A planning application for a wind farm at Garreg Lwyd Hill near Llanbadarn Fynydd (Powys) was submitted to Powys County Council in 2008. A separate application was submitted for highways upgrades and associated works to facilitate access to the wind farm. In response to consultee feedback on the Ecological Impact Assessments (EcIA), Supplementary Environmental Information (SEI), including ecology, was provided for each application.
Both applications were refused and then appealed by the developer, Renewable Energy Systems (RES) Ltd. A Public Inquiry took place in October 2014. A decision is expected in 2015.
BSG Ecology was appointed by RES to examine the ecological reasons for refusal and to resolve outstanding objections in relation to potential impacts on bats for both the wind farm and the access route. BSG was not involved in the site prior to Powys County Council’s refusal of the planning application.
BSG initially reviewed objection letters from nature conservation consultees including Natural Resources Wales (NRW). Additional bat surveys were carried out to address gaps in the baseline data set, both at the wind farm site and along the access route from the site to Newtown.
BSG was originally engaged in respect of bats, however, RES subsequently requested BSG to advise on resolving reasons for refusal relating to other protected species (including otter and hazel dormouse) for the access route application. In response to the identification of data gaps for otter and hazel dormouse, further survey of the access route was also undertaken for these protected species.
Aims of Additional Survey Work
The aim of the additional bat survey work was to provide a basis for Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to remove their objection and/or to suggest appropriate planning conditions. Additional surveys were completed between April and October 2014. These included walked transects, vantage point surveys for noctule bats, automated bat detector surveys, and roost surveys at the wind farm, and driven transects, automated bat detector surveys and roost surveys along the access route.
Due to the timeframe of the Public Inquiry, it was only possible to include ecological information up to and including July 2014 in SEI reports. Later survey results were provided to NRW following the completion of data collection.
The two SEIs submitted included updated impact assessments for bats for the wind farm application and for protected species (specifically bats, otter, and dormouse) for the access route application.
Consultation with NRW
Consultation with NRW was undertaken regularly in 2014 by BSG to review the results from the wind farm bat surveys, particularly in relation to noctule. Noctule is considered to be at high risk of population level effects from collision with wind turbines, and NRW were keen to ensure that appropriate mitigation and monitoring was agreed to address their concerns. We also identified appropriate mitigation and / or compensation for otter, dormouse and bats along the access route.
Following review of both SEI documents, NRW confirmed their intention to withdraw their objections to both the access route and wind farm applications, subject to the agreement of certain planning conditions. As a consequence of the removal of these objections, it was not necessary for BSG to provide ecological expert witness support at the subsequent Public Inquiry.