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Home / Latest News / Welsh Secretary David Jones calls for greater public say over wind farms in Wales

Welsh Secretary David Jones calls for greater public say over wind farms in Wales

Welsh Secretary David Jones has urged the Labour Government in Cardiff to follow Westminster’s lead and give local people a greater say over wind farm developments.

Communities in England will gain new powers to block turbines but they will also get new incentives for schemes to go ahead, with a five-fold increase in the amount developers are expected to pay to those hosting a wind farm.

Mr Jones urged the Welsh Government to act “urgently” but a source in the Labour administration said the cabinet minister was “behind the curve”  and described the measures as “flawed”.

Clwyd West Conservative MP Mr Jones said: “In Wales, there is an effective presumption in favour of wind farm developments under the Welsh Government’s planning policy document, TAN 8. Today’s announcement means an even greater divergence of policy between England and Wales.

“I would urge the Welsh Government urgently to review TAN 8. Given that, as from today, communities in England will be more empowered as to whether wind farm developments proceed in their areas, it is only right that comparable measures should be adopted in Wales.

“English communities affected by wind farm development will also now be receiving significantly more generous community benefit payments from developers than before. For a 50 megawatt wind farm, this could be as much as £100,000.

“I would also urge the Welsh wind power industry body, R-UK Cymru, to confirm that the community benefits on offer to Welsh residents will match those of residents in England, so as to restore equality of treatment on both sides of the border.”

The Welsh Government source said: “The Wales Office is way behind the curve on this issue. The community benefits being talked about in England are already being taken forward in Wales.

“We believe today’s announcement is flawed and leaves many questions unanswered. For example, how do you ascertain a community’s views on such an issue?

Welsh secretary David Jones
Welsh secretary David Jones

“Also, why aren’t other forms of energy being given the same treatment by the UK Government? The fact that opencast mining is not mentioned in today’s announcement, demonstrates this is aimed solely at Tory voters – not the wider general public.

“The people of Wales have decided on two occasions these are matters for their elected representatives in Wales, not for a Whitehall department. Surely London Ministers have better things to do than become embroiled in issues that are of no concern to them. These are matters for democratically elected politicians in Wales.

“The UK Government would never interfere in Scottish politics in this way, so why is Wales being treated differently?”

The new policy in England comes as a public inquiry gets underway in Powys where an alliance of 21 organisations are opposing major plans for turbines and  pylons to connect the developments to the national grid. Opponents have also emerged to proposals for wind  power on Anglesey.

Shadow Assembly environment minister and Montgomeryshire Tory AM Russell George said: “UK ministers are clearly listening to the concerns of communities who feel under siege from onshore wind farms. The First Minister must spell out what he intends to do to enable local planning authorities to take local views into account on developments under 50MW.

“If communities are united in opposition against wind farm developments, it stands to reason that their views should be fully respected by planning inspectors and ministers.”

David Clubb, director of RenewableUK Cymru, said the wind industry in Wales has been working closely with the Welsh Government.

He said: “The initiatives being developed in Wales go beyond what is recommended by DECC, and include a Community Benefit Declaration and proposals for a Register of Community Benefit Investments.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “In Wales we are committed to ensuring that communities affected by energy infrastructure development genuinely see the benefits of that infrastructure. Following discussions with Welsh Government, the onshore wind industry and Renewable UK Cymru are currently finalising an industry declaration, which includes a commitment from onshore wind developers to maximise community and economic benefits for Wales.

“Recently consented developments in Wales have resulted in commitments to provide £5,000 per MW or greater to communities hosting onshore wind developments.”

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