It’s an all-too-familiar story. Local campaigners invest a huge amount of time and money in putting together a case against a wind farm planning application. They argue their case in front of the local planning committee. They win. The local authority gives due consideration to the visual intrusion, the health factors, the housing blight, the damage to local communities.
The campaigners celebrate. They open the champagne. Then the developer lodges an appeal. The man from Whitehall spends perhaps half a day reviewing the evidence and the arguments that have been painstakingly collected at great expense over many months, and then he does exactly what he planned to do when he drove up. He approves the developer’s appeal — and the wind farm plan — with total disregard for the views of local planners and local residents. (This seems to be the Coalition’s take on “localism”, by the way).
In theory, the campaigners can take the matter to the High Court, but the potential costs and risks of doing so are daunting. The local campaigners are nursing their disappointment, having already invested tens of thousands in their objection, and the idea of a court action is more than they can face.
Until Barnwell Manor, that is. Barnwell Manor is the proposal to put wind turbines within a mile of the National Trust’s Grade-1-listed Lyveden New Bield, a wonderful historic monument set in glorious Northamptonshire countryside. Here the usual scenario was played out, up to a point. But the local campaigners, and the East Northants District Council, were not prepared to take NO for an answer. They’ve bitten back.
I caught up with these events at the East Northants Council Chairman’s Civic Dinner at Stanwick Lakes on May 3rd. I went as a guest of the Chairman, Cllr Sylvia Hughes, who, as it happens, is Councillor for the Lyveden ward, and feels passionately about the issue. And I also met Peter Stephens, who is a leading figure in the “Stop Barnwell Manor wind farm” campaign.
The news is that David Oliver, Chief Executive of the East Northants Council, has pulled together a remarkable coalition of heavyweight objectors who together are prepared to bring the Court Case that has been beyond the ability of other protest groups. On-side are the National Trust — their Mark Bradshaw was at the Civic Dinner. Plus English Heritage. And also, at last, the CPRE. The CPRE are a late convert. They started out rating concerns about climate change ahead of their worries about visual intrusion and damage to landscapes, but as their web-site shows, they have clearly come off the fence — and on the right side of it.
This may well upset Mr. John Twiddell, a campaigner for the Pro Wind Alliance, who appears to have attempted to infiltrate the Leicestershire chapter of CPRE, and to use it as a propaganda tool of the wind lobbyists. See his comment on an earlier blog piece: https://rogerhelmermep.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/wind-farm-gives-the-lie-to-localism/
Be that as it may, on the 23rd April, the High Court Action was initiated by the Council, the NT and English Heritage. I am delighted by their initiative, and I wish them well in their action. The tide is finally turning against wind power, and especially on-shore wind. It damages local environments, and on a national scale it undermines our economic competitiveness and our energy security. It’s time to call a halt, and this court action, in addition to its local importance, is striking a blow for common sense that the whole country should welcome.
On a personal note, I was amused to see that in this case, I seem to arguing on the same side as Louise Bagshawe/Mensch, the Corby MP. Had to be a first time, I suppose.