Gwynt y Mor

Wrote the following piece just before I went to Singapore two weeks ago but forgot to post it.

Since then, there has been a bit of an outcry, to say the least, about the decision to build the Gwynt y Mor windfarm. So I thought I would repost it to give my opinion on this new development.

Recently, the controversial Gwynt y Mor development was approved by the UK Government. Lying just ten miles off the coast of Llandudno, opponents have consistently argued that it will have a serious negative impact on tourism along the North Wales coast whilst supporters have welcomed its contribution to sustainable energy targets.

Having read the socio-economic impact report produced by the developers, I have yet to be convinced that it will have any significant economic benefit. Indeed, for a major infrastructure project that is estimated to cost over £1 billion, the economic arguments remain weak.

In exchange for blighting the landscape for the foreseeable future, North Wales will not be guaranteed any new jobs (which may well go to North West England). Whilst the tourism industry will get viewing posts to look at the turbines and boat trips out into Llandudno Bay, that will be little comfort to hoteliers and the other businesses when those tourists who currently come to the area for its magnificent coastal scenery choose to holiday elsewhere.

Worse of all, it would seem that the support for windpower remains based on narrow ideology rather than encouraging other types of renewable energy sources such as biofuels, solar and tidal. As many have pointed out, Wales could be a global leader in tidal power if only some of our politicians were not obsessed with windfarms as the solution to global warming.

I also wonder how many of the 650,000 houses its developers claims Gwynt y Mor will power have proper insulation, low-emission lightbulbs, low e-glass on double glazing and other energy efficiency measures in place?

Those calling for massive wind farms to be built around our coastlines are the same who object to large tidal power schemes - such as the Severn Barrage - on the grounds that they will directly affect local wildlife.

This is despite the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds stating that windfarms can harm birds through disturbance, habitat loss or damage and collision. Not surprisingly, some wildlife groups have already expressed concern that many thousands of migrating birds may well fly through the Gwynt-y-Mor windfarm area in the spring and the autumn, and one can only imagine the potential devastation once these turbines are operational.

Even if we ignore the arguments about the economy, renewable energy and the effect on wildlife, this decision remains an insult to democracy here in Wales. As Assembly members Darren Millar and Gareth Jones have rightly said, this decision is not only questionable for energy reasons, but goes against the democratically elected wishes of the vast majority of the population along the North Wales coast.

Worst of all, it would seem that the Energy Secretary, Ed Miliband, has ignored the concerns of the First Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government, who gave a commitment to hold a full public inquiry into Gwynt Y Mor last year. One can only hope that in the light of this decision that the First Minister will inform Mr Miliband that Wales is not a laboratory for UK Government energy experiments and that he should reconsider his opinion and hold a public inquiry immediately.

If devolution is to work in Wales, then we must have a right as a democracy to examine the effect of such a large development on our nation, positively and negatively, and to give both supporters and opponents the opportunity to give their opinions on what is described as the second largest wind farm in the world.

If we do not, then many will question whether it is worth having a devolved administration in Wales where the opinions of our elected representatives are just brushed aside in favour of the lobbying power of large energy firms.

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