The battle for the future of Shropshire’s landscape of AE Housman has now reached the critical stage where the concept of ‘Localism’ – that favourite word of Eric Pickles and David Cameron – will be truly tested. The highly controversial wind farm planning application at Upton Cressett – just 1,600 metres from my home (pictured below) – will be voted on by the planning committee in the early autumn.
No issue in my lifetime in Shropshire has more angered the local community that the idea of these turbines being imposed on residents. Which is why it was encouraging that in the village hall of Chetton on Tuesday 2 July, the parish council voted to reject the turbines – an important round one victory for local democracy.
What was interesting about the meeting was the extent to which Localism – the voice of a community – can really work in practice.
Normally parish council meetings are poorly attended. Nobody really cares about whether somebody wants to put up some new stables or erect a chicken shed. But for these 80 metre turbines, the village hall was so packed with hundreds of glaring and deeply angry faces – along with some good heckling – that the turbine farmer Clive Millington slunk off before the meeting started and sat in a big black 4X4 vehicle outside the village hall – engine purring – as he waited for the vote to be announced.
No wonder the parish councillors voted with a secret ballot. I wouldn’t want to have to explain myself in the local pub afterwards if the vote had gone the other way.
When the bearded John Halle of Share Energy (the wind developer) made his feeble ‘presentation’ to justify the desecration of Shrophire’s countryside his speech ended with stony silence after he claimed that imposing Crida’s giant turbines on the Shropshire Hills was a price worth paying in order to meet the UK’s EU imposed carbon reduction targets. In contrast, the speech on behalf of the locals opposed to the wind farm received a thundering two minute applause with cheering – comparable to Pavarotti’s last performance at Covent Garden.
But the beauty of the Shropshire Hills, and other historic landscapes across England, is priceless. Those who enjoy our countryside cannot be bought off with promises of a new coat of (ecology friendly) paint for the village hall. Landowners and farmers may own the land, but they do not own our landscape. The skyline countryside belongs to all of us.
My favourite moment came when a rough local Chetton resident in overalls standing at the back asked Halle whether he had carried out a ‘green audit’ on the carbon emission efficiency on the farm of Clive Millington. ‘Have you taken a look around Millington’s farm?’ he shouted out. ‘Have you seen how Clive runs the place? Have you seen the big Mercedes?’
Halle flustered and admitted that it was of no concern to him what level of carbon emissions – including diesel fuels for the tractors and Range Rovers – came from the heavily industrialised farm which is a model of EU ‘subsidy’ harvesting. That’s ‘greenie’ developer logic for you.
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