Home Page Some seasonal hot air to add to the wind debate 27/12/13

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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

I suppose that during a week in which many people will have made a point of feasting on Brussels sprouts or Jerusalem artichokes along with their turkey it is hardly surprising that the biggest topic for discussion should be wind power.


It has been crystallised by the imminent decision on whether Haverhill is to be blessed with its first giant turbine, proposed for a site in the fields near Ladygate Wood at Nosterfield End.


St Edmundsbury Borough Council Development Control Committee will be deciding the matter next week, and in the run-up there has been a lot of posturing and clamour from both sides, so, for what it’s worth, here is my sixpenn’orth.


There seem to be two largely unrelated questions at stake – first, is it necessary at present, and second, is it an eyesore?


I find it difficult to argue with the massive scientific opinion in favour of the view that climate change is happening. Global warming is a misleading expression because at many times climate change leads to unseasonably cold periods in summer, or snow in Egypt.


But basically, there is a lot more weird weather around now than there was when I was young. We have always had the odd extreme event, because we’re an island on the eastern edge of a massive ocean, so we’re used to that. But it has gone beyond a joke in the past 30 years.


Faced with a degree of climate change and therefore a need to reduce our carbon emissions, and try to persuade other countries to do the same, Britain is placed in a rather hypocritical position, because our wealth and status in the world in the 19th and 20th centuries was built on the fact that we invented the Industrial Revolution and led the way for everyone to create the problem in the first place.


We now have to turn round to Third World countries – or even massive economies like China and India – and say: "Can you now not do as we did but do as we say!’ Anyone who has ever brought up a child knows that is very shaky ground indeed.


Still, the only way you can try to stop your children following your example and smoking, is by giving up yourself, even if all their mates don’t.


The alternative is to have faith in Nature - that the earth is only in the midst of some sort of climatic cycle which will correct itself. But those of us who have a Faith only have to look around us on our great festival days to know how hard it is to persuade others to believe in something they can’t see in front of their noses.


The parallel is rather apt because if the ecologists are wrong it probably won’t matter much in the long run, whereas if the deniers are wrong their grandchildren will certainly come to curse them.


As for those who would put their faith again in King Coal, they must spend their whole time cursing Margaret Thatcher for shutting down our own perfectly viable mines.


So, if I accept that we at least need to look at other methods of energy generation, we then come to the second question of how much of an eyesore a wind turbine is, and therefore how far it damages the quality of life of those who live near it.


Here I have to admit to a degree of bias before we start. Let me be quite open about the fact that I love the English landscape beyond any other, that I holiday in it, I walk in it and I spend quite a bit of time photographing it in all its many glorious moods.


If we were talking about the Sahara or plains of the Mid-West, there would be no issue. There is such a lot of them that putting hundreds of wind farms around would hardly affect them at all. England is different. Every few miles the landscape changes and each has its own distinctive quality.


There is no doubt that a wind farm is a dominant feature – as dominant as, say, a cathedral, an airfield or an oil refinery. One turbine alone is also dominant, and more so than a windmill, a water tower or even a pylon.


For those who live very near it, this development will be unmissable. But then so would an estate of 60 new houses on the field behind their home, and that is an issue which many, many people have had to put up with in Haverhill in the past 50 years, without anyone outside jumping up and down on their behalf. There is no right to a view in planning law, otherwise the Chalkstone estate would not exist.


Many in Haverhill can remember when you looked up from the meadows where Ehringshausen Way now runs and saw beautiful chalk downland – a landscape so rare now that campaigners are regularly bringing back sections of it at great expense, as at Wandlebury.


If you wonder why you sometimes see the very rare bee orchid flowering in the verges of Haverhill’s industrial estate, it is because this was one of its few native habitats.


The wind turbine at Ladygate will not affect the primroses in the spring, or the bluebells in May if there are still any left there, and wildlife groups assure us it will not affect birds and animals either.


When you walk almost underneath these wind-giants, as I have in many places in England, they are an impressive sight, and when they march over the more distant landscape as at Wadlow Farm, for me they certainly do not ruin that beautiful view from the West Wratting to Six Mile Bottom road.


I may not like to see them under the Screes in Wast Water, but I would find it very difficult to be dogmatically opposed to them everywhere.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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