If all the threats to traditional rural culture, the creeping urbanisation of the countryside is perhaps the most invidious. People who claim to love the country move in and then immediately start protesting about cockerels crowing, cows mooing ? you know the sort of thing. Yet there are other threats to our green and pleasant land that are largely home-grown and self-inflicted. They are not the fault of townies, but of an unholy trinity of grasping landowners, dogmatic energy policy and fanatical green lobbyists. I am talking about commercial wind farms ? those huge, industrial-scale developments, as opposed to individual micro-turbines, which, in the right place, produce power where it is needed without spoiling the landscape.
The very term ?commercial wind farm? is a misnomer. The giant, hideous turbines that blight our land are anything but commercial. Their actual performance, in terms of generating cost?effective green energy, is pathetic, which is precisely why they have to be underwritten by the taxpayer.
My latest bout of turbine rage was kindled as I walked alongside a section of Hadrian?s Wall last weekend. The portion in question includes Limestone Corner, which marks the northernmost edge of the settled boundary of the entire Roman Empire. The last time I was there, I marvelled at the unbroken view over rural Northumberland towards the distant Cheviot Hills. On my most recent visit, however, I found that the glorious panorama has now been wrecked by the erection of a wind farm on a ridge just two or three miles north of the wall. A skyline that has remained largely unchanged since the wall itself was built in AD122 has suddenly been blighted by the garish, spinning symbols of human greed.
The really incredible thing is that this travesty has been inflicted on a World Heritage Site that sits within a national park ? the highest level of protected landscape designation possible in this country. The massive turbines ? 18 in total ? have already caused much adverse comment from tourists and locals alike. The wind farm could not have been sited in a more damaging position without actually being within the legal boundary of the national park itself. How did the developer get away with this act of visual vandalism?
Yes, everybody objected. Not only the National Park Authority, but also the county council and every single organisation or body representing local people or conservation interests. The matter went to appeal, however, and a planning inspector rode roughshod over democracy, history and the environment. In the opinion of some locals, that inspector ought to be nailed to one of the turbines as a lesson to others. Yet he was only doing his duty, as laid out under the last government in accordance with the diktat of the likes of that notable countryman, ?Lord? Prescott, who tailored the system to spite those he denigrates as middle class ?Nimbys?.
The landowner will scoop up subsidies to the tune of about £20,000 per turbine, per year; the Government will be able to tell the EU that another step has been taken towards our renewable energy obligation;and a supposedly protected landscape has been ruined for everybody.
Striking a discordant note
The irony is that Hadrian would never get planning permission for his wall today. Not in a national park, that?s for sure (just imagine the bat survey you?d need for a 73-mile military installation). But at least the Romans built their wall out of local materials, and sited it to take advantage of natural crags and slopes in a harmonious way. By contrast, the mass-produced, identikit wind turbines strike a glaring, discordant note in the countryside. Furthermore, what is the justifi cation for planners telling locals they cannot paint their windows a certain colour within sight of Hadrian?s Wall (as is the case) when a commercial operator can deploy public money to trash completely an entire segment of wall scenery?
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