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02/02/06 Article for CLP Newsletter

From Little Switzerland to Little Holland? No Thanks!

By Dr Hywel Francis MP

‘They were the best of times and they were the worst of times.’ Dickens opened ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ with these words. He could well have been writing of the Afan Valley today. Having survived the environmental degradation of the coal industry, we have begun to transform ourselves in the Afan Valley – via leisure and tourism – especially through the successful Glyncorrwg Mountain Bike Centre. The Afan Valley is now, once again, deservedly called ‘Little Switzerland’.

And yet, no sooner than we make these small steps to a better, cleaner and more beautiful future, we are threatened with the prospect of becoming a ‘Little Holland’!

Nearly forty percent of the new wind farms in Wales are planned for Neath Port Talbot, with a high proportion centering on the Upper Afan Valley, desecrating some of the most beautiful scenery in Britain.

I totally support the people of Glyncorrwg, the first village to be affected. As Chair of the Welsh Affairs Committee in Parliament, I have just begun a major Inquiry into Energy in Wales. This coincides with a Government Review of Energy Policy, committed to cutting the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by about 2050. Some people believe wind farms are the answer, particularly in Wales. I am not against wind power, but I am against it if it is intrusive on local communities, if it destroys our beautiful landscape and in so doing threatens our growing leisure and tourism industries.

The valleys have suffered enough. We need to officially designate the South Wales Valleys an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, comparable with the Gower Coast, as a means of preserving our own ‘natural beauty’. It should also be a World Heritage Site with industrial remains and community buildings like Miners’ Institutes properly preserved as at Blaenavon. I hope to begin that campaign soon.

But in the meantime we must oppose the advance of wind farms in the Upper Afan Valley. We must link all the communities of the Afan Valley with other neighbouring valley communities in this worthwhile cause. If you agree with me, contact my office (01639 897660). I am pleased that the people of Glyncorrwg have made a stand. I am joining them, and I hope you will join them, to save all our beautiful valleys.

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