The countryside could become a “landscape littered with redundant wind farms” within two decades, conservationists warn today.
The stark prediction comes in a vision of how the nation could look in 2026, drawn up by the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
It sets out a positive blueprint for the future in which schoolchildren visit the countryside as part of the curriculum, tourism grows, farmers are paid more for organic food and conserving wildlife, and the greenbelt becomes greener.
But the charity warns that the reality could be much bleaker if land-based wind turbines are regarded as the panacea for climate change.
In the report published today Shaun Spiers, the chief executive, said: “The vision paper sees a role for onshore wind in 2026, but CPRE rejects the slide from acknowledging that climate change is the overriding threat facing the planet to the proposition that it is necessary to accept any measure claiming to mitigate it.
“A 2026 nightmare would be a landscape littered with redundant wind farms and their attendant infrastructure which had been erected to salve the national conscience for continuing to expand airports and build new roads.”
The document, ‘Towards a vision for the countryside’, is aimed at stimulating a national debate on how the rural landscape should look in 2026 – CPRE’s centenary.
It foresees a time when the countryside is regarded as the “Natural Health Service”, helping to improve education and reduce obesity through more visits from children and those from the inner cities.
A revival of interest in locally-produced food and greater rural tourism could mean small towns and villages growing and more jobs.
The 2026 vision also predicts that farmers could be encouraged to reduce CO2 emissions by moving away from crops that require synthetic, oil-derived fertilisers, earning more of their stewardship of the countryside. This would lead to a renaissance for wildflowers, birds, insects and mammals that have dwindled over the previous 70 years.
Finally, the planning system would be refocused to retain the character of the countryside while encouraging access and recreation.
Bill Bryson, the writer and president of the CPRE, said: “If we can explore and understand what people want from our countryside in 20 years time, then we will be in a much better position to plan the steps to get there.
“We’ll campaign on the results and seek to influence Government. But this isn’t an issue that should be left to politicians. It should be debated by everyone, from farmers to business people, planners to village shop owners.
“We believe we can all take action to protect the countryside, enhance it, and promote its importance, that’s why we’ve outlined one possible, positive vision, and set up a debates page for all views on the future of our countryside.”
By Graham Tibbetts
26 February 2008
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