Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Wednesday, 7 July 2004 13:07 UK

Go-ahead for offshore wind farm

Artist's impression of the turbines at Scarweather Sands
The closest turbine would be 3.5 miles from the shoreline

Welsh Assembly Members have backed controversial plans for a large wind farm off the south Wales coast.

After a public inquiry, the assembly's planning committee has approved the proposals for thirty turbines at Scarweather Sands off Porthcawl.

Opposition group SOS Porthcawl said its members were "distraught" at the recommendation, which may now have to be supported by the full assembly.

But Friends of the Earth welcomed the backing for the "clean, powerful and quiet" energy source.

The planning inspector had come out against the scheme, and decided it would have a significant and harmful impact.

But the committee still decided in favour - although if 10 AMs appeal against its recommendation, then a final decision will have to be made by all 60 AMs.

The unspoiled seascape views enjoyed by tourists and visitors alike will be destroyed
Alun Cairns AM

United Utilities said its £120m project would generate enough electricity for 82,000 homes.

But opponents claimed the turbines, between 3.5 and 4.3 miles off the coast, would blight the area and damage tourism in and around the popular resort. They collected an 8,000-name protest petition.

A public inquiry opened into the scheme last November, and lasted four weeks.

The inquiry heard that the turbines would meet 10% of the renewable energy target set by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Project manager Chris Williams said: "We think it's a good scheme which would help place Wales at the forefront of a growing 'green economy' as well as helping to tackle climate change.

"However, we are aware this decision has yet to be placed before individual AMs for confirmation and we are respectful of that process."

A Greenpeace image of the proposed wind farm from the shore at Rest Bay
Porthcawl visitors were shown this image by Greenpeace during its survey

John Chislett of SOS Porthcawl said: "It was a classic David v Goliath battle taken right to the wire.

"SOS Porthcawl and our supporters are distraught at the assembly planners' decision to green light giant turbines on Scarweather.

"This decision is a retrograde step for the regeneration of Porthcawl and a devastating blow to the whole of Swansea Bay".

The group said it appreciated the need for renewable energy, but the development would be "a drop in the ocean". It may now ask for a judicial review.

Opponent and Conservative AM Alun Cairns said the approval "flies in the face of rational decision-making".

Statue of Liberty

He is looking for 10 AMs who will object, which will mean it will have to be considered by the full assembly after the summer recess.

Brilliant news for the environment and for the people of Swansea Bay
Robin Oakley, Greenpeace

"Hopefully common sense will prevail and the wind farm will be stopped in its tracks," said Mr Cairns.

"Each of the 30 wind turbines will be taller than the Statue of Liberty. The unspoiled seascape views enjoyed by tourists and visitors alike will be destroyed."

Robin Oakley, of Greenpeace, said: "This decision is brilliant news for the environment and brilliant news for the people of Swansea Bay.

"Swansea Bay residents are overwhelmingly in favour of this project. Over three times as many local people supported this windfarm than opposed it, proving that clean energy provided by wind is exactly what the public want.

"AMs must now listen to the people and get this windfarm built quickly."

Neil Crumpton, who gave evidence to the inquiry for Friends of the Earth Cymru, said: "Wind turbines at Scarweather would be a clean, powerful and quiet way for people around Swansea Bay to move to a low-carbon and safe economy."

The environmental group also argued that its survey of Swansea, Neath-Port Talbot and Bridgend showed 54% of people supported the plan, and only 14% against.

Friends of the Earth also a study in Scotland showed that nine out of 10 visitors said the presence of wind farms did not affect their enjoyment of their holiday.

The group also said it would not affect birds or marine life, not spoil the seascape, help reduce global warming, and create jobs.

The members of the planning committee were Alun Ffred Jones (Plaid Cymru), Tamsin Dunwoody-Kneafsey (Labour) Jeff Cuthbert (Labour) and Brynle Williams (Conservative).



SEE ALSO
Tourism row over windfarm
26 Aug 03 |  South East Wales
Windfarm faces assembly inquiry
26 Mar 03 |  Wales
Offshore wind farm up for debate
24 Jan 03 |  Wales
Protesters target wind farm plans
25 Oct 02 |  Wales
Wind farm planned at beach resort
11 Oct 02 |  Wales

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