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Last Updated: Monday, 4 October, 2004, 15:00 GMT 16:00 UK
Offshore windfarm row continues
Artist's impression of the turbines at Scarweather Sands
The development proposes 30 turbines 400ft high
Environmental campaigners have urged assembly members to support a major windfarm development off the south Wales coast.

The call follows a public inquiry report which concluded the development at Scarweather sands at Porthcawl should be turned down.

Friends of the Earth Cymru has written to all AMs urging them to back the application when it is discussed on Tuesday.

It argued that the public inquiry - the longest ever held in Wales into a windfarm application - was "flawed".

This development has become one of the most controversial issues since the inception of the Welsh Assembly Government
Local objector Tom Anderson

In his report, the inquiry inspector had concluded: "The visual impact of a windfarm in the specific location of this proposal would be so prominent when viewed from Porthcawl and its immediate area that I consider that the harmful effects on this view are sufficient to outweigh the benefits of this particular proposal."

Asked by the planning division of the Welsh Assembly Government for a more detailed explanation, he replied:

"I reiterate my overall conclusion that the environmental and economic benefits of this proposal do not outweigh the real and significant harm to the visual quality of Porthcawl and the surrounding area that would result from this particular proposal on this particular site."

Gordon James, of Friends of the Earth Cymru, argued there had been an over-emphasis in the public inquiry report on the visual impact of such a development, and under-emphasis of what it described as "the very important" environmental and economic benefits.

"There seems to be an assumption in the report that the visual impact would be harmful," Mr James said.

Surely, in view of the controversy surrounding the windfarm, the least the Welsh Assembly Government can do is offer a debate
Alun Cairns AM

Mr James said the public inquiry report stated that the visual impact would particularly affect Porthcawl Golf Club, being a visual distraction to players on the course.

But he claimed that a similar windfarm in Norfolk, Scroby Sands, which could be seen from a golf club in Great Yarmout, had not presented any problem.

The Scarweather sands windfarm, he said, would be three times further away.

Opponents of the development believe the turbines, which would be around four miles off the coast, would blight the area and damage tourism in and around the popular resort.

They have formed an action committee and have collected an 8,000-name protest petition.

Conservative AM Alun Cairns, who has opposed the project, accused the Welsh Assembly Government of "dirty trick tactics" to get the proposal through the assembly.

Renewable energy

Mr Cairns said the motion calling for a full assembly debate on the windfarm proposal on Tuesday clashed with the Conservatives' conference in Bournemouth.

"The timing of the procedural motion in relation to the Scarweather windfarm has been tabled at the most inconvenient time for the objectors," he said.

"In considering that nine out of the 10 objectors are Conservatives, many of whom could be away at their conference in Bournemouth, this is the worst possible time," he added.

The plans for the 30,400ft turbines will be up for discussion in the assembly chamber again on Tuesday.

As 10 AMs signed a motion expressing dissatisfaction with the planning decision, it must be discussed again.

Tom Anderson, a member of the committee of local residents and businesses opposed to development, said : "This is the most heavily-opposed development since the flooding of Welsh valleys for reservoirs nearly 50 years ago."

And, he added : "This development has become one of the most controversial issues since the inception of the Welsh Assembly Government, and has attracted attention both nationally and internationally.

"The planning development committee decision has thrown into disrepute the planning process in Wales."


SEE ALSO:
Tourism row over windfarm
26 Aug 03  |  South East Wales
Windfarm faces assembly inquiry
26 Mar 03  |  Wales


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