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Concerns raised after mountain left ‘looking like Mars’ for Llanhilleth windfarm scheme

Torfaen Civic Centre in Pontypool (Pic: LDRS)

WORK to prepare a mountainside for a potential windfarm has left it looking like “something from Mars” it has been claimed. 

Welsh firm Pennant Walters Ltd wants permission for a windfarm, with a maximum of eight turbines, at Mynydd Llanhilleth south east of Abertillery and to the east of Llanhilleth. 

A decision will be made by the Welsh Government, which will consider a recommendation from an independent inspector on behalf of Planning and Environment Decisions Wales (PEDW) but Torfaen Borough Council has compiled a report on the potential local impact. 

The council’s planning committee had considered the report in January but since then the developers have changed their plans by removing one of the suggested turbines, identified as turbine number five, reducing the overall number to seven. 

Planning officer Justin Jones said that has resulted in an updated swept path analysis of the planned route, through the area known as The British, lorries will take the turbines to their locations. 

He said a number of trees would have to be removed to “soften” sharp bends to move the turbines that will measure 180 metres to the tip of their blades. 

In total 12 individual trees and 10 groups of trees would be felled and Mr Jones said of the individual trees seven are classed as category B, with category A being the healthiest with longest life, and four are category C and one is category U. The groups are two-category B and eight-category C. 

Pontypool councillor Mark Jones said he was concerned at the tree loss during the past 18 months while preparatory work has been ongoing. 

“It used to be very heavily wooded it now looks like something resembling something out of Mars,” said the independent councillor who asked if the “correct amount of trees” would be replanted. 

Mr Jones said that has been considered as part of the biodiversity plan put forward that has satisfied the council’s ecologist and tree officer. 

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Mark Jones is the independent councillor for Pontypool Fawr on Torfaen County Borough Council (Pic: Torfaen County Borough Council)

Pontnewydd Labour councillor Stuart Ashley said most of the replacement trees, which will be planted on a basis of three for every one felled, would be smaller and wanted to know what would happen for those trees which fail to grow. 

Mr Jones said the council was satisfied with the species proposed has requested a condition that any failures, during the first five years, will have to be replanted. 

Cllr Ashley said the committee has learned “management is probably as important as putting trees in” and added: “It does seem quite comforting we’re getting something back in terms of British natives.” 

Stuart Ashley is the Welsh Labour councillor for Pontnewydd on Torfaen County Borough Council (Pic: Torfaen County Borough Council)

Upper Cwmbran Labour member Steve Evans questioned the impact on the bird population and Mr Jones said the conclusion is the trees could be removed with a “low impact” on birds and bats. 

Labour councillor for Trevethin and Penygarn, Jon Horlor, said he remains concerned at the overall impact on birds as he said there is research that such turbines kill more than one million birds a year “especially larger birds such as raptors, I’d like to put that in the public domain.” 

He also described the three blade design proposed as “old technology” and said there are now bladeless turbines which he described as more efficient and which kill less birds.

Jon Horlor is the Welsh Labour councillor Trevethin and Penygarn on Torfaen Borough Council (Pic: Torfaen County Borough Council)

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