The landscape of southern Britain could soon look quite different, even bearing in mind the massive changes already made.
Construction of large solar farms, which merit their own symbol on Ordnance Survey maps, has continued at a pace and anyone driving up the A34 just to the north of Winchester can’t fail to have noticed the massive solar structures being installed there.
These panels are just a stone’s throw from the pumps that extract oil from one of the many southern English wells and in an area that had once been designated for fracking exploration that stretched as far north as Andover’s southern fringes. That may yet come back as the science of fracking is “re-examined” to see if it has somehow become safer but landowners need to be aware that once the company pulls out they are responsible for the maintenance of the sealed well. It’s a poison pill that may be only swallowed by the next generation but it could be detrimental to land values.
The desire for energy self-sufficiency will see the reappraisal of wind farm projects that not so long ago would have been unacceptable on landscape grounds. The promise of cheaper electricity for those living within waving distance of turbines on stalks could yet be enough to buy off objectors, especially when many of them will rely on electric heating to replace the volatility of oil prices.
If more wind turbine schemes do get the planning green light then the central southern England that our children look out onto could be very different from the one that previous generations have known and loved. Instead of flocks of sheep, herds of cattle, crops of barley and wheat future landscape artists may be painting fields of glaring solar panels and skylines dominated by imposing wind turbines.
A more immediate worry for many people is the scourge of fly tipping, which has been experienced by virtually every farmer I know, and there’s a lot of them. Much is made of the cost to authorities who have to clear illegally tipped waste from public spaces but frequently overlooked is the cost to private landowners who are obliged to clear the waste at their own expense and face prosecution if they don’t. The only people to get away with no cost, apart from a bit of fuel to get to the dumping ground, are the fly tippers themselves who have to be really unlucky to get caught. Driving home the other evening the enticing open woodland at the end of the drive caught my eye, not because of the wonderful display of bluebells that were emerging, but instead by the 12 bin bags of rubbish and half an old sofa that had appeared as if by magic in the two hours since I had last driven by!
The Government is offering £450,000 between select local authorities to set up surveillance to catch culprits. Three of the councils are Eastleigh, Winchester, and Basingstoke and Deane. Fly tippers who are aware of this central Hampshire zone might be tempted into a slightly longer trip to a neighbouring authority’s area to avoid detection. Perhaps extra vigilance will be needed in Test Valley, West Berkshire, and eastern Hampshire if the grants are not themselves to prove a rubbish idea!
Kevin Prince has wide experience of farming and rural business in Hampshire, where he lives near Andover, and across southern England as a director in the Adkin consultancy. His family also run a diversified farm with commercial lets, holiday cottages and 800 arable acres.
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