My favourite walk, a 30-minute circuit from my door, has unique and far-reaching views that sweep across a beautiful area known as the Den Brook valley. It’s a view unrivalled by anything I’ve seen before, that rolls from the little village of Bow to bleak Dartmoor, a landscape that cannot have changed much over the centuries. But it may be about to. A company called Renewable Energy Systems (RES) plans to destroy it with a windfarm.
I like to think I’m environmentally aware. I’ve always recycled. I compost. My baby is in washable nappies. I buy British food, eat whatever’s in season, grow as much as I can. I’ve looked into getting solar panels. I’d be happy to have a little wind turbine on my roof. The thing is, I’d have to apply for planning permission, and if it was rejected, I’d have to abide by the decision. Not RES, though. For some reason, it thinks it is beyond the planning law, at least as it is enforced by local people.
The company has ignored the people who live here, four local town and parish councils, West Devon Borough and Mid Devon District Councils and Devon County Council, who have all rejected its proposal. No, RES knows best, and is arrogant enough to appeal in November against all these decisions.
I have been confused by its conflicting information. Originally it was keen to tell us the turbines would be only 60m high; it turns out they’ll be 80m high: with blades, that’s actually an enormous 120m tall – three times the height of a typical electricity pylon. They will be glimpsed from as far away as parts of Exeter. They’ll be seen from Crediton, Copplestone, Spreyton, Zeal Monachorum, Dartmoor and they will tower over Bow and North Tawton. It’s too incredible – too impossible – to imagine.
It showed us its site would cover a couple of square kilometres. The truth is it has applied for an area of more than seven square kilometres to be industrialised. Once it has had that reclassified, it will be open market for anyone. Another area of unspoilt countryside will be lost for ever.
They said the project would lead to an improved rail network between Okehampton and Exeter, but rumour has it that it can’t transport the turbines by rail: too big, apparently.
It claims that locals are in favour. I have yet to meet any, and the council received nearly 3,000 letters of protest that say otherwise.
It wasn’t so keen to tell us how dangerous the turbines are to birds and bats, or worse – to children. Or how many thousands of tons of concrete will be poured into the rich and fertile red Devon soil, never to be removed. Or how many archaeological treasures will be lost for ever. Or how much noise will shatter the peace of the day and the night, without respite.
It wasn’t so keen to tell us how these giants will loom over the road, a road that has already seen some serious accidents – even deaths. These turbines will be so gargantuan it will be impossible not to gasp at them – whether in awe or disgust. A couple of seconds’ loss of concentration is all it takes.
It certainly didn’t want to tell us how much the windfarm will cost. Some predict our electricity bills could go up by 30 per cent, in an area where people already struggle to pay some of the highest council tax and water bills in the country.
People here are depressed. Some think the decision has already been made. That the Whiddon Down roundabout was removed because you couldn’t get a turbine around it. That the new sub-station in North Tawton was built to accommodate getting any electricity from the windfarm to the national grid.
Some think that it chose this valley because there is such a scattered population – not many people to put up a fuss. But fuss we have – 3,000 letters of protest is unprecedented. We’ve had fundraising silent auctions, race evenings and bring-and-buy sales. Even RES’s offer of £1,500 a year per Mw for the community (and which community – more than one will be affected) didn’t swing local or council opinion.
RES may have money to throw around from the insidious Renewable Obligation Certificates that benefit wind-turbine developers, but of course, we don’t. Which means it’s hard to raise money for the defence.
And we’ll have even less money when it’s built: who will want to come to a hotel or a B &B that’s overshadowed by endlessly revolving turbines with wingspans the size of a jumbo jet?
And if we lose the appeal? Well, that’s it. Game over.
I came here to get away from hideous developments and the constant movement and noise of urban areas. I’m not the only one. This landscape is our greatest asset – it provides a beauty that people come to view from hundreds of miles away – even from abroad. It should be protected, not decimated.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding