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RCT/Caerphilly: Potential impact of proposed wind farm development set to be discussed

THE POTENTIAL impact of a proposed wind farm on the border of RCT and Caerphilly is set to be discussed by councillors.

On Thursday, August 17, Rhondda Cynon Taf’s planning committee is due to discuss plans for the Twyn Hywel Energy Park, which would consist of 14 turbines on land north of Senghenydd in Caerphilly. The site straddles the boundary between both counties.

The committee will be asked to approve a local impact report, which will be submitted to Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (Pedw) before it makes a decision on what is a “development of national significance” (DNS).

Three of the turbines would be within the boundary of Rhondda Cynon Taf and each turbine could be to a maximum height of 200m to blade tip.

As the installed generating capacity of the proposed development would exceed 10MW, it qualifies as a DNS and the application will be decided by Welsh ministers rather than the council, with the process administered by Pedw.

It is a formal requirement of the process that the council submits a local Impact Report to Pedw to help the appointed inspector in the consideration of the proposals.

The local impact report that officers are recommending members offer no objection to says that while the part of the site located within Rhondda Cynon Taf is located outside of any of Welsh Government’s pre-assessed areas for large-scale wind energy development, Future Wales 2040 (the national development plan for Wales) allows for such development outside of these areas, providing the scheme complies with relevant planning policy.

The report said the proposed development will have a negative impact on the landscape in visual terms and on the outlook of the nearest residents but that this is a largely subjective issue.

It said that in all other key aspects, it is considered that appropriate mitigation can be applied so that there is no more than a neutral impact or that negative impacts that remain are reduced to a minimum.

The report said there are other issues that might require further consideration, such as the issues raised by the council ecologist in terms of cumulative impact on certain bird species.

The local impact report’s conclusions say other issues can be addressed through the application of planning conditions and through Section 106 agreement.

It says that Future Wales 2040 and Planning Policy Wales clearly offer strong support for the provision of renewable energy projects across Wales, as does RCT’s own local development plan and “it is clear from the national policy documents that there is a strong presumption in favour of such projects to the point where adverse impacts have to be particularly severe for a refusal of consent to be justified”.

It said that because the extent or perceived extent of any adverse impacts in this case are likely be the key determining factors for the Pedw Inspector when weighed against the strong policy support for wind farm and renewables development and that this is considered to be mostly related to visual impact, which is subjective, the recommendation is that no objection be offered to the local impact report and that it is sent to Pedw for consideration.

The plans also include hardstanding areas to include turbine foundations, crane hardstanding and lay down/storage areas, an electrical substation and control building with underground power cables, a new access route connection on to the A472, on-site access tracks with pipeline and watercourse crossings, borrow pits, an anemometer mast, a temporary construction and storage compound with associated lay down areas near to the site entrance, a habitat management area and off-site works to facilitate the movement of abnormal loads such as the construction of over-run areas and temporary modifications to street furniture.

The planning report said the majority of the site lies with the boundaries of Caerphilly County Borough Council and that it is an area of upland forming a horseshoe shape around the settlement of Senghenydd on the valley below.

All statutory consultation on the application will be done separately by Pedw, with any comments from interested parties sent directly for consideration.