FARMERS CLAIM that a plan to construct wind turbines on part of a south Wales common will have a devastating impact on their businesses.

Graziers on Mynydd Y Gwair have linked up with local residents to form an action group.

They have also started raising funds to oppose the anticipated application by an energy company and The Somerset Trust, the common‘s owners, for planning permission to construct 23 giant turbines.

The graziers reject the Trust‘s assertion in correspondence that farming will be unaffected because only a small part of the 1821ha (4500-acre) common will disappear under turbines and service roads.

Instead, they insist that disturbance caused during construction, and the noise of the turbines, will unsettle stock and adversely affect the inbred hefting instinct that keeps individual graziers‘ animals on particular areas of the common.

They say that straying will result, and that pushing new service roads into the heart of the common will increase the number of animals killed by traffic, including off-road vehicles, motorbikes and cars stolen in the nearby city of Swansea.

They claim an already very serious fly-tipping problem is also likely to be exacerbated.

Alan and Wendy Jacob, whose 202ha (500-acre) Twll y Gwyddil holding at Craig Cefn Parc is closest to the proposed construction site, believe that their two adjoining hefts will become unusable.

This would make it impossible to continue running 1300 registered Welsh Mountain ewes and 150 mainly Angus cross suckler cows.

“Access to the common is essential for a severely disadvantaged hill farm like ours. Take it away and we could end up being part-time farmers,” said Mr Jacob.

“Around 100 farms and smallholdings that surround the common use and depend on their historic grazing rights, and all of them oppose this plan.”

Mrs Jacob added that there was deep concern locally that political support for renewable energy meant that the proposal was just the tip of an iceberg.

“We feel it is totally wrong for the Welsh Assembly to target hill farming areas like this for windfarms. We are really fighting for the legal grazing rights of all farmers who rely on access to hefted common land.”

“There is a feeling locally that if this development gets planning permission the Trust and others who own common land will apply for even more turbines.”

Action group members say contacts with the Somerset Trust indicate that planning consent will be sought early in 2005.