The energy minister Andrea Leadsom has refused planning permission for four major onshore wind farms in Mid Wales in a set of decision letters issued this week.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) announced in 2012 that a public inquiry would be held into applications for five onshore wind farms in Powys - which were submitted under the Electricity Act 1989 - following objections from Powys County Council.
Under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989, if a relevant planning authority objects to an application, the government is obliged to call a public inquiry. DECC decided that the best way to deal with the schemes was to hold a conjoined public inquiry.
This week, Leadsom refused permission for energy firm RES’s application for a 30-turbine wind farm at Llanbrynmair, disagreeing with the conclusions of inspector A D Poulter. Leadsom’s decision note cited the "harmful adverse visual effects and landscape impacts of the development".
RES expressed its frustration at the decision. Tim French, head of projects for England and Wales, said it is "extremely difficult" to understand why the project, sited within an area designated by the Welsh government for wind energy generation and recommended for approval by the inspector, "has been turned down in this way".
In a second refusal, Leadsom rejected RWE Innogy UK’s application to build a huge 130-150MW wind farm at Carnedd Wen, disagreeing with the conclusions of the inspector. Leadsom said that permission should be refused due to "harmful adverse visual effects and landscape impacts".
Leadsom also refused energy developer Fferm Wynt Llaithddu Cyf permission for 29 turbines at Llaithddu, agreeing with the inspector that the 66.7MW development should be refused, "given the significant harm and conflict with national, Welsh and local planning policy in terms of the landscape and visual impact of the southern group of turbines".
In a fourth refusal, the minister blocked Vattenfall’s application for 17 turbines at Llanbadarn Fynydd, agreeing with the inspector that consent for the 59.5MW development should be refused, "given the substantial harm and conflict with national, Welsh and local planning policy in terms of landscape and visual landscape effects and impact on residential amenity".
Leadsom approved energy firm CeltPower’s application to decommission the existing Penrhyddlan & Llidiartywaun wind farm and build a new one comprising 42 turbines, known as Llandinam Repowering, agreeing with the inspector that permission should be granted, "given the contribution it will make to the production of renewable energy".
But she rejected the conclusions of the inspector and refused an application to install a 35km overhead electric line connection from the re-powered Llandinam wind farm to the Welshpool substation.
A decision letter said that "there would be major adverse landscape and visual effects were the proposed development to be consented, and that substantial harm may be caused to cultural heritage assets".
A Department for Energy and Climate Change statement said: "Careful consideration has been given to each application, and the planning and energy issues involved."