The decision last week by Andrea Leadsom MP, Minister of State for Energy, to throw out plans for four wind farms in Montgomeryshire is a huge relief for those who would have been affected by the proposal to build high-voltage 400kV overhead cables through some of the most unspoilt areas of my constituency, connecting the wind farms in Mid Wales to the National Grid. Glyn Davies and I have been campaigning on this issue since the start and I first organised and chaired a meeting in Parliament in 2011, attended by MPs, senior local councillors and representatives from National Grid.
The arguments against the pylons have been well rehearsed. Constituents voiced justifiable concerns over health, tourism, environmental damage, property prices and quality of life. Residents, local organisations, councillors and MPs from surrounding constituencies have all been united in their opposition to these plans which were of huge concern to those who fight to protect and preserve the countryside.
An inquiry into the project closed in May 2014 and the Planning Inspector’s recommendations were submitted to previous Energy Secretary Ed Davey, who postponed the decision until after May’s General Election. Soon after the election, I met firstly the new Secretary of State Amber Rudd and then Andrea Leadsom. I explained the background to the issue and the fierce local opposition. I am delighted that they both listened closely to the arguments and permission to build four of the five wind farms has finally been refused.
It is equally important that the Secretary of State has taken such decisive action since the General Election to combat these vast subsidised wind farms which chop up birds, produce little energy and cost taxpayers’ money in the form of higher energy bills. She has announced recently that the Government intends to stop new onshore wind farms from accessing the Renewables Obligation subsidy scheme from next April while also tightening planning rules for the sector. This means that 2,500 planned turbines will now not go ahead. The Secretary of State also confirmed that no more on shore wind farm schemes will be allowed unless they have the support of local people. She has outlined plans to ensure that it will be local councils rather than central government who have the power in future to decide on wind farm projects in consultation with local people. This fulfils the promise made by the Conservative Party at the time of the last election and will ultimately prevent pylons from cutting through the North Shropshire countryside.
This issue has united the community and I strongly believe that the right decision has been made. This is a victory for common-sense that will serve to protect the landscape that we all know and enjoy.