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Bute Energy development: Carmarthenshire residents’ concern over lack of clarity

RESIDENTS in Carmarthenshire are raising concerns about Carmarthenshire County Council’s lack of transparency regarding its meetings with Bute Energy. The council has failed to meet the legal deadline for publishing details of these interactions, prompting residents to write to the Information Commissioner’s Office. Public bodies, including the County Council, are required by law to respond to freedom of information requests within 20 working days.

Members of the Carmarthenshire Residents’ Action Group (CRAiG Sir Gar) submitted a request on 20th March seeking information about the council’s engagement with Bute Energy, a Danish-backed windfarm developer known for its plans to build pylons through Wales’ picturesque Towy Valley. Under the Freedom of Information Act, the public has the right to know about the activities of public authorities, with a presumption in favour of disclosure, unless there are valid reasons for withholding information. Despite three months having passed, the County Council has remained silent on its dealings with Bute Energy.

Residents specifically asked for disclosure of any meetings between the council and the energy company, including its subsidiaries. However, the council has neither confirmed nor denied the occurrence of such meetings or provided any details if they did take place.

CRAiG’s Freedom of Information request also sought information about any gifts or hospitality received by the council from the pylon developer. The council has yet to provide assurances that no such offerings have been made or accepted.

Residents are concerned that the council’s delayed response to the FOI request, exceeding the statutory 20-day period, has prevented them from considering this information in their feedback for Carmarthenshire’s Local Development Plan consultation, which closed on 14th April, as well as the Green GEN Cymru Towy-Usk consultation, which closed on 28th April.

Tara-Jane Sutcliffe, a conservationist, expressed the motivation behind the information request, highlighting the threat posed by Green GEN Cymru’s plans to construct an overhead powerline with massive pylons in the Towy Valley as part of the Towy-Usk project. This development would severely impact the area’s natural and historical environment, affecting the livelihoods and well-being of rural communities. Sutcliffe praised the community’s response, with local anti-pylon groups forming and actively opposing the industrialisation of their cherished landscape through public meetings and online activism.

Havard Hughes, spokesperson for the Carmarthenshire Residents’ Action Group, raised concerns about the council’s decision to remove the region’s long-standing Special Landscape Areas in its revised Local Development Plan. Hughes has repeatedly sought transparency from the council during cabinet meetings regarding the plan but has received evasive responses regarding the Special Landscape Areas. He questions why Carmarthenshire County Council has not published details of its interactions with Bute Energy if there is nothing to hide, emphasising the residents’ legal right to transparency from their local authority.