Monday 9 June 2014

The view from the boathouse

Things continue to be very quiet at Carmarthenshire County Council, with only a slight flurry of media attention last week when the Planning Committee rejected the advice of planning officers and voted to approve an application for a wind turbine near Llansteffan within line of sight of Dylan Thomas's boathouse and writing shed.

The planning officer's report can be found here, and the recommendation was for refusal, largely on grounds that the turbine, which is of modest size, would have a detrimental impact on the landscape. Most of the agencies consulted had no objections to the proposal, but 422 letters were received from members of the public.

The matter will now go back before the planning committee to either confirm or reverse its decision, and no doubt there will be the usual arm twisting behind the scenes in the meantime. If the council runs true to form, the decision will be reversed.

Most of us can't remember the last time we opened the letters pages of a local newspaper and did not find at least one anti-wind turbine campaigner. Some are reasonable, but others are positively unhinged. A few years back someone thought they had found conclusive evidence that the Nazis were behind one operator from North Wales, and whenever an application is submitted, uproar nearly always ensues.

We all want and need electricity, but for many it's a case of not in my backyard, although it's OK if someone else has a nuclear power plant or a coal or gas power station in theirs.

To make matters worse, responsibility for large power generation installations has not been devolved, and so what we have is a piecemeal and largely undemocratic approach to harnessing the huge potential Wales has for developing and securing its future energy needs.

A couple of years ago this blog looked at the experience of Denmark (here). Back then 24% of the country's electricity was being generated by wind power, and today the share has risen to 28%. Unlike the UK, 80% of turbines in Denmark are owned by local communities as cooperatives.

The country has a long history of running successful cooperatives in all sorts of fields, Danish bacon and a thriving cooperative banking sector to name but two examples. By giving people a stake in wind power generation, the sort of bitter and destructive planning battles we have here are practically unknown.

It's not just about wind power and energy security where there are lessons to be learned from our neighbours in Europe, but also in tackling fuel poverty, another field in which the UK lags way behind.

A couple of years ago Leanne Wood and the Plaid group in the Senedd commissioned an interesting report on the subject, which you can find here.


Anonymous said...

I agree that often the objections by people to the siting of wind power units are often classic "nimbyism" but sometimes the locations of proposed sites are so important and iconic that they should not be considered per se.

The windmill across the estuary from Laurghne is one such site and refusal should be sought.

Its not such an outrageous thought. Would you for example support an application if someone wanted to plant a windmill on Caldey.

Like it or not nuclear is the best way forward for the UK for several reasons the most important of which is sustainability.

Cneifiwr said...

Personally I'd far rather have wind turbines in my backyard than a nuclear power plant. Turbines may be unsightly, but they can be erected and dismantled in a couple of days. If something better than turbines comes along, it would be easy to get rid of them - something which is obviously not the case with nuclear or the waste nuclear produces.

Redhead said...

It's going to be 20 years plus before nuclear starts new generation. Without renewables we will be dependent on Russia and Asia for imports. Is that a good idea?

Anonymous said...

But why (nearly) always equate renewable energy generation with rather unsightly wind turbines? Whatever happened to water powered generation, which is reliable and need not be any kind of blot on the landscape. In the early days, electricity was commonly generated using water power; Newcastle Emlyn's original supply was provided by the generating house on the Teifi!

Anonymous said...

Even though I sail off Llansteffan and love the circular walk that follows the river up from Dylan Thomas boat house through fields, gardens and lanes back in to Laugharne, I whooped with joy at this announcement after the initial shock.

Yes. Whooped with joy!

We are going to share the pain.

YOU are destroying my backyard with 38 abominable wind machines and now YOU can have the pleasure of looking at just one in a place that NUMPTY YOU have on your radar.


Anonymous said...

What a good idea. Let's force the monks on Caldey to have a 500 foot wind machine so they can do their bit to share around the misery which this sanctimonious numpty thinks should only be inflicted on those out of sight and out of mind.

May they FRACK in your backyard too.