On the Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway: The “Winston Churchill” locomotive
I remember as a child my parents taking me for holidays on the South Coast, and a key attraction that’s always stuck in my mind was the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, “Kent’s Mainline in Miniature”. So I was delighted to find myself in the Buffet of Aldersgate Street Station — no, sorry, that’s Betjeman — the Romney Station Buffet of the RH&D Railway last Thursday, drinking a cup of tea in the company of Liz Phillips, the lynchpin of UKIP’s London office.
After a week in “foreign” — Europe — I had a public meeting on Thursday evening in the Scout Hut at Romney. (I say Scout Hut, but it was a fairly smart building, more like a Village Hall). So instead of flying, I took the Eurostar back to the UK, and alighted at Ashford, where Liz kindly met me, and we set out on the short drive across the Romney Marshes. These marshes form a beautiful, almost ethereal landscape, broad skies stretched over a vast, level country, interspersed by dykes (they seem to have the dredging right around here) and punctuated by the towers and spires of fourteen ancient Mediæval churches.
But sadly, the eco-vandals and the green iconoclasts can’t see a beautiful, unspoiled landscape with wanting to cover it with wind turbines, so my event, not surprisingly, was a public protest meeting — well attended by UKIP councillors and supporters, but also by concerned members of the public. And UKIP’s South East MEP candidate Janice Atkinson. UKIP of course is in the forefront of opposition to wind farms, both because of the damage they do locally, and because of their malign effect on our economy and industrial competitiveness.
In the audience was the redoubtable Patricia Rolfe of SOMBRE, the local group fighting the plan. www.sombre.org (Save Our Marsh, Stop Rural Exploitation). I was slightly embarrassed that she seemed to know more about the problems of wind farms than I did, and she made an important contribution to the meeting.
Frustratingly, planning enquiries on wind farms are not entitled to consider questions of national policy (or arguably no wind farms would ever have been built). Local campaigners have to concentrate on local issues: visual intrusion, housing blight, noise, health impacts, effects on wildlife and environment. These are key questions, but all too often the inspector decides they’re a matter of opinion, and chooses to give greater weight to what he sees as “national priorities”.
However SOMBRE have one big local issue going for them. Not far from the proposed site is an RSPB nature reserve — indeed the oldest of the RSPB’s 200 or so nature reserves. This is an important wildlife resource, and the last thing it needs is some bird-chomping turbines right next to it. (If you haven’t followed the vast carnage that turbines inflict on birds — and especially migratory birds and raptors — try this). But this time, there is a real prospect that the RSPB will set the clear and present danger to its own nature reserve against the speculative science and the vague future possibility of global warming.
And it’s not just the RSPB reserve. There’s also an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) in Romney Marsh. The Inspector certainly should put that high on his agenda.
In a rational world, we wouldn’t be building wasteful wind turbines at all. We certainly wouldn’t be desecrating wonderful and historic landscapes like the Romney Marsh. And pray God the Inspector won’t want to jeopardise an RSPB reserve and an SSSI.
All is not lost: there’s some good news around. Although it seems that local planning Committees always oppose wind turbine developments, and that the man from Whitehall always over-rules the local decision (as happened in my own village), there are some good decisions coming through. In my East Midlands region, I was delighted to hear last week that the proposal for a wind farm at Lyveden New Bield had been knocked back — establishing a legal precedent in favour of historic building and landscapes. This one had an added piquancy, as it was Ed Miliband’s wife Justine Thornton appearing — and failing — as barrister for the developers. And of course the extension to the Thames Array has been cancelled, to the relief of local sailors and fishermen.
Maybe Cameron is slowly getting his wish to abandon the “Green Crap”. But as I write (Feb 22nd, just three months ahead of the euro-elections), only UKIP is firmly committed to opposing the UK/EU’s ruinous climate and energy plans.
I left the meeting in the Scout Hut around 8:10 p.m., for the drive to Ashford, train to St. Pancras, tube to Euston, train to Birmingham International, mono-rail to the airport, and the drive home. Bed around 1:00 a.m. But I guess that’s politics.