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Cairns: Assembly must listen to anti-wind farm campaigners

Speech to the National Assembly for Wales

"I understand that this is the first time that such a motion has been proposed in the Assembly. Therefore, as you stated, Dirprwy Lywydd, we are in uncharted waters.

I am grateful for the guidance that you issued to all Assembly Members, which states that you will treat the debate as a technical motion on the Order, rather than a wider debate on the merits of the windfarm, wind energy in general, or even the Welsh Assembly Government's renewable energy target. That highlights what I ask Members to support.

Whatever their views on windfarms, wind energy or any other aspect of renewable energy - whether they are broadly in favour, against, or even without a strong view either way - I ask Members for the right to debate this issue in the Chamber.

I understand that, because this is the first time that this has happened, some Ministers have mentioned that the loophole may well be closed in the future, but this process is available to us now, and this is the process that opponents of the windfarm have worked to.

The fact that this is the first time that such a motion has been used, or that it is unexpected, are not strong enough reasons to reject the motion - we cannot change the rules of the game halfway through the match.

The background is controversial. After considering all the evidence in favour and against, and the Assembly Government's policy and stretching renewable energy targets, the independent planning inspector recommended that the Scarweather Sands windfarm application be rejected. Despite the inspector's professional judgment, the planning decision committee overturned the recommendation for the reasons that we will no doubt hear.

However, that is the point. I want to hear the reasons why they overturned the independent planning inspector's professional judgment.

I am advocating that all politicians take the decision rather than just four in a closed committee.

The Assembly is often criticised for not having the power to make changes, and its debates are often criticised as being anodyne and even, sometimes, academic. Those criticisms would not apply to this.

This application has been made under the Transport and Works Act 1992 which, within its confines and context, gives a right to all Assembly Members to express their views and to debate the issue. That is what I am seeking support for.

I clearly stated earlier that the First Minister highlighted an intention—which may well be a debate for us in future—to close this loophole that allows us, under the existing rules and regulations, and under the Transport and Works Act, the right to a debate.

If this Order is allowed to pass, it will change the character of the areas affected. No doubt others will disagree with that, but the least that we can do is to hold the debate.

I have been advised of the legal ramifications because the process has not been tested before, and you alluded to that earlier, Dirprwy Lywydd. However, that is not a reason to shy away from this debate because, surely, people have the right to hear the debate and to see the way in which Assembly Members vote.

I have many questions about the claims made by United Utilities, and, no doubt, others will have many questions about claims made by the anti-windfarm group. There were many such groups and organisations, from surfers, walkers, golfers, tourists, residents, swimmers and others opposed to the proposed windfarm.

However, the key local group - an umbrella organisation - is SOS Porthcawl. It is made up of ordinary people who care about their town and the tourism economy on which Porthcawl is based. This is a non-political group. Its members have had to fight the multi-million pound resources of United Utilities - I am advised that United Utilities has spent several million pounds on this project so far.

In spite of appearances, and in spite of the odds seemingly stacked against SOS Porthcawl, and the other group still won the support of the independent planning inspector.

If devolution is to mean anything to these individuals, surely it must at least mean that they have the right to a debate.

At this stage, I am not asking Assembly Members to reject the application; I am asking for the right to make the case for why you should reject it.

In doing so, it would give the right for advocates of the windfarm to make their case in favour.

For this windfarm application to go forward, United Utilities only has to win one vote. For me, SOS Porthcawl and other parties and individuals involved, to block the application, we must win two votes.

I ask for your support today to make devolution relevant to people by holding the debate."

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