Energy company RWE Npower Renewables, a UK subsidiary of RWE AG, was last week granted consent by the Secretary of State on 13 March 2013 for the Brechfa Forest West Wind Farm in Carmarthenshire, Wales.
The 28 turbine wind farm will have capacity to generate up to 84 megawatts sufficient to power 39,700 homes1. The size of the project means that it was classified as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project, which required a 'development consent order' under procedures governed by the Planning Act 2008.
As the first onshore wind farm to be consented under the Planning Act 2008, and the first Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project to be consented in Wales the decision marks a key milestone in achieving the aims set out in UK and Welsh energy policy. The consent also marks a success for the Planning Act 2008 procedures with the application being decided within 12 months of the start of the examining process.
Of particular importance to those developing or promoting Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects in Wales are the comments which were made by the Examining Authority in its report to the Secretary of State regarding ‘Associated Development’.
Unlike in England, it is not possible to include consent for associated development for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects in Wales within the scope of a development consent order. Project promoters feared that this had the potential to frustrate the aim of the Planning Act 2008 to provide a ‘one stop shop’ with further planning applications needing to be made to Local Authorities.
As ‘Associated Development’ was not defined in the Planning Act 2008 there was some concern as to the ability to include vital infrastructure such as access tracks and sub-stations within applications.
The position has now been clarified by the Examining Authority and the Secretary of State who concluded that elements of a project – in this case, access tracks and a substation - should not be treated as associated development as they formed an integral part of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project.