A chill wind for Montgomeryshire?

Wind turbines Image copyright bbc
Image caption More wind farms on the horizon?

The UK government, if I've read this right, appear to have blown out of the water Carwyn Jones' demand for the number of windfarms in mid Wales to be limited to the targets set by the Welsh government.

Only days ago the First Minister accused the coalition government of giving us all "a slap in the face" for refusing to devolve powers over major wind energy installations. The suggestion in return was that Mr Jones was guilty of some pretty unsbutle posturing.

But more powers or not, the Welsh government could - and did - announce last week that in future, existing planning guidelines on the number of windfarms should be regarded as an upper limit. In other words developments in mid Wales, to the delight of local campaginers, would be restricted.

Game over?

No. For one thing, this change of emphasis/heart/direction in Cardiff Bay came a full six days before the final, definitive energy planning guidance by the UK government was announced, following several months of consultation.

The National Policy Statement on Renewables, published this morning by the Department of Energy and Climate Change is the final document that will guide all applications for major renewable projects such as large wind farms.

In it, the UK government says that Welsh planning policy will "provide important information to applicants of nationally significant energy infrastructure projects" (such as wind farms over 50MW in capacity).

But - and this is the kind of 'but' that makes a big difference - it goes on to say: "Applicants should explain in their applications to the Infrastructure Planning Commission how their proposals fit with the guidance and support its targets or, alternatively, why they depart from them.

"Whether an application conforms to the guidance or the targets will not, in itself, be a reason for approving or rejecting the application."

Doesn't that imply that the Infrastructure Planning Commission will be allowed to approve windfarms even if the WG target in TAN 8 has already been reached?

It does to me. If it does to the Welsh Government too, I'll let you know. What's the follow-up to a slap in the face?


Here's a kick in the shins - but from the Westminster end of the debate.

Despite what Carwyn Jones said last week, a source points out, the existing planning guidance around windfarms in Wales remains unamended. Carwyn Jones's statement about upper limits is all well and good they suggest but legally, it amounts to what? I'll use the expression 'a row of beans'. They used one that was more pithy, granted but less polite. I know he's the First Minister but "with all due respect to him, he's not Napoleon".

In other words until Welsh ministers "have the bottle" to scrap the current guidance - TAN 8 - and come up with something better in its place, protesters shouldn't be hoodwinked and buy the argument that the enemy is in Westminster, not Cardiff Bay.

Given there are several windfarm applications currently proposed to the Welsh government as well as others likely to come before the Infrastructure Planning Commission, it's no surprise that neither side wants end up a loser in this particular battle.

Another key - though not unexpected - announcement on energy today: Wylfa has been confirmed among eight sites around the UK, all adjacent to existing nuclear sites, deemed suitable for new power stations by 2025.

The Welsh Secretary has just responded:

"This is great news for Anglesey and the North Wales economy. It demonstrates the UK Government's commitment to supporting major infrastructure investment in Wales. Wylfa is a prime location. Today's announcement will be a huge boost to its workforce and offers the prospect of continued electricity production on the island for years to come".