GWENT Wildlife Trust (GWT) have welcomed the decision to refuse plans for a large solar power station on the ancient and protected Levels landscape.

The development had it gone ahead, would have resulted in 250,000 solar panels being built on 129 hectares of protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) land at Wentlooge between Cardiff and Newport, for a period of 40 years.

The plans were refused by Welsh Government Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths.

Planning inspector Hywel Wyn Jones recommended consent for the 250,000-panel solar power station.

However, Ms Lesley Griffiths said it would have an “unacceptable impact” on a landscape of outstanding historic interest.

Gwent Wildlife Trust fought plans for the solar power station along with community group Friends of the Gwent Levels (FOGL), Wentlooge and Marshfield Community Councils and Newport City Council.

GWT objected to the plans saying "the vast area of glass and metal from the proposed solar power station would have been likely to disrupt the hydrology of this fragile and complex wetland site, of national importance for nature".

They also raised concerns about water pollution and flooding, damaging habitats for iconic species such water voles, otters and lapwings.


GWT’s Head of Nature Recovery Gemma Bodé said: “The race to become net carbon zero must not compromise the health of our already fragile ecosystems, especially at Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) like the Levels.

“We welcome the Minister’s decision, which further emphasises the importance of the Gwent Levels and the need for its continued protection and enhancement, which comes hot on the heels of the refusal of a new motorway across the Levels in 2019 and Welsh Government’s declarations of a Climate Emergency, Biodiversity Crisis and Nature Emergency.

“Renewable energy is an important step forward but the impacts of these developments are vitally important decisions too.

"You can’t destroy the environment and its ability to contribute towards helping to alleviate the impacts of climate change to “save the environment” by building a solar power station on top of it.

“We know that climate change poses a significant risk to biodiversity and its ecosystems, however, we must ensure the way in which we tackle it (climate change) in itself does not lead to further declines in our diminished wildlife populations.”Levels is home to a wide range of rare species including water voles, otters, as well as breeding grounds for increasingly scarce birds including Lapwing.

And the intricate network of waterways known locally as reens, also provide unique habitats for hundreds of different water bugs including the King Diving beetle, which is found hardly anywhere else in the UK.