Janet Street-Porter: In this green contest, the environment loses

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The Independent Online

Plans to fast-track planning applications for commercial wind farms unveiled by the Government this week have caused consternation among environmentalists. To launch his plans, Mr Blair decided to take a boat trip from Whitstable in Kent to see the new wind farm which has just been completed off the coast.

Of course, this was really another photo-opportunity in our two political leaders' media battle to appear more green and loveable than the other. Shame that Mr Cameron slightly upstaged Blair by getting planning permission for a wind turbine on the roof of his house in Kensington the very same day.

There is no doubt that wind farms can supply us with another vitally needed source of energy. But constructing them close to areas of outstanding natural beauty or nature reserves is always going to be controversial. I doubt Mr Blair was too interested in the David and Goliath struggle going on a few miles down the coast from where his boat trip began. Graveney Marshes are said to have inspired Charles Dickens and Daniel Defoe. The coastal path which runs from Seasalter and Whitstable along the Swale estuary and into Faversham is one of my top coastal hikes in Britain.

But the consortium planning to build 270 wind turbines in the sea off the North Kent coast, Shell WindEnergy, submitted a proposal to build a large, ugly electrical substation on unspoilt Cleve Hill, overlooking Graveney Marshes. Apart from the fact that this monstrosity would take two to five years to build, and completely disrupt the tranquillity of a Kentish backwater, the large rectangular building would have been totally out of keeping with the rural location. Graveney is a tiny hamlet, with a charming small flint 11th-century church, fields of cherry trees and reedy pastures with a network of drainage ditches where sheep and cattle graze.

The villagers formed an action group, set up a website, lobbied councillors and publicised their case in the local press. Early in June they managed to halt the Shell consortium's multimillion-pound plans when Swale Borough Council turned down the planning application. But the campaigners should not be celebrating yet- because the consortium has several months in which to appeal, and now it looks as if Fast Track Tony will ensure that another bit of rural Britain is desecrated for ever.

Up in North Yorkshire, the people of Harrogate know only too well how commercial wind farm operators have the ear of government. In spite of huge local opposition, and being turned down by Harrogate Council, a wind farm is to be built right on the edge of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, at Knabs Ridge. The developers just went straight to John Prescott, who overruled the local council within a fortnight. The turbines will be visible for at least 15 miles, right inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Well done, John! Surely the future for wind power lies in encouraging people to use less electricity and in the Government taking a lead by declaring they are going to cut their consumption by at least 10 per cent a year?

Farewell and shine on...

The death of Syd Barrett has resulted in an outpouring of affection for a rock legend. Tom Stoppard's new play, Rock'n'Roll, at the Royal Court, refers to Syd and on the day he died the show ended with a silent tribute.

In late 1966 or early 1967, I would go and see Pink Floyd rehearse in a large empty room in Cromwell Road, west London. They were inspirational. I remember my husband Tim concocting a light show with liquids between glass slides to provide a psychedelic backdrop for the band in Bristol, and at the UFO club in Tottenham Court Road. Best of all was the 14-Hour Technicolour Dream at Alexandra Palace in London in 1967, a fund-raiser for the alternative newspaper International Times, which had been closed down by the Obscene Publications Squad. Pink Floyd topped the bill, and the atmosphere was electric - the crowd were so stoned they started chanting "jump, jump, jump" when a young man, clearly off his head from LSD, started inching along the parapet high above us.

Syd was a tragic victim of the era, but many other musicians I used to go and see have carried on brilliantly. Take Jeff Beck, an icon whom time has not changed one iota. He played at the Tower of London Music Festival earlier this week, with the blues legend Buddy Guy, looking and sounding just as terrific as he did when he replaced Eric Clapton in the Yardbirds in 1966. He's playing festivals in Berlin this weekend and Japan next week, proving that quality still sells.

* I would love to see Mr Prescott kitted up in his handcrafted Wild West outfit, complete with Stetson, a silver personalised "JP" belt, and cowboy boots. Where do you imagine Prezza was planning to wear this ludicrous ensemble? I can't imagine he will be pitching up for a spot of line-dancing in his constituency in Hull, or sporting it to accompany Pauline when she does the weekly shop at Asda. Perhaps it sits in mothballs, ready for the lavish opening ceremonies for Mr Anschutz's supercasino down in Docklands. When he's removed from office, I can suggest a perfect use for his cowboy costume - Mr Prescott could retrain as a croupier. I'm sure Mr Anschutz can incorporate a John Wayne room if his casino bid is successful.

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