More windfarms in Wales likely says UK minister

BBC Wales environment correspondent Iolo ap Dafydd has followed the protests over wind farms and electricity pylons

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More windfarms and pylons may be built in Wales in the national interest, says UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry.

It could mean the pylons being sited against the wishes of local people, he said.

He was speaking as campaigners opposed to turbines in mid Wales protested to the Senedd.

Decisions on large developments rest with the UK government but campaigners said they wanted to remind AMs of their opposition to more turbines.

It was the latest in a series of protests staged by campaigners against wind turbines in Wales.

Seven areas of mid and south Wales were chosen for the development of windfarms under a Welsh government policy known as Tan 8 in 2005.

There have been calls for Welsh ministers to look again at where windfarms can be sited.

Grid connections

Start Quote

We are putting forward our views as to why we think it's totally unsuitable for where we live”

End Quote Jonathan Wilkinson Montgomeryshire Against Pylons

Mr Hendry told BBC Wales: "The reason why this is a national decision is that yes, the local views are important and that's an absolute statutory part of the process, but at the end of the day we are making decisions on a national interest.

"Sometimes we do have to have the investment in the infrastructure.

"We can't have invisible electricity - we have to have physical plant. We have to have grid connections to get it where it needs to be."

Seven vehicles with trailers and banners were driven by the group Montgomeryshire Against Pylons to the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

Spokesman Jonathan Wilkinson said they wanted to remind AMs of the strong opposition to proposed turbines and pylons in their area.

"Necessary or not, the first thing they need to do is engage with the local communities which is something they've completely failed to do," he said.

"We have brought a report to the assembly today for all the AMs to see.

"We are putting forward our views as to why we think it's totally unsuitable for where we live and not only that - a very inefficient way for generating the much needed power we need in this country."

In June, First Minister Carwyn Jones said Welsh government planning guidelines on the number of windfarms should in future be regarded as an upper limit.

But in a written statement issued on Wednesday he said he wanted to "maximise" electricity generation from renewable sources on land and offshore.

Wales was "open for business" and was working with the industry, he said.

'Limits'

A more detailed energy policy is expected in the new year.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Mr Jones said: "Do we want to see more wind? That's right.

"There are limits to that. We have made our view clear with the limits we have expresses in Tan 8.

"The UK government has of course said that they will ignore Tan 8 - that's the difficulty."

He said the country had to "make sure we are not over-reliant on expensive sources of energy that come from abroad".

Energy companies warned a committee of AMs last month that they could shun Wales because the planning process was so complicated. They also said recent announcements by the Welsh government as "left the industry confused".

A source close to the first minister said: "When Mr Hendry talks about the 'national interest' he is course talking about England's interest, not that of Wales."

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