Features

Why can’t country views be protected from wind turbines?

In cities, changes to the skyline are subject to careful planning. Not so here

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

‘Surprisingly’, writes Geoffrey Lean (Daily Telegraph, 4 April), ‘two thirds of the country support onshore wind turbines’. It should not surprise him: those would be the two thirds who live in towns and cities, the people whose distinctive, familiar skylines are on the whole safe. When proposed city structures reach the height of St Paul’s they are the subject of deliberation and careful design. Not so in the country.

I live in the East Mendips, a soft target for onshore wind turbines as it has little protection from developers: this is because its hills were sacrificed to quarrying after the war and it therefore does not qualify as an area of outstanding natural beauty. And yet it is outstandingly beautiful. Like many other areas of rural England, its character is unique, its many highly individual villages set among the wooded ridges, dips and valleys of an undulating limestone landscape where copses, church towers and outcrops on the varying skyline are particularly important. It is currently undergoing an economic revival: families and businesses are relocating here from the crowded south-east, and tourism increases every year. Again, like much of rural England, its character has been preserved for centuries by countless anonymous curators — charities, village enterprises, churchwardens, smallholders, heritage groups, local councillors — who monitor and consider every new development in the light of a social and visual context they care deeply about.

To these people and their neighbourhoods, the random imposition of standardised industrial structures so breathtakingly out of proportion, so permanently visible and so impervious to local human scale is a shockingly barbaric act of government vandalism. The relentlessly utilitarian case for siting them indiscriminately throughout the country ignores objections on what are dismissed as unquantifiable ‘aesthetic’ grounds. ‘Visual impact’ is considered only in the light of officially listed buildings, but never in relation to the village streets, fields, cottages, rivers, vistas, paddocks and country lanes, which all have what Gerard Manley Hopkins once called their own ‘sweet especial’ beauty. The ignored appeals of people who value these things can be found by googling the name of any populated area in England that hosts a wind turbine. The majority of the crowds squeezing in to demonstrate their opposition at district council planning meetings in this part of Somerset, and indeed all over the country, are not wealthy property owners — they are ordinary country people from all walks of life, angry, frightened and impotent in the face of what is happening to their surroundings.


The vital importance of consulting local communities was taken far more seriously in the 2012 policy briefing document from the Grantham Research Institute than it is by current government ministers, glibly parroting an increasingly simplistic green agenda. This document accepts that, right across Europe, communities would pay not to be near wind turbines, and that the successful model abroad is for turbines to be built by and for local communities, rather than as here, in overcrowded England, by insensitive developers.

Here, in spite of government rhetoric, the idea of local consultation has become a joke. There has been a dramatic increase in cases going to appeal (42 cases this January, as opposed to 16 in January last year), yet approval by government inspectors remains at a steady 50 per cent, while the inspector likely to review the latest Mendip cases has a record of 70.5 per cent approval. Earlier this year, an area of Cumbria was described by the inspectors as ‘a wind farm landscape’; the very different landscape of Mendip, with at least 14 applications in the pipeline, looks as if it is going the same way.

The irony, as everyone knows, is that the ill-considered and crude solution of siting onshore wind turbines indiscriminately across the densely populated British Isles is being swiftly overtaken by new, cheaper and more efficient forms of alternative energy; yet once built these structures will stand for 25 years, while the hundreds of tons of concrete and steel foundation will never be removed. Aware of their brief window of opportunity, developers are grabbing our subsidies while they can, and driving through a rapid succession of randomly sited applications in partnership with those property owners who are unable to resist the huge, publicly funded incentives for siting them on their land.

The final insult is the arrogant assertion by those who do not live near them that wind turbines must be accepted because they are ‘beautiful’. A structure is beautiful only in relation to its surroundings. Seen briefly on remote hillsides from a passing car, turbines might look beautiful; but as neighbourhood features, dwarfing familiar and much-loved surroundings — say, Hyde Park or Hampstead Heath — they look rather different.

‘Going, going’, Philip Larkin’s lament for the death of the English countryside, slams the blinkered mentality that measures the character of England purely in terms of utility and cash, that sees no value in ‘the unspoilt dales/ … /The shadows, the meadows, the lanes’. He would no doubt have relished the fact that the profiteers’ latest wrecking ball is being swung in the name of ‘green’ policy. He thought the end, the irretrievable loss, was coming soon, and he was right. If these vast turbines go on to dominate the horizons of other counties in the way they are already set to dominate East Mendip, then ‘that will be England gone’.

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  • Valewood

    The opinions and quality of life for country residents has been considered immaterial for years. We’re looked upon as the poorer cousin who is dispensable and unimportant, compared to the ‘green’ hypocrites who live in the city. They’re all for wind turbines as long as they don’t have to look at them. Country people have become the green energy slaves for the arrogant.

    • Spencerforhire

      Why do the rich “ex city” dwellers get to dictate what the landscape should look like?

      Why do they get to poison the ground, water and air?

      They
      should check Country living vs City living to see which is more
      healthy. Like most things NIMBYs think , theirs is always the wrong
      choice.

      • flaxdoctor

        Worthless troll.

        • Spencerforhire

          What a f ucking tosser!

    • Lewis Sullivan

      The opinions of ‘country residents’ has skewed housing policy for years! It’s almost impossible to get planning permission in the countryside, which pushes up rents in the cities and creates overcrowding, and all the negatives that come with that.

      You really think that having to see a wind turbine is equivalent to you being enslaved?

  • Tom

    “these property owners who are ‘unable’ to resist the huge,publicly funded incentives”. Lets call a spade a spade – these landowners are low life bottom feeders
    who would sell their grandmother for a ‘bob’. All they want to do it get their greasy hands on “free” money at any cost and to hell with their neighbours or the countryside – they should be singled out and ostracised- may they rot in the hell they are creating.

    • Spencerforhire

      So funny how NIMBYs call everyone else “Hypocrites” or “low life bottom
      feeders” and wonder why the vast majority does not take them seriously!

      Why do the rich “ex city” dwellers get to dictate what the landscape should look like?

      Why do they get to poison the ground, water and air?

      They
      should check Country living vs City living to see which is more
      healthy. Like most things NIMBYs think , theirs is always the wrong
      choice.

      • Tom

        you got one thing right -Nimbys think. The rest is your usual non sensical garbage.

        • Spencerforhire

          Yep , they think up all kinds of crazy manure like turbines cause herpes.

          I guess you did not “think” to do any real research otherwise you would have found your copious errors.

          • flaxdoctor

            Troll.

          • Spencerforhire

            From you ? That is too funny!

          • Valewood

            Ignore Spencer. He got thrown off a pro-wind site. Even the people on his side of this debate can’t stand him.

  • Spencerforhire

    So funny how NIMBYs call everyone else “Hypocrites” or “low life bottom feeders” and wonder why the vast majority does not take them seriously!

    Why do the rich “ex city” dwellers get to dictate what the landscape should look like?

    Why do they get to poison the ground, water and air?

    They should check Country living vs City living to see which is more healthy. Like most things NIMBYs think , theirs is always the wrong choice.

  • Vindpust

    It is not just a question of what the landscape looks like. It is the huge damage caused to local communities and their economies by wind speculators.

    If you lived in an area subject to the wind rush you would know about planning blight. In our area this has gone on for over 10 years. Just in the vicinity of one small application we have seen tourism investment of over £1m lost, never to be recovered. Peole do not invest their life savings in holiday lettings or a livery business close to a wind park.

    Property blight infects the whole local economy as most people fund small businesses by raising a mortgage on their homes. If your house loses 20-40% of value or is unsaleable that damages the economy.

    A feature article on Economic and Social Research Council’s website referring to the recent LSE report on wind farms and property values noted that:

    “If we take these figures seriously as estimates of the mean willingness to pay to avoid wind farms in communities exposed to their development, the implied costs are substantial. Rough calculations based on the estimates suggest that the implied social costs on the local community (within four kilometres) amounts to about £5.6 million per operational wind farm, or about £210 per household per year. There may be some understandable economic justification for the ‘nimbyism’ of wind farm opposition.”

    Nor do wind arrays contribute to the local economy. The scheme I mentioned above was punted by a company owned by a Hong Kong tanker leasing magnate via an offshore shell company registered in the Marshall Islands. It would have used Danish turbines on Chinese towers and would have created no permanent local jobs.

    It would have offered only £24K a year in so-called community payments.

    It took 6 years and £100,000 (raised through jumble sales and other events) paid to lawyers and consultants to eventually defeat this scheme. The local economy has still not recovered, nearly 5 years after that defeat – it is still blighted by the threat of further applications by wind speculators.

    • dado_trunking

      If it is as you state that rental fees of £100k are your issue, why not tackle the root cause and settle the matter of ownership and subsidy paid? In Denmark and Germany there is no such opposition as these matters are communal matters not those of individuals profiteering. Problem solved.

      • Vindpust

        You do not know what you are talking about.

        I know Denmark very well and last time I looked there were some 197 neighbourhood opposition groups fighting wind projects affiliated to ‘Landsforening Naboer til kjæmpevindmøller’. This in a very small country.

        You might also note that Dong, the state-owned energy conglomerate announced that it was giving up on onshore turbines because of opposition:

        “State-owned energy firm Dong Energy has given up building more wind farms on Danish land, following protests from residents complaining about the noise the turbines make.

        “It had been Dong and the government’s plan that 500 large turbines be built on land over the coming 10 years, as part of a large-scale national energy plan. This plan has hit a serious stumbling block, though, due to many protests, and the firm has now given up building any more wind farms on land.

        “Anders Eldrup, the CEO of Dong Energy, told TV2 News: ‘It is very difficult to get the public’s acceptance if the turbines are built close to residential buildings, and therefore we are now looking at maritime options.'” (‘Dong gives up on land-based turbines’,Copenhagen Post, 1 September 2010).

        You might also note that the Danish Strategic Research Council is giving a grant of DKr23.6m for an investigation into opposition to onshore turbines: ‘Wind2050 – Multidisciplinary study on local acceptance and development of wind power projects’. Research will be conducted in the period 2014-2017.

        The project is described as follows: “In spite of measures aimed at increasing the acceptance of wind turbine projects, both official and private bodies continue to experience a rising tendency for local conflict which is getting in the way of the ambitious target of a fossil-free Danish energy supply by 2050. This situation applies in the whole of Europe …”

        There is also great opposition to further wind build in Germany.

        • dado_trunking

          Wo?

          Denmark is saturated with wind turbines – I frankly have no clue what you are on about. There was no ‘opposition’. As you state, the people own them. Communitarianism is far more valued in either Germany, Denmark or Scotland (!) than it is in England. No wonder, when you do not own anything, not the land (subsidies), not the generation, not the supply. So why would you support it, it’s obvious why some of you don’t.

          • Vindpust

            “I farnkly [sic] have no clue what you are on about”. QED.

        • JaitcH

          Dong? That’sthe name of the Vietnamese currency.

      • scrattler90

        Agreed – Denmark uses the co-operative model, which is why windfarms are popular there. Also – Danish population density is 130 people per sq kilometer; English population density is highest in Europe at 407. Many more back yards.

  • saffrin

    Wind turbines would soon blend into the skyline in the same way as electricity pylons have.
    Disco lights wouldn’t go amiss either.

    • Vindpust

      Do you know the difference between a 145m wind turbine and a 53m pylon?

      So glad that you find the real distress of working people in the countryside so amusing. It’s caring, community-minded people like you who are making this country such an attractive place to live in today.

      • saffrin

        Grow-up you wimp

        • MC73

          Fcuk off cnut.

        • Peter Stroud

          If you cannot answer a critic with some intelligence, you should not bother to comment.

  • El Capitan

    In part, the case for liberty rests upon our recognition that the most effective way to adapt to the future’s unpredictability is to ensure that each of us is free to best adapt to the unknown future circumstances we are sure to face.

    • Tom M

      True. Watch that word “adapt”. From now on it will figure in a lot more in discussions on climate. Similarly the word “mitigate” will slowly recede into the background.

  • Richard Mann

    Wind proponents still have not addressed the health impacts:

    *Canadian Family Physician (2013) “Adverse health effects of industrial wind turbines”,
    *British Medical Journal (2012). “Wind turbine noise”.
    *Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine (2014). “Industrial wind turbines and adverse health effects”.

    Our government (Environment, Health, and Energy ministries) are ignoring this evidence.

    Lawyers call this “Willful Blindness”.

    Def’n (Wikipedia) Willful blindness (sometimes called ignorance of law, willful ignorance or contrived ignorance or Nelsonian knowledge) is a term used in law to describe a situation where an individual seeks to avoid civil or criminal liability for a wrongful act by intentionally putting himself in a position where he will be unaware of facts that would render him liable.

  • transponder

    Everything you say is true and yet more can be said. Lean and his like truly are the barbarians within the gate, utterly deluded by ideology. Turbines are undemocratic and not even justified by their energy output.

    The whole thing is an outrage.

    And this in a country whose beauty is second to none. And it’s not just Britain that suffers — with the ground rendered useless and permanently littered, as you say, with industrial waste; these monstrosities also require large quantities of magnetic rare earth, the mining of which creates toxic no-man’s-lands in China.

    Turbines are so deeply immoral that I wonder how the subsidy-takers can sleep at night.

  • JaitcH

    Since when has industry been sensitive to the sensibilities of the public? The electric grid is a fine example.

    This Tory government has now unleashed an even more uncaring mob upon us – The Frackers – who not only don’t care about the esthetics but think the environment is theirs to plunder for a declining profit – then they will walk away from the mess they leave behind claiming bankruptcy.

  • coalgateOps

    All the arguments for defeating your liberal teachers and professors: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094KY878

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