A POPULAR tourist attraction could face public closure if Vale planners approve a proposal for a 7MW solar farm, in Barry, today, Thursday July 31.

Elgin Energy has submitted plans for solar panels, to be installed on land off Weycock Cross, Weycock Road, Barry, estimated to create enough power to supply 2000 homes.

But managers at the Welsh Hawking Centre, in Barry, believe the solar farm could stop birds of prey breeding leading to the closure of the wildlife centre and a loss of jobs.

The company behind the scheme claims this would not happen and Vale Council planning officers have recommended the scheme be approved – despite Barry Town Council also raising concerns.

The site is also near Barry Woodlands - a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Welsh Hawking Centre owner, Griff Griffiths said: “If it goes ahead it is 90 percent sure we will have to close the centre to the public.

“My gut feeling it is a done deal.”

In his letter to the Vale planning committee, Mr Griffiths said: “Tourists are unlikely to wish to visit the centre if it is sited next to what is in reality a large industrial unit.

“We strongly feel that if this large scale project is given the go-ahead it will prove extremely damaging to our business, possibly resulting in the closure of a unique educational facility that serves the whole of South Wales and beyond.

“The Welsh Hawking Centre is unique in Wales, being the only breeding centre of endangered birds of prey open to the public. Disturbance caused in the four-month construction period will likely result in the failure of many if not all our birds breeding.”

Raising its objections to the planning committee, Barry Town Council said: “This development during construction stage and thereafter is likely to threaten the delicate environment within which the birds live and breed. The appearance of the solar panels from the Hawking Centre is likely to detract from the enjoyment of tourists visiting the attraction.

“The Town Council is also concerned that even with the additional planting and screening proposed by the applicant there would be unacceptable harm caused to the Special Landscape Area within which the proposal would sit. Town Council Members are also concerned that the wild life of the Barry Woodlands Site of

Special Scientific Interest would be unacceptably harmed.

“As the Welsh Hawking Centre is one of Barry’s major tourism attractions the likely disturbance during the construction stage and the appearance of the solar panels thereafter is likely to cause unacceptable harm to the local environment and the

established breeding programme of the birds at the site. Town Council members are concerned that this could place the long term viability of the Hawking Centre in jeopardy. This combined with unacceptable harm caused to the Special Landscape Area and the adjacent Site of Special Scientific Interest makes the

development unacceptable in the opinion of the Town Council.”

In his report to the planning committee, Rob Thomas, the Vale council’s director of development services says the scheme represented an acceptable form of development in principle and would not unacceptably impact on ecology.

Mr Thomas said: “It is also clear that rural locations will in most cases be required for solar farms of this scale and also that countryside locations are generally supported in principle, both in local and national policy and guidance.”