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SIR - Wind power raises a difficult problem for conservationists, since we are all in favour of non-polluting green energy, and disagreement smacks of nimbyism.

The electricity industry, however, and the Duke of Beaufort, absentee Lord of Gower, are not interested in conservation.

They are only interested in wind because of the massive subsidies being offered, which, despite their claims, will continue to be needed.

Western societies are profligate with their energy. Rather than build these massive structures (with their associated roads and power fines), we would do far better to turn down our thermostats by just one degree, adjust our air-conditioning by a fraction and switch off lights, radios and televisions when we are not using them.

Turbines, despite the clean and cuddly image portrayed by the industry, are not pollutant-free.

Their construction and maintenance absorb vast quantities of energy and materials.

More importantly, they will continue to pollute Gower as long as they last; not with smoke or fumes or radiation, but visually.

Gower of the North is beautiful and so far unspoiled: the nearest that we have to wild landscape in this part of Wales. It is a scarce and non-renewable natural resource that once lost, will be lost forever.

As Simon Jenkins pointed out recently, only a mad man would burn the Mona Lisa to save cutting a branch for firewood.

No sane-minded person would destroy the beauty of Mynydd Y Gwair, Mynydd Bettws, and Cefn Gwrhyd to fulfil a politician's promises. "Reap the wind, rape the hills", to quote Ed Douglas. We must not let them get away with it in the hills of Gower.

MALCOLM RIDGE

Perriswood, Penmaen, Swansea

 
 
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It's Welsh riches v English money

Apr 22 2004

Robin Turner, The Western Mail

 

ONE of Wales's richest men is taking on one of England's most moneyed aristocrats in a battle over plans for a controversial wind farm.

In one corner is the Duke of Beaufort, whose land and 52,000-acre estate in Gloucester have boosted his wealth to an estimated 110m.

The 76-year-old Duke wants to establish a wind farm at Mynydd y Gwair on hilly common land to the north of Swansea.

In the other corner is 63-year-old diamond tycoon Grenville Thomas, who grew up in a council house in Swansea's crowded Clase housing estate.

The former mining engineer is reputed to be a dollar billionaire after the diamond mining business he established in North Canada hit a rich stream of gems.

Rugby fan Mr Thomas, who has given around $1m to the Canadian national rugby XV, has now turned some of his financial muscle to the battle of Mynydd y Gwair.

A group of Swansea hill farmers and local residents have established a campaign group Save Our Common Mountain Environment (www.socme.org) to fight the Duke's wind farm proposals.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the group revealed that Mr Thomas, who lives in West Vancouver, had donated "a four-figure sum" to their cause.

Alun Richards of Sketty, Swansea, chairman of the West Glamorgan branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales, said the donation from Mr Thomas could only be a good thing.

He said, "We do not oppose the principle of wind farms but in this location the proposed 20 or so huge turbines would do a great deal of damage.

"Not only would it change an ancient environment for the sake of profit but it could lead to the loss of livelihoods for some upland farmers.

"You only have to see the damage done by a motorbike or a 4X4 on the sensitive soil of Mynydd y Gwair to see what problems 20-odd turbines would cause.

"A wind farm like this would be a mere drop in the ocean fight against the effects of global warming anyway."

A spokesman for Knight Frank, which manages the 11th Duke's estate said yesterday he did not wish to comment on the donation.

However, the Duke has pointed out it would not be him but the wider family trust, the Somerset Trust, which would benefit from what was principally an environmentally friendly scheme.

Mr Thomas, whose 33-year-old daughter Eira helps him run his diamond mining empire, is fiercely proud of his Welsh roots.

He often makes trips home to Swansea, usually taking in rugby internationals while visiting Europe.

He recently took a walk on the hills at Mynydd y Gwair, underneath which he worked as an apprentice mining engineer, and it was during the visit he heard of the wind farm plan.

Mr Thomas founded the Toronto-based Aber Resources (now Aber Diamond Corporation) and signed a lucrative deal with diamond merchants Tiffany's of New York.

Another of Mr Thomas's companies, Navigator Exploration, has recently merged with leading Canadian firm Strongbow Resources with the aim of looking for gold and base metals in the frozen north of Canada.

The land at Mynydd y Gwair belongs to the Duke but farmers there have grazing rights dating back to the Middle Ages. No planning application for the proposed wind farm has been submitted yet but a firm application is expected to be lodged later this year.

The proposed wind farm site includes Penlle'r Castell, a former motte and bailey castle dating from 1287 which was erected by the Lords of Gower to keep out invaders. Socme spokeswoman Brigitte Rowlands said, "This is one of the few unspoiled areas left in this part of the old Glamorgan."

The Duke of Beaufort

Grew up...in a mansion on his family's 52,000 acre estate at Badminton, Gloucestershire.

Went to school...at Eton.

Interests...the Duke's Badminton estate hosts the Badminton Horse Trials and an annual hunt. He also plays golf on his own course.

Wealth...His Gloucestershire estate has been valued at around 80m and his art and London property is priced at 20m.

History...David Robert Somerset, a former officer with the Coldstream Guards, is the 11th Duke of Beaufort, the title having been bestowed on the first Duke in 1682 by Charles II.

The title was given for "services to the restored king" and due to the first duke's "noble lineage" being descended from John of Gaunt, the first Duke of Lancaster.

Family...He has four children, Henry, 52, who is the Marquess of Worcester, Lady Anne, 49, Lord Edward, 46 and Lord John, 40.

He lives with his second wife, landscape gardener Miranda following the death of his wife Lady Caroline Thynne in 1995.

 

Grenville Thomas

Grew up...in the working class Clase housing estate in North Swansea.

Went to school...at Dynefor Boys School in the centre of Swansea.

Interests...a rugby fanatic helping to bankroll the Canadian national team, he maintains a strong interest in Welsh rugby plus Welsh history and culture.

He recently opened a pub near his home in West Vancouver and named it the Red Lion after a pub he used to go to in Morriston, Swansea.

Wealth...reputed to be a Canadian dollar billionaire with one of his company's mines, the Diavik, producing $50m worth of diamonds a year.

History...Grenville Thomas emigrated to Canada after winning a mining degree from Cardiff University in 1964.

After a tough apprenticeship in the nickel mines of Falconbridge, then at the Giant Mines in Yellowknife in Canada's North West Territories he turned to diamond exploration.

His company Aber found diamond-bearing rock or "pipes" in remote tundra leading to a deal with Tiffany's.

Family...His daughter Eira helps him run his business interests.