Sir David Attenborough, the naturalist and wildlife broadcaster, has enraged countryside campaigners by supporting a 70 metre tall wind turbine for Glyndebourne opera house.
In an unlikely stand-off, the veteran environmentalist is on collision course with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE). Conservationists object to the wind turbine because the site is in the South Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
They claim this is not a Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) rant about renewable technology but insist it is the wrong scheme in the wrong place.
The aim of the opera house is to construct a turbine near the site of a former windmill on Mill Plain, between the villages of Glyndebourne and Ringmer in East Sussex, to reduce the opera house’s annual emissions of carbon dioxide by 71 per cent.
Sir David, 82, who has been a fan of the opera for more than 50 years, and who lives in Richmond, is to give evidence in favour of the single turbine at today’s planning inquiry in Lewes.
He believes the wind turbine will reduce pollution in the area and help to save the wider planet from the impacts of climate change. His views are set out in a submission sent in advance to the planning inspectorate.
He said: “Having visited the proposed site, I noticed that it is close to a place where not so long ago, a windmill once stood. I suspect that were that windmill still in existence, many of us would regard it as a welcome feature in the essentially domesticated Sussex landscape and would speak passionately in favour of its protection. That, surely, is because most of us have a care and affection for the past. I certainly have.
“But I also have a care and affection for the future. A wind turbine, with its graceful lines, collecting energy from the environment without causing any material damage, is a marvellous demonstration of the way we can minimise our pollution of the atmosphere, if we wish to do so. It would help protect not only the countryside we have known for centuries but also the wider world beyond.”
He also showers praise on Glyndebourne Opera for developing such a scheme, which he described as “wholly admirable, demonstrating as it does that some communities really do take ecological challenge seriously and do not simply utter pious words and leave it to others to take action”.
A coalition of campaign organisations, known as the South Downs En-vironmental Protection Consortium, is to stage a protest outside the inquiry premises, the White Hart Hotel in Lewes.
Tom Oliver, head of rural policy at the CPRE, which is part of the coalition, said: “We greatly respect the work of Sir David Attenborough and his huge contribution to world conservation. However, we strongly disagree that a national iconic landscape need be damaged and enjoyment of it by millions of visitors spoiled through locating a giant turbine in the designated South Downs National Park.”
He blamed Glyndebourne’s carbon footprint on the dominance of private car use by opera-goers.
“We need renewable energy but not at the expense of world renowned beautiful landscapes and against the majority of local public opinion,” he said.
Others opposing the move are the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers’ Association and the South Downs Society.
In a separate move Bill Bryson, president of the CPRE, today begins a national debate on the future of the countryside and its role in society in 2026, the campaign’s centenary year.
A vision of the future suggests that school visits to rural areas would be included in the national curriculum, that there will be more organic food, that the growth of villages and market towns as consumers will ensure a revival of locally produced foods and that more people will visit the countryside for recreation.
Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor
February 26, 2008
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