Nant y Moch wind farm – detailed history

TAN8 and the Nant y Moch SSA

The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) published its Technical Advice Note 8 (TAN8) in 2005. TAN8 is WAG’s national planning policy statement on renewable energy. Its publication was preceded by a public consultation on a draft version of TAN8; the largely negative responses to this consultation were ignored in the final document.

Amongst other things, TAN8 designated Strategic Search Areas (SSA), which were considered suitable for large wind power developments. One of those SSAs was Nant y Moch. A substantial amount of the Nant y Moch SSA is owned by WAG through Forestry Commission Wales (FCW).

The SSA has been reduced in area since TAN8 was first published. As recommended in TAN 8, Ceredigion Council commissioned a report during 2007 from Arup Consultants with a view to providing an evidence base for subsequent planning policy formation and decision-making. The report concluded:

“It is recommended in accordance with the study brief that the TAN 8 SSA boundary is therefore refined to remove the environmentally worst performing areas and any additional land not needed to deliver the TAN 8 indicative capacities”.

In line with this recommendation, the map provided in the Arup Report showed a very significant reduction in the original Nant y Moch TAN 8 area. Click here to view the Arup report (PDF – 8 megabytes).

Selection of a developer

This was overseen by the Forestry Commission, and involved a lengthy tendering process, at the end of which Airtricity Ltd. secured development rights, having meanwhile erected a number of anemometer masts in the Nant y Moch area.

Preliminary plans

In 2008, Dulas Ltd. (acting for Airtricity) produced a map showing a preliminary site layout plan for the proposed Nant y Moch windfarm. The developers not only ignored the recommendations of the Arup report but went beyond the area contained in the original TAN 8 document. It showed 105 wind turbines, each of 1.5MW maximum output.

Protest Rally

In June 2009, the Cambrian Mountains Society mounted a protest rally on the shores of Nant y Moch reservoir. Click for report

Transport Trial Run

A trial run was conducted on 25th and 26th November 2009 with a vehicle capable of carrying a large turbine blade making the journey from South Wales and testing the route to two sites off the A487 and the A44. The lorry was reduced in size at several points along the route in order to negotiate roundabouts and tight bends but this would not be possible when loaded with a blade or section of turbine tower.

Protest Meeting

On 17th February 2010, the Cambrian Mountains Society staged a very well-attended meeting in Tal-y-bont. Click for report

Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) starts work

On 1st March 2010, the Infrastructure Planning Commission – a quango set up under the Planning Act 2008 – opened for business. In future, applications for large infrastructure projects such as Nant y Moch windfarm would be processed and determined by the IPC, completely outside the local planning system.

Local Planning Authorities – in this case Powys and Ceredigion County Councils – are reduced to the status of consultees. In June 2010 Ceredigion published its Local Development Plan Draft Energy Policy in which Policy EN2 – dealing with Large and Medium sized wind farms – regretfully acknowledged that Ceredigion no longer had any control over the Nant y Moch SSA, whilst “keen to ensure that negative impacts on area are limited as far as possible within the opportunities remaining to it to do so, left by national policy.

Scoping

Scoping is the first formal step in the planning process. In April 2010, Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE) Renewables (successor to Airtricity) submitted a Scoping Document (30 megabyte PDF file) to the Infrastructure Planning Commission.

The Scoping version of the proposal showed 80 massive turbines (up to 2.5MW maximum output). Many of them were outside the “refined” SSA.

In May 2010, the IPC published its Opinion on the Scoping Document (another very large PDF file – 75 megabytes).

IPC’s replacement announced

In May 2010, less than three months after the IPC started work, the incoming coalition government announced its intention to “scrap” the IPC – or more accurately to replace it with a Major Infrastructure Planning Unit within the Planning Inspectorate – an agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Formal Public Consultation

This started with the publication by SSE in May 2010 of a Proposals Summary Document, followed in June by Preliminary Environmental Information, and their staging of a series of four exhibitions, at Machynlleth, Talybont, Penrhyncoch and Capel Bangor, at which visitors were asked to complete a questionnaire.

In August 2010 SSE published an Interim Consultation Report containing a statistical analysis of responses to its consultation, and examples of the many comments made by individuals.

Postponement of Formal Planning Application

The date originally advertised for submission of the planning application, and publication of the developers’ Environmental Statement, was 1st February 2011. This was postponed, initially for a few months.

Protest Rally

On 6th March 2011, the Cambrian Mountains Society mounted a second protest rally at Nant y Moch, led by the writer Jim Perrin. Click for report

Public Exhibition in Aberystwyth

From 21st-26th March 2011, the Cambrian Mountains Society staged a public exhibition in a donated vacant shop in central Aberystwyth, showing the huge scale and likely impacts of the wind farm proposal. The exhibition was visited by many members of the public, and by several prominent politicians. Click here for photos.

Publication of revised proposals, and of a draft Environmental Statement

In June 2011, SSE published a Summary of Development Proposal and Environmental Effects. This is a revised version of the original proposal. The 64 turbines are unchanged, but the site boundary is altered, and there is more detail of access arrangements, and other new information.

At the same time, SSE published a full version of their draft Environmental Statement (ES). This was previously only available in summary form (published November 2010). The full version, at over 2000 megabytes, is available from SSE on DVD for £10; in hard copy for a lot of money; or for inspection at their offices and other locations locally.

Publication of these documents heralded a new formal public consultation – on the revised proposal and the draft ES – which closed on 15th July 2011. Click here to read a selection of responses, including that of CMS.

Publication of further changes to the proposals

In June 2012, SSE revealed further changes to its proposals, summarised in: Proposed Infrastructure Amendments June 2012 – Preliminary Environmental Information. The most significant changes are:
62 turbines instead of 64;
a new single access point from the A44, west of Bwlch Nant-yr-arian;
two permanent anemometer masts instead of three

As a result of these changes, SSE was obliged to mount a third formal public consultation, which closed on 28th July 2012. Click here to read a selection of responses, including that of CMS.

Further postponements of Formal Planning Application

Several postponements during 2011-2013 were succeeded by an announcement by the developers in March 2013 that “we will not be making any further significant investment in the project until the ambitions for the delivery of renewable energy in Wales is clearer.”

This is an indirect reference to events in Powys, where the Planning Authority refused applications for five windfarms and a new overhead power line to connect them to the national grid. Nant y Moch too depends on construction of this power line, and therefore on the outcome of the public enquiry, starting in June 2013, into the Powys planning refusal.