Councillors’ anger over proposed National Development Framework
Proposed national planning guidelines have come under fire for designating a third of Anglesey’s landmass as suitable for 250 metre wind turbines and for leaving out Holyhead as a recognised centre for growth.
The Welsh Government is currently consulting on its National Development Framework, which will outline where new homes, jobs and services should be based over the next 20 years.
The plans also set out priority areas for large-scale wind and solar energy projects, including designating a vast swathe of central Anglesey as being suitable for both.
But meeting on Thursday, members of Anglesey Council’s Partnership and Regeneration Scrutiny Committee reacted angrily, signalling a “robust” rejection of many aspects of the proposals.
Impact on Holyhead
Of particular concern was a failure to identify its largest settlement as a Regional Growth Area for Wales.
According to the Welsh Government, it will work with port operators
and others to ensure that Holyhead’s “strategic gateway role is maintained and enhanced”, including improving capacity to accommodate cruise ships.
But failing to include the town itself, the authority’s economic development chief warned, could leave Holyhead in a “disadvantageous position” when applying for outside funding in future, with both Caernarfon and Bangor being given such designation.
Dylan Williams went on to say that, while several other towns in mid Wales and south Gwynedd had a reason to feel similarly aggrieved, Holyhead played a “vital role” as an important centre for its more rural hinterland and had “no idea” why it had been left out.
The authority’s draft response to the consultation says: “The IACC is extremely disappointed and surprised that Holyhead has not been recognised or defined as a Regional Growth Area for Wales, especially given that the NDF specifically identifies the importance of the port of Holyhead to serve Wales, the wider UK and Ireland.
“This is not acceptable. The IACC is of the view that a clear evidence base exists to justify Holyhead’s inclusion as a Regional Growth Area given its potential strategic importance to Wales, and therefore suggests that the NDF is amended accordingly.”
Third Menai crossing
Another matter of concern was a lack of mention for a proposed third crossing of the Menai Strait.
In 2018, then First Minister Carwyn Jones announced a preferred route for a third crossing which would see a new bridge built to the east of the existing Britannia Bridge.
It had been hoped that construction could start as early as 2021, but a decision to make no mention of a new crossing is described in the council report as “short-sighted, unambitious and discouraging”.
Potential developments that could take place on the island, such as a new nuclear power station at Wylfa, would result in “significant increases in traffic volume cumulatively”, says the report.
“This would make entering and leaving the island a major constraint and a barrier for growth,” notes the council’s response.
“As a scheme previously promoted by the WG, this crossing should be
included in the NDF.”
Wind and solar farms
Proposals to designate huge swathes of central Anglesey as being suitable for wind and solar farms has already been attacked by campaign groups on the island including Anglesey Says no to Pylons – which was set up to oppose the National Grid’s proposal for a new network of overhead pylons to carry the electricity generated at the proposed Wylfa Newydd.
According to the Welsh Government, the presumption in favour of large on-shore wind and solar energy developments in priority areas forms part of a target to generate 70% of electricity from renewables by 2030, while avoiding building near national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty
But speaking on Thursday, councillors were agreed that this would be “inappropriate”, with Cllr Richard Dew of the belief that Anglesey was already playing a part in reducing the dependence on fossil fuels.
“We must remember that, as an energy island, we already have enough wind turbines and two solar farms with plans for more in the pipeline as well as the Morlais tidal energy scheme off the coast of Holyhead,” said Cllr Dew.
“As a small island, we generate enough energy, we depend on tourism and we don’t need any more turbines up to 250 metres. They would ruin everything.”
Dylan Williams added: “Do we really need to hand over a third of the island’s surface area for turbines up to 250 metres in height?
“The Gwynt y Môr turbines are 11 miles from the coast and are around 150 metres in height.
“Imagine on Anglesey, similar much taller structures right in the heart of our communities? I could use much stronger language but you do wonder who’s put this document together.”
He also questioned if bodies such as the RAF had been consulted, who have bases on the island at both Llanfihangel-yn-Nhowyn and Mona.
What the Welsh Government says
Its expected to take another year for an NDF to be formally adopted, which would have an impact on planning policy across Wales.
The draft proposals also outline that an extra 114,000 homes are needed over the next 20 years, including 3,900 affordable or council homes per annum.
In more rural areas, priorities will be given to encourage the food and drink sector, energy and tourism – as well as improved broadband and more charging points to support the increasing use of electric vehicles.
A spokesperson for the Welsh Government said, “We have a responsibility to respond to the climate emergency and plan for our national energy needs.
“The framework designates priority areas where large-scale wind and solar development will be acceptable in principle.
“Any schemes must still go through the normal planning application process.”
Anglesey council’s executive is expected to formally approve its response to the Welsh Government consultation when it meets on Monday (October 28).
The public consultation on the draft proposals closes on November 15.
For more details, visit https://gov.wales/draft-national-development-framework
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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