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Saturday, October 17, 2009

On tour

It has been a busy few days not least because I spent Thursday at a funeral in London, causing me to re-organise my diary.

I managed to get back in time to attend an event in the Senedd on 'Mediation in public law", which was interesting and then to Gilfach Goch for a public meeting on wind farms.

In many ways this was not a typical anti-wind farm meeting. The 70 residents present largely recognise that turbines are a legitimate part of the energy mix and accept that some will be located near their village. However, what they are not happy about is the 150 turbines planned by the Welsh Government for the North Glamorgan area and in particular the three or four wind farms set to be built on the hills above their homes, effectively encircling their village against the advice of planning consultants.

My view, expressed to the meeting, was that it is time to revisit Technical Advice Note 8, the Government planning document that designates areas around Wales where wind farms can be constructed, so that it takes account of other technologies. We need to invest in tidal lagoons and biomass as well as other alternative means of generating power and policy needs to take account of that.

The case for alternative energy is overwhelming but the Government has failed to take people with them. They have failed to talk to communities about their plans or to ensure that if turbines are erected near homes that local people should gain clear community benefits paid for out of the profits.

Yesterday, on my way to Wrexham, where we are holding the Welsh Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference, I stopped off at the Institute for Rural Health at Gregynog in Mid-Wales to talk about the implementation of health policy in rural areas. I had a fascinating conversation looking at the pressures that sparsity puts on the provision of services and the people who live in 'deep rural' areas.

I came away better informed and with ideas that need to be raised with the health minister over the next few months.
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