Julia Stephenson: Green Goddess
Thursday 24 August 2006
I thought I would update you on my eco renovations, which are moving forward at a snail's pace. Miraculously, the council granted permission for three wind turbines on my roof four months ago. We asked for three, thinking we might get one if lucky, so were amazed when they agreed to them all.
Our application quietly slipped under the wire without objection, setting an unexpected precedent, which Donnachadh, my eco-coach, reckons led to Cameron getting permission for his own turbine last month. Apparently, few councillors were aware that a far more low-profile turbine had stealthily crept into the neighbourhood and were poised to turn him down.
But the council was the least of my problems. I had to overcome the potential objections of the neighbours. Although I live on the top floor of a block of flats, I share the ownership of the roof, where the turbines will be installed, with five others. Given the level of fear and misinformation about turbines, this could have been a problem.
I seduced my potential Nimbys with a softly, softly approach, casually drip-feeding them news for months that I was thinking about getting a very small turbine. I became impressively community-minded. Linda Snell in The Archers could have got tips off me. I filled communal parts with pictures and flowers, organised the cleaning and found a window-cleaner. I even splashed out on some Jo Malone pot-pourri.
So when my neighbours got the letter hitting them with news that I was applying for three turbines, solar panels and a roof extension, they didn't seem too worried.
The only real objector was "head neighbour" and ex-Guards officer Rupert, who owns the largest collection of medieval armour in the country, and runs our house efficiently, like a mini-fiefdom. What he says goes, so it was essential to get him on board.
Rupert convened a meeting of all neighbours to discuss his "concerns". My heart sank. Fortunately, I had a secret weapon: my pal Summer, the eco-warrior Naomi Campbell-lookalike who lives with Rupert. Although Rupert isn't keen on turbines, he's very keen on Summer, who had been furiously buttering him up on my behalf. In every relationship there is "the kissed" and "the kisser", and Summer is most definitely the kissed, so she is the power behind the throne - the Madame de Pompadour of the household, if you like.
Summer and I bought biodynamic champagne and organic canapés, and persuaded Donnachadh to attend. Professor James Lovelock was on speed-dial to answer any awkward questions. Fortunately, after copious amounts of booze, the neighbours were in no mood to discuss global meltdown and quickly gave my eco plans the OK.
However, there are still more bureaucratic hurdles to tackle. Now we have to have party-wall consents, and as everyone is currently on holiday at Heathrow airport, it may take some time.
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