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Philip follows eccentric TV prof into battle against the eco-warriors (and his own son)

A fight between greens pitches a gun-toting royal father against the heir he thinks is a tree-hugger, writes Severin Carrell

A battle royal has broken out over the fate of Britain's countryside. In one camp stands one of Britain's most famous conservationists, Professor David Bellamy, and his powerful new patron, the Duke of Edinburgh.

But an even more powerful alliance is being formed against them, which features one of the Prince of Wales's closest and most trusted advisers - his "green guru" Jonathon Porritt - as well as many of Britain's most prom-inent environmentalists.

The focus of the battle is a new polemic on the state of rural Britain by Professor Bellamy, which carries an admiring foreword by Prince Philip. But for many critics, it is a book that throws into sharp relief the deep divisions over environmentalism between father and son.

The two have often fallen out over the past few years. Prince Charles allegedly accused his father of "vandalism" for felling dozens of ancient oaks and chestnuts at Windsor 12 years ago. His father said his critics were "tree huggers". More recently, GM crops and animals have divided them. Prince Philip likened GM science to selective breeding by farmers. His son, just weeks before, claimed GM techniques were distorting nature.

In his book, Conflicts in the Countryside: The New Battle for Britain, published by the legal stationers Shaws, Professor Bellamy echoes much of Prince Charles's own agenda. He champions wildlife-friendly farms in the Lake District, cereal bars made with "conservation grade" oats, the restoration of ancient woodland and saving the ring ouzel and rare butterflied bird from extinction. But he singles out for attack some of the biggest issues on the green agenda: climate change, windfarms, saving endangered birds of prey and the campaign to stop one of the world's largest quarries being built on an idyllic Scottish island.

In his short foreword to the book, Prince Philip accuses Britain's leading environment groups of creating unnecessary confrontations. "There seems to be mounting intolerance and a lack of trust between factions," he says. "Instead of looking at the whole picture and trying to find compromise solutions, an increasing confrontation and antagonism seems to have developed between the various interests, all of whom should be on the same side."

Mr Porritt describes that argument as "bizarre". The claims, he said, "are completely counter to what's going on. There's more and more proper partnership ... It's pretty damn impressive really. The idea that environmentalists ... are making the situation worse by not settling for sensible compromises is honestly very bizarre."

Professor Bellamy rejects the near universally accepted evidence for man-made climate change, claiming that "water vapour" is the most significant greenhouse gas. The Kyoto Protocol on climate change is "hot air". Recent temperature rises are, he suggests, part of the Earth's natural cycle of ice ages and warm periods. "If all the carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere," he writes, "life as we know it would come to an end."

Windfarms are singled out for particular abuse. He brands them "silver satanic windmills" and "high-rise junk", which "do nothing to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide". He insists they kill "tens of thousands" of birds and bats.

He goes on to claim that a vast quarry on the idyllic Hebridean island of Harris should have been allowed - on the grounds it would stop other small quarries being built elsewhere.

These claims were roundly denounced by Tony Juniper, chief executive of Friends of the Earth, as "bonkers" and "confused".

For increasing numbers of Britain's most prominent environmentalists, these claims have destroyed Professor Bellamy's status as one of the great pioneers of the modern green movement.

Mr Tindale said: "The most dangerous thing about Bellamy is that he enables those for whom it's convenient to dismiss climate change to pretend there's still a debate about the science. The stuff he's saying about climate change is complete nonsense."