LDP11 Landscape Sensitivity and Capacity Assessment for Onshore Wind Turbine Development

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4.1 Key Landscape Characteristics of Conwy & Denbighshire

Conwy and Denbighshire comprise a diverse mix of landscapes many of which are highly valued for their great natural beauty and tranquillity. These landscapes range from remote and wild uplands and moorlands to narrow steep sided valleys, wide river floodplains, gently undulating pastoral lowlands and dramatic coastlines. Busy coastal resort towns contrast markedly with the highly rural areas inland. Topography plans within Appendix 5 illustrate the diverse landform of the study area.

4.2 There is no consistent/current landscape character assessment which covers both Conwy and Denbighshire. The most recent assessment is the Denbighshire Landscape Strategy13. This covers just over half of the study area and identifies and provides landscape management guidelines for 45 landscape character areas. Because there wasn’t a comparable assessment for Conwy, these character areas were not considered an appropriate mapping base for this study.

11 Denbighshire County Council (2003) Denbighshire Landscape Strategy

Clwyd Landscape Assessment 1995 – Broad Landscape Character

4.3 The landscape character assessment of the former county of Clwyd has therefore been used to provide the mapping base for this study as described in the methodology (Section 2). Figure 1 illustrates the Clwyd Landscape Character Types which cover the study area. Many of these character types broadly align with the character areas which are detailed in the Denbighshire Landscape Strategy.
4.4 The objective of the Clwyd Landscape Assessment was to identify and describe the distinctive characteristics and qualities of the varied landscapes which made up the former county of Clwyd. The assessment identified four main landscape types across Clwyd:
  • Lowland areas - generally rolling farmland with extensive tree cover and a historic and nucleated settlement pattern.
  • Lower Hills & Valleys - a mosaic of low hills and narrow valleys with abundant woodland.
  • Limestone Country - a range of landscapes dominated or influenced by limestone.
  • Marginal uplands - a series of upland fringe landscapes dominated by high hills, numerous valleys and extensive moorland with an overall strong rural character and sparse population.

Much of the geographical area covered by this study is identified as marginal upland.

A Countryside Strategy for Conwy 1998-2003 – Broad Landscape Character

4.5 A Countryside Strategy for Conwy produced in 1998 set out the Council’s aims for the management of Conwy’s countryside. The strategy refers to the Clwyd Landscape Assessment and also subdivides the county into four broad landscape character types, as follows:
  • Coastal Lowlands
  • Valleys
  • Limestone Country
  • Uplands

Mapping Base for the Conwy and Denbighshire Landscape Sensitivity and Capacity Study

4.6 Figure 2 identifies the mapping base for this study, together with the four broad landscape character types which cover the study area as discussed above. These broad landscape charater types are an amalgamation of those identified in the Clwyd Landscape Assessment and A Countryside Strategy for Conwy.

Protected Landscapes

4.7 Planning Policy Wales sets out the targets for renewable energy development whilst also establishing the Government’s objectives for conservation and improvement of natural heritage (as outlined in both Section 1 and Appendix 2).
4.8 The landscapes of Conwy and Denbighshire are protected by a significant proportion of both statutory and non-statutory landscape related designations.

The study area is bounded by two nationally important landscapes; Snowdonia National Park to the west and south; and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB to the east (most of which is included within the study area).

These landscape designations together with cultural heritage and other environmental constraints are illustrated on Figure 3 and the key designations related to landscape character and value are outlined below.

4.9 Conwy Castle (Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd) World Heritage Site is located to the north of Conwy County on the west bank of the river Conwy. The extensive and detailed contemporary technical, social, and economic documentation of the castle, and the survival of adjacent fortified town at Conwy, makes it one of the major references of medieval history14

14 http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/1540

4.10 There is no detailed guidance regarding the siting of proposed wind energy development in relation to this World Heritage Site or it’s essential setting, however Part 2 of The Castles and Town Walls of Edward I in Gwynedd, World Heritage Site Management Plan15 discusses the importance of significant/historic views into and out of each monument in the World Heritage Site, stating that inappropriate development would obstruct or interfere with these views, which generally extend beyond the areas of essential setting. This is particularly relevant to proposed wind energy developments.

15 http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/historicenvironment/protection/worldheritage/cstlsedward1/?lang=en

National Parks

4.11 Although excluded from the study area both Conwy and Denbighshire have sections of boundary which adjoin Snowdonia National Park. The Park is the largest of three National Parks in Wales and attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is administered by its own National Park Authority whose aim is to:
  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area.
  • Promote opportunities to understand and enjoy its special qualities.
  • Foster the economic and social wellbeing of its communities.

Open Access Land

4.12 In May 2005 the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) came into force, clearly identifying open access land (open country and/or common land) in Wales. One fifth of Wales is mapped as ‘access land’ where the public have a right of access on foot16. A large proportion of land within Conwy and Denbighshire is mapped as Open Access Land where the public have a right to access and enjoy the countryside.

It is recognised that wind energy development may occur in open country and on common land. However each wind turbine would be regarded as a building, therefore the turbine and the developed land immediately around it would be excepted land under Schedule 1 of the CRoW Act. Depending on how close the turbines are, the public may be able to walk between the turbines.

16 http://www.ccgc.gov.uk/enjoying-the-country/open-access-land.aspx

Registered Historic Landscapes (Wales)

4.13 The Historic Landscapes Register aims to help planners and developers introduce changes and new developments in ways that will cause the least harm to the historic character of the land. Inclusion in the Register does not confer statutory protection – but it does help highlight the cultural heritage importance of some parts of the landscape.

Conwy and Denbighshire contain a cluster of Registered Historic Landscapes:

  • Pen Isaf Dyffryn Conwy (Lower Conwy Valley) - ‘A topographically diverse landscape, straddling the lower Conwy valley and adjacent uplands on the north eastern flanks of the Carneddau ridge in north Snowdonia, containing extensive and well-preserved relict evidence of land use, communications and defence from the prehistoric period onward’.
  • Creuddyn a Chonwy (Creuddyn & Conwy) - ‘This mainly coastal landscape, comprising the Great and Little Orme’s Heads and the lower part of the Conwy Estuary and its hinterland in north Snowdonia, contains evidence of highly diverse land use and settlement from the early prehistoric period to the present’.
  • Gogledd Arllechwedd (North Arllechwedd) - ‘A dissected, mainly upland, area situated on the northern flanks of the Carneddau ridge in north Snowdonia, containing well-preserved relict evidence of recurrent land use and settlement from the prehistoric to medieval and later periods’.
  • Pen Isaf Dyffryn Elwy (Lower Elwy Valley) - ‘A steeply-sided gorge and part of a narrow river valley to the west of the Vale of Clwyd, with a group of caves containing internationally significant Quaternary geological and archaeological deposits, including evidence for, and human remains belonging to, the earliest occupation of Wales a quarter of a million years ago’.
  • Mynydd Hiraethog (Denbigh Moors) - ‘A visually striking and extensive rolling moorland landscape comprising the central and western part of the Denbigh Moors situated between the major river valleys of the Clwyd and Conwy in North Wales. The area represents a large, and in Wales an increasingly rare, survival of an uninterrupted extent of heather moorland, deliberately managed and maintained as a grouse moor and a shooting estate in the early part of the 20th century, the greater part overlying archaeological evidence of successive periods of land use from the prehistoric, medieval and later periods’.

Registered Parks and Gardens

4.14 A large number of Registered Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in Wales are found within the study area. Although not protected by statutory designation they are nationally valued as they form an important and integral part of the historic and cultural fabric of Wales.

Heritage Coast

4.15 The area around the Great Orme near Llandudno is nationally valued and as such ‘defined’ as a Heritage Coast which is administered by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) (formerly the Countryside Council for Wales). This 4 mile stretch of coastline wraps around Orme Head, which defines the eastern shore of Conwy Bay. The aim of this non-statutory ‘definition’ is to conserve the natural beauty of the coast and improve accessibility for visitors.

Areas of Outstanding Beauty

4.16 The Cynwyd and Llandrillo AOB (formerly Berwyn Mountains AOB revised March 2013) is a non-statutory designation designed to protect the Berwyn Mountains, in recognition of its nationally important landscape value.

Conwy Special Landscape Areas

4.17 A number of areas within Conwy are designated as Special Landscape Areas (SLAs) within the revised deposit LDP:
  • SLA 1 – Y Gogarth a Phenrhyn Creuddyn (Great Orme and Creuddyn Peninsular)
  • SLA 2 – Rhyd y Foel i Abergele (Rhyd Y Foel to Abergele)
  • SLA 3 – Dyffrynnoed Elwy ac Aled (Elwy and Aled Valleys)
  • SLA 4 – Hiraethog
  • SLA 5 – Cerrigydrudion a choridor yr A5 (Cerrigydrudion and the A5 corridor)
  • SLA 6 – Dyffryn Conwy (Conwy Valley)

The purpose of this regional designation is to ensure that the character of these areas is not altered by inappropriate forms of development and that features which contribute to local distinctiveness are conserved.

Operational and Consented Wind Energy Developments

4.18 Figure 4 and accompanying Table A4.1 (within Appendix 4) identify and illustrate the wind energy development baseline for this study as at the end of March 2013. Operational and consented wind energy developments are shown within the study area including the 10 km buffer. The data used to compile the table and Figure 4, was provided by the Councils and neighbouring authorities.

Table A4.2 (within Appendix 4) also includes information about existing and proposed offshore wind energy developments.

Appendix 4 also includes Table A4.3 (Other Wind Energy Development Proposals) and Figure A4.1 which represent all operational and consented wind energy developments together with all other applications for wind energy developments (including those refused) within the study area as at the end of March 2013.

4.19 The operational wind energy developments were considered as part of the baseline for the sensitivity assessments of the landscape units; however, for the purposes of the evaluations of the landscape strategy areas, all consented wind energy developments were assumed to have been built and as such were considered in the baseline together with operational developments.
4.20 The highest concentrations of wind energy developments within the study area are found in and around TAN 8 SSA A. There are three notable areas of wind energy developments outside SSA A; these are as follows:
  • The first is a small area to the south of Cerrigydrudion (refer to Figure 4 and Appendix 4, wind energy development references E3, E5, E7, E8 and E29
  • The second area is in and around Moel Maelogen wind farm to the east of Llanrwst (refer to Figure 4 and Appendix 4,wind energy development references E4, E6, E15, E22 and E23)
  • The third area is just outside the study within the 10 km buffer in Gwynedd. This is the Braich Ddu development (refer to Figure 4 and Appendix 4,wind energy development reference E62).
4.21 In some areas (in particular the SSA A), the presence of existing wind energy developments somewhat reduces the sensitivity of the landscape to that particular type of development. This is because this type of modern development is already a component of the landscape in those particular areas. However, the presence of existing wind energy developments does not automatically suggest that there is further capacity for more developments of this nature.
4.22 It is recommended that the Councils maintain a ‘live’ register of wind energy development applications and consents in the future; similar to the table within Appendix 4 and Figure A4.1. This information will be invaluable in assisting the decision making process regarding applications for new wind energy developments when considering the identified indicative capacities of each of the landscape strategy areas.

Comment on Potential Cumulative Visual Effects

4.23 Cumulative visual effects can occur as a result of further wind energy developments which may be viewed in sequence from along sensitive routes, or, when a receptor is able to see two or more wind energy developments from any one viewpoint. Taking into consideration all of the operational and consented wind energy developments within the study area there are a number of key receptors for which the potential for cumulative effects has been noted, as follows:
  • Effects on views from residential properties which have views of existing wind energy developments (in particular to the south of the study area around SSA A)
  • Effects on views from Snowdonia National Park
  • Effects on views from the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB
  • Effects on views from Offa’s Dyke Path national trail
  • Effects on views from promoted public rights of way such as the Clwydian Way and Dyserth Cycleway
  • Effects on views from the A5 historic route
  • Effects on views from the A5 and North Wales Coast Railway
  • Effect on views from Registered Historic Landscapes, Parks and Gardens, World Heritage Sites, and other areas of acknowledged cultural heritage importance

References regarding potential cumulative visual effects and guidance on how to avoid these are made, where relevant, within the landscape strategy area assessments.

Comment on Potential Cumulative Landscape Effects

4.24 Cumulative landscape effects can impact on either the physical fabric or character of the landscape, or any special values attached to it17. There are a large amount of designated and highly valued landscapes within and around the study area. There is therefore potential for additional wind energy developments to cause cumulative landscape effects on these landscapes. The main issues regarding cumulative landscape effects are linked to the following key designations / valued landscapes:
  • Snowdonia National Park and its setting
  • Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB and its setting (including the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Canal World Heritage Site and its essential setting)
  • Cynwyd and Llandrillo AOB and its setting
  • Conwy Special Landscape Areas
  • Registered Historic Landscapes18

References regarding cumulative landscape effects and guidance on how to avoid these are made, where relevant, within the landscape strategy area assessments.

17 Definition taken from SNH (2012) Assessing the cumulative impact of onshore wind energy development, Inverness: Scottish Natural Heritage

18 Undesignated but recognised as being of national value

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