Plans for south Wales wind farm between Port Talbot and Maesteg may be 'unacceptable' experts warn

Experts have warned plans for a wind farm in south Wales could be “unacceptable” and damaging to local tourism. Coriolis Energy and the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) hope to build 26 wind turbines in a semi-rural area between Port Talbot and Maesteg, an operation that would last for 50 years. However, a report by White Consultants on behalf of Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot Councils states the turbines “are likely to be too large for this site”.

The developers want to create ‘Y Bryn Windfarm’, located over the mountain from Brombil through Bryn to Nantyfyllon and Caerau along the flank of Garnwen Mountain. The proposed development site is located north-east of the M4 motorway and owned by Natural Resources Wales. The plans for the wind farm include turbines measuring 250m in height and 170m in rotor diameter as well as battery storage, access works and other infrastructure.

The report by White Consultants states: “Preferably, an assessment of smaller sized turbines only should be taken forward. “Local residents and communities are likely to undergo significant visual effects with dominant or prominent turbines and, in some cases, may suffer unacceptable effect on residential visual amenity.” According to the report, the proposed height of 250m for the turbines is “far larger than any other in Wales” and higher than any other in the UK.

The UK’s highest wind turbine is located at Lethans, Scotland, measuring 200m tall. The document states the wind farm in Lethans sits in an area “that is rural, larger scale and with far fewer settlements and apparently fewer sensitive receptors” than the site between Port Talbot and Maesteg. The report also states the wind farm may have a negative impact on nearby sites of cultural heritage.

An image of what the wind turbines could look like if they are given the green light at the Welsh site

A report by Nicola Lake, Neath Port Talbot Council’s team leader for development management, reads: “The scale of the proposed development would mean that it is difficult to see how it would not wholly and completely dominate the surrounding environment, to what could only be considered an unacceptable degree and to the detriment of the amenity of that environment, communities and the residents who live there.”

The report recommends “any assessment of the visual impacts” linked to the wind farm “must be extensive and comprehensive”. The report notes there are only two buildings that are taller than 250m in the UK – The Shard (310m) and The Helter-Skelter, Twentytwo, The Pinnacle (278m). There are seven other buildings in Greater London and Tower Hamlets areas ranging from 236m to 205m tall.

The document also notes concerns about how the project could impact local tourism: “There are limited employment opportunities within the valley areas, but one area of growth has been the development of small scale tourism facilities. “Many of these are located within the communities that surround the proposed development areas, such as a variety of overnight accommodation as well as companies which support the growing walking and particularly cycle related activities. “It is difficult to see how the proposed development would have a beneficial impact upon this industry and it is essential that any and all potential negative impacts upon the socio-economic environment including tourism must be fully and comprehensively assessed, monitored and where possible systematically mitigated.”

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Experts also noted the construction phase of the project could have “a potential impact upon human health” because the boundary of the development site falls within areas featuring historic coal mining and spoil tips.

“Any permanent structures could be affected by ground gas from old mine workings and spoil tips and be a human health risk to site workers,” the report reads. The report recommends appropriate risk assessments are carried out to fully assess such issues. A scoping report prepared by Natural Power Consultants Limited (Natural Power) on behalf of Y Bryn Wind Farm Limited states: “Coriolis Energy is a specialist independent wind farm development company operating throughout the UK.

“Its principals have been responsible for successfully developing some 15 onshore wind farms in the UK with a capacity of over 500 MW over two decades. “Achieving maximum potential turbine numbers, tip heights and rotor diameters will be more critical than ever to the prospects of project delivery. “However, this consideration must of course be balanced with the requirement for the wind farm’s benefits to outweigh its other environmental impacts, and be judged to do so by decision makers within the consenting process.

“The proposed development is in an ideal location to help contribute to the UK and Welsh Government’s renewable energy targets. “The wind farm development responds to Welsh Government’s commitment to addressing the Climate Emergency through achieving Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050, by decarbonising electricity generation with a target of 70% of Wales’ electricity demand… to be met from renewable sources by 2030. “Bryn Wind Farm will be seeking to maximise the potential of this site to deliver on these objectives and will be designed in such a way as to balance society’s needs for efficient sustainable energy generation with the relevant environmental considerations.”

Trevor Hunter, Y Bryn Project Manager said: “We have just received a scoping direction from the Planning Inspectorate Wales for the Y Bryn project. This will help inform our early technical work as we develop the proposals for the scheme. “We fully appreciate the importance of this Project at a national, regional, and local level, and Coriolis Energy and ESB are committed to best practice in our approach to working closely with stakeholders, technical consultees and the local communities as we progress through the pre-application consultation process over coming years.

“Apart from the obvious carbon reduction and energy sustainability benefits to Wales, there is a significant opportunity to deliver other, more local benefits as a result of this Project. These include considerable anticipated investment across this region of South Wales through supply chain opportunities and job creation, as well as the potential for community ownership.” Coriolis will need to apply for full planning consent if it wants to progress with the project.

A spokesman for Neath Port Talbot Council said: “The proposed wind farm on Land at Bryn and Penhydd Forest will be a ‘Development of National Significance’ which will in due course be submitted to and determined by the Welsh Ministers. “At this stage, the council (and Bridgend Council) has only provided a response relating to the scope of the environmental statement that will be necessary to support the application. “That response raised some issues, and the Welsh Ministers have since issued the developer with a scoping direction which takes account our concerns and sets out what the developers need to include within their environmental statement.

“The council does not have details of the intended timescale for submission, however it is noted that before the application is formally submitted to the Welsh Ministers, the developer will be required to undertake formal pre-application consultation.”

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