Does the Nant y Moch landscape matter?
In the developers’ information, the site location is described in terse unflattering terms as “upland rotational forestry and agricultural grazing upland”. There is no description of its landscape setting, save that Pumlumon Fawr is “a locally prominent hill”. There is no reference to the area’s designation history as a key part of the intended Cambrian Mountains National Park, to the promoted Nant y Moch Scenic Route, or to the importance of the area as a focus for walkers, riders, or recreational motorists.
Inevitably, the “Outstanding” LANDMAP verdicts on much of the landscape (see below) are quoted, but these qualities are belied by the utilitarian and soul-less description that precedes them. The overall impression from the text is to downgrade the sense of place and the distinctive qualities of the surrounding area within which the project’s impacts will be felt.
The LANDMAP system was developed by the Countryside Council for Wales, and is the Welsh national information system for taking landscape into account in decision-making. It is “the formally adopted methodology for landscape assessment in Wales; therefore all landscape work and assessments of the effects arising from a proposal’s impact on the landscape in Wales should include LANDMAP as part of their landscape baseline conditions”.1
This map shows how LANDMAP rates the northern Cambrian Mountains for the Visual and Sensory aspect, together with the turbine locations currently proposed.
The significance of the four values is summarised as:
|Outstanding||International or national|
|High||Regional or county|
|Low||Little or no importance|
Many of the 62 turbines proposed would be on land which LANDMAP classes Outstanding – landscape of international or national importance. This is bad enough, but to suppose that the remainder – those whose bases would be on already-degraded forest land – are therefore somehow “okay” would be to overlook one of LANDMAP’s weaknesses: it is unable to cope with structures so large that their impact extends over a wide area, and devalues adjacent highly-rated landscapes.
Sixteen of the turbines currently proposed would be outside the “refined” Nant y Moch Strategic Search Area (SSA) – the cut-down version recommended by a study, commissioned by Ceredigion and Powys County Councils, and designed “to remove the environmentally worst performing areas”.2
However important LANDMAP and SSA boundaries may be to developers and those charged with deciding whether the proposal goes ahead, the Cambrian Mountains Society believes that the landscape of the Nant y Moch area must be viewed as a whole. It is a landscape that any objective assessment would rate as being of exceptional quality; a landscape once designated part of a National Park; a landscape whose beauty has survived insensitive afforestation and a hydro scheme.
Nant y Moch was not selected as an SSA because it is a suitable site; landscape considerations apart, the access is terrible, and grid connection problematic. It was selected because much of the land is Assembly-owned, and because it is not in a National Park, or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
In opposing this development, we shall continue to press the case for a Cambrian Mountains AONB. Nant y Moch deserves designation, not desecration.
1. Landmap: Guidance for Wales: Overview to Landmap (Countryside Council for Wales, 2008), p. 5.
2. TAN 8 Annex D study of SSA D: Nant-y-Moch (Ove Arup & Partners, 2007), p. 3.