THE world’s second biggest wind farm will be built off the Welsh coast, the Government announced yesterday.
The go-ahead for the Gwynt Y Môr development will see 250 165-metre high turbines built off the coast of North Wales.
It will be the largest wind farm in the world after the London Array project, currently being built in the Thames estuary.
The proposals led to controversy last night after First Minister Rhodri Morgan admitted that the Assembly Government had wanted a public inquiry into the decision, which was taken by the UK Government.
Mr Morgan’s comments were made in the Senedd after criticism from local politicians and campaign groups that the huge wind farm had been given the green light without the local population being consulted.
Developers Npower Renewables Ltd say the 750MW Gwynt y Môr development, situated eight miles out to sea from Llandudno, will generate enough power to supply half-a-million homes.
The Plaid Cymru AM for Aberconwy, Gareth Jones, said: “This extraordinary decision by the Westminster Labour Government in London flies in the face of the democratically-expressed wishes of the people of Wales, who have been wholly ignored by a London minister who, I dare say, has not even been here to witness the visual impact for himself.”
And the Assembly’s Shadow Environment Minister, Darren Millar, said: “People have campaigned long and hard for proper consideration of the impact of this large-scale industrial development off the coast of one the most beautiful parts of the country.
“The scale of the Gwynt y Môr development cannot be overstated. The 250 turbines will be visible for many miles around.”
John Lawson-Reay, chairman of Save our Scenery, said, “Tourism is the only major industry in Wales basically.
“Llandudno is the queen of Welsh resorts, as has been often said, and the views we get from visitors we speak to is that the scenery is the primary number one reason for people coming here.”
Responding to an urgent question in the Senedd, Mr Morgan said his administration would continue to seek the responsibility for planning decisions on big power stations from Westminster.
The power has not yet been devolved.
He told AMs: “As things currently stand, it’s the UK Government that’s responsible for making this decision and they have come to their decision according to their own remits and responsibilities.
“And perhaps our decision would be different if we were responsible, but we are not responsible.
“There’s no point trying to muddy the waters between the devolved and non-devolved responsibilities.”
There had been “constant and continuous” dialogue with the Whitehall department responsible, now the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
The Assembly Government wanted an inquiry, as did the local council, because of the visual impact of the wind farm, Mr Morgan said.
The First Minister said yesterday’s decision was final, barring a three-month period in which objectors could launch a legal challenge.
Opposition leader Nick Bourne asked Mr Morgan to release correspondence between Cardiff and London to reveal “why you as First Minister have been ignored by Westminster on such a vital issue”.
Announcing the decision earlier in the day, energy secretary Ed Miliband said: “The UK must clean up its energy supply to fight the damaging effects of climate change and more wind power will help us do this.
“The UK is leading the world in offshore wind, and the developments off the coast of North Wales will help keep us front runners.”
The Gwynt y Môr brings the total offshore projects with planning approval to 4.5 GW, solidifying UK’s position as leader in offshore wind energy and leading towards reaching its 2020 renewable energy targets.
Last night there was widespread support for the project.
Peter Hain Labour MP, who in his former role as Secretary of State for Wales promoted the project, said Gwynt y Môr represented a huge advance for clean energy in Wales.
“The go-ahead makes a statement that Wales is now getting serious about renewable energy at last, after ‘nimbyism’ has been so rife,” he said.
Morgan Parry, head of WWF Cymru, said it is only through such “landmark projects” that the economy of Wales can be “de-carbonised”.
And a spokesman from Friends of the Earth Cymru said Gwynt y Môr provides an excellent opportunity to “boost the green energy revolution”.
“Wales and the UK are world leaders in offshore wind power, and it’s this sort of investment in a low carbon future that will create new jobs and build a sustainable economy,” he said.
The new project will sit alongside a series of existing wind farms off the Llandudno coast.
Nearby, North Hoyle, which has 30 turbines, and Burbo, which has 25, are already up and running, while a further 25 are under construction at Rhyl Flats.