AN ENVIRONMENTAL offender applied to build a solar farm of “national significance” on the Gwent Levels - on the same day he donated £100,000 to Vaughan Gething’s leadership campaign.

Dauson Environmental Group director David Neal received a suspended prison sentence in 2013 for dumping toxic waste at a Gwent Levels conservation site.

His company has given two separate £100,000 donations to economy minister Mr Gething’s leadership campaign which, if successful, will see him replace Mark Drakeford as first minister next month.

The first donation was made on December 18. The second, on January 11, came on the same day another company belonging to Mr Neal, Atlantic Ecopark, applied to build a solar farm between Cardiff and Newport and on the Gwent Levels.

The Argus understands Mr Gething was not aware of the planning application at the time he accepted the donation.

READ MORE: Vaughan Gething criticised for accepting huge donations from environmental offender

The Welsh Government planning portal shows the application is currently in the “researching” stage.

The farm would have a generating capacity of 13mw and include a substation at land adjacent to the existing Atlantic Eco Park and Neal Soil Suppliers processing site in Rumney.

A project description published last month says: “To achieve the applicant’s aspiration to become a net zero business, most of the electricity generated by the solar farm would power the existing soil processing, recycling, waste transfer and refuse derived fuel (RDF) production facilities on the adjacent Atlantic Eco Park/Neal Soil Suppliers site.

South Wales Argus: Proposed site of the solar park in redProposed site of the solar park in red (Image: RPS Group)

“The remainder of the electricity generated would be provided to the national grid at a point of connection that is yet to be determined.

“Whilst not all of the power will be exported to the national grid, the overall amount of power generated would be enough to power approximately 3,680 typical family homes and result in an approximate saving of 7,800 tonnes of CO2 per annum – the equivalent of removing approximately 4,300 cars from the road.”

The proposed 67-acre site lies entirely within Cardiff Council boundaries.

'Massive donations'

Developments of national significance (DNS) applications must be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate Wales, where an inspector will consider evidence from the applicant, local authority, and other interested parties.

Following this, the inspector will write a report to Welsh ministers setting out their recommendation as to whether the application should be approved. These ministers are appointed by the first minister.

Mr Gething would not be able to make the final decision because the proposed site falls within the boundaries of his Cardiff South and Penarth constituency.

READ MORE: Solar farm plans in Gwent Levels 'terrifying', say villagers

A spokesperson for Mr Gething’s campaign said: “Dauson Environmental Group Limited has donated to Vaughan Gething’s leadership campaign. All donations are declared to the Senedd and the Electoral Commission in line with the rules and Vaughan's commitment to transparency.

"It’s a matter of public record that Welsh Government ministers do not and cannot take ministerial decisions on matters relating to businesses in their constituencies.”

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: “These are massive donations in a Welsh context, and the government Mr Gething sits in will eventually rule on the donor company’s plans.

“I’ve written to the first minister to ask him to investigate these donations under the Ministerial Code, but despite the risk of a perception of a conflict of interest, I have not had a response.

“Instead of sitting on his hands, the first minister must act swiftly to ensure that the perception of a conflict of interest is not allowed to hang in the hair.”

The Welsh Government has been approached for comment.