Lord James Joicey runs the 16,000-acre Ford and Etal Estate where more than 30 small businesses operate, most of them heavily reliant on tourism for survival.
He went some way down the line of agreeing to have turbines on his land, but withdrew when the full implications of their size and impact on local society became apparent. He was also concerned for the owners of local small businesses. He admits, however, that the income from hosting turbines – around £10,000 a year per unit – would have been welcome.
“I thought about it but was very nervous. But there are plenty of farmers who are desperate for the money. The tentacles of rural society run very deep and this has split it right down the middle. Some of us have families and farmers want to save themselves before they save the planet. It’s a two-way argument. There’s a very strong argument for the development people.
“Why did I not sign up to such a complex set of issues that I didn’t think have been resolved? If pro them, my house will halve in value; it’s self-questioning in a way we’ve never done before.
“My overall concern is Government policy. It’s sad that Government has chosen wind power and hasn’t considered wave power, geo-source heating or any other alternatives. I’m sad they (wind turbines) are dividing society up and down the country. If they are great then we’ll know that within 10 years – and if we can’t live without them we’ll have to accept there’s a price for visual intrusion that has to be paid. That’s a big debate within society.
“Our files go back 15 years – companies have asked if they could put a test rig here and another there. We looked at it all ways; there are arguments going on all over the place that are not debated properly. China is building 74 airports at the moment and four coal-fired power stations every fortnight. It’s naive to think we’re going to solve our problems with wind power.”
Lord Joicey is immensely proud of the Northern Rock Foundation’s involvement in alternative energy for Etal village hall. The charity donated £60,000 for refurbishment with a third of that figure helping to install geo-source heating.
“It’s very successful and very cheap. It’s completely natural with no visual intrusion. You dig a hole in the ground and put in a pipe filled with a glycol solution and it passes through a heat exchanger. The water temperature is 46ºC, averaging out at about 27º.
Both Ford and Etal have a charm that is not lost on thousands of visitors.
James Joicey says: “An annual income of £321m from tourism is very significant for Northumberland. But if these things go through the planning process, the further down the appeal route you go the more the decision is removed from the locality.
“How are they to get the power into the grid, a walk of pylons? That sort of debate needs to come into the public eye.”
By John Lowdon
12 July 2007
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