal.

Objector, Mr Brimson spoke at the meeting and pointed out the negative impacts the mast would have on the ecology of the site and especially birds.

Mr Brimson explained that “bird diverters” are a recognised method to lessen the impact of birds colliding with structures but they are “hard to see” when there is “little or no light.”

Mr Brimson said: “Curlew are still occasionally seen at Glaslyn, they are particularly prone to collision as the cover large distances between feeding areas at night.

“Wales has lost 73 per cent of its Curlew since 1995 and it’s predicted to become extinct as a Welsh breeding bird by 2033.

“It’s now a top bird conservation priority in Wales, and Montgomeryshire is one of its few remaining refuges.

“We should not be putting any more hazards in the way of what was once an iconic Welsh species.”

Due to “lack of detail” of addressing these issues in the application Mr Brimson believed the proposal should be delayed or “preferably refused.”

Planning officer Rhian Griffiths told the committee that bird deflectors were included as condition of approving the application and due to this, the council ecologist had “no objections” to the proposal.

As the discussion continued the looming future wind turbine development in the background weighed heavily on the councillors’ minds.

Cllr Huw Williams said: “I know this area quite well having stayed in the Staylittle outdoor pursuits centre on numerous occasions and walked there.

“It’s just a shame as it will have a visual impact.

“My concern is if we approve this it gives weight to the other development that’s waiting in the background.

“I find it difficult to separate the two of them.

“I’m not comfortable with it – it’s a really interesting historic landscape.”

Cllr Huw Williams 2022 (Pic: Powys County Council)

Planning professional lead officer Peter Morris: “We have to consider the application that’s in front of us.

“We have no evidence or information about any other application here, whatever happens in the future happens in the future.”

“If committee wants to go against officer recommendation they need to provide reasons why.”

Cllr Gareth Pugh said: “I know we must look at this on its own, but this will be very insignificant to what might be around the corner.

“Personally, I would like to object against this on the ground of visual impact and danger to wildlife.

He proposed that the committee refuse the application and this was seconded.

Cllr Gareth Pugh (Pic: Powys County Council)

Mr Morris  advised councillors that he didn’t think that “strong solid reasons” had been given to object against the scheme.

The committee went on to vote on the proposal to object the proposal and nine councillors voted in favour of objecting, five against with one councillor abstaining.