By Richard Evans
A WIND-farm substation has sparked fears over the loss of agricultural land and that a rural village will end up “semi-industrial”.
Both Denbighshire and Conwy councils have written to Mona Offshore Wind Farm Ltd over concerns about a 107-turbine wind farm planned off the coast of North Wales – with the underground cables coming to shore around Llanddulas and Abergele.
The substation is planned for land south of Glascoed Road, Cefn Meiriadog, with a second option further east of St Asaph.
Residents living in Cefn Meiriadog and St Asaph say the area has already lost too much agricultural land to electrical substations for renewable energy and power companies and fear years of disruption from construction work.
Already the area hosts substations for the National Grid, Scottish Power, as well as the Burbo Bank and Gwynt Y Mor wind farms.
A similar facility for the Awel y Mor wind farm is awaiting the Planning Inspectorate’s rubber stamp whilst a seventh substation is also planned by the Mares Connect energy company.
The residents also say the area has many overhead powerlines and underground cables with an 80-acre solar farm also in the pipeline at St Asaph and various other energy projects also planned.
Now a group of residents living in the village says they want to raise awareness about what is happening to the rural area.
One of the members, a 67-year-old retired steelworker, said he had lived in Cefn Meiriadog with his wife for ten years and wanted to raise awareness of the amount of development planned in the St Asaph area.
“Mona Offshore Wind farm is a monster,” he said.
“It is simply too big and of a scale that is completely out of proportion. Denbighshire already hosts a number of low-carbon renewable energy schemes. The electricity generated is not for us in Denbighshire; it is exported to major UK cities, so what does the likes of Cefn Meiriadog get?
“There will be significant environmental, community impacts and industrialisation. North Wales pays a higher electricity price than any other area in Wales, Scotland, or the UK.”
He added: “If all these schemes are passed, there is going to be a huge amount of construction activity at the same time. It won’t just impact Cefn Meiriadog. It will impact the whole area. There will be HGVs and all sorts of things. A lot of people don’t understand that all these schemes are in the pipeline.”
The residents’ group says it is time the power and renewable energy companies talk to each other and work together more efficiently, rather than treat each new substation as a separate entity, to better protect the area from overdevelopment.
Denbighshire County Council’s planning committee has also written to Mona Offshore Windfarm Ltd about this issue, requesting companies work together more ‘holistically’.
Council officers also sought assurances from the company about possible health implications, resulting from a cumulative effect of having numerous substations based in the area.
Cllr Martin Barlow sits on Cefn Meiriadog Community Council and said the area was at risk of becoming overdeveloped.
“There is a great deal of concern about the disproportionality of having massive substations,” he said.
“Cefn Meiriadog seems to be paying a disproportionate price. It is a small rural community. It has only got a small population. It’s mainly an agricultural community. But the size of this substation that is proposed – particularly taking into account the size of the other substations that are proposed that are in the planning process already – is out of all proportion to what a small community should really have to accommodate.
“There is the visual impact. You are talking seven or eight large substations, and the Mona one is particularly huge. It is a rural community. That’s why people live here. It’s going to change the character of the community into a semi-industrial one.”
The wind-farm plans constitute a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project under the Planning Act 2008, requiring a Development Consent Order to be granted by the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy.
Such applications are formally submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for a decision whilst marine planning lies with the Welsh Government, and councils can only comment as part of the planning consultation process.
Mona Offshore Wind Farm Ltd intends to start construction in 2026 and be fully operational by 2030.
A spokeswoman for Mona Offshore Wind Farm Ltd said Mona and its sister wind-farm project Morgan, also based in the Irish Sea, had the potential to help the UK reach renewable energy targets but said it listened to residents’ concerns.
“Listening to the views of local communities has been, and will continue to be, an important part of our work to develop the Mona Offshore Wind Project,” she said.
“We’ve recently completed our second stage of public consultation, and we will keep listening to views from local people and other stakeholders as we refine our plans and prepare our application for development consent. Mona and Morgan have the potential to generate 3GW when operational helping the UK to reach its target of 50GW of offshore wind generation by 2030.”