Local campaigners slowing down windfarm applications: selfish obstructionism or democracy in action? For the question of building Britain's wind energy infrastructure, at least the onshore part of it, presents us with a dilemma.
There's no doubt at all that an enormous increase in our output of wind energy is needed to fight climate change: we have agreed with the EU to provide 20 per cent of our energy from renewable resources by 2020 – up from less than 5 per cent at present. This is a huge challenge – it translates into more than 35 per cent of our electricity – and wind power is currently the major tool to achieve this.
But windfarms are best sited where there's a lot of wind, and in Britain that is (apart from the coast) in the uplands, and the uplands contain our most cherished landscapes (eight out of the first nine National Parks to be designated were upland sites). There is no doubt that some places, such as the Lake District, are simply inappropriate for collections of giant windmills, however necessary they may be. Opponents of a windfarm may merely be defending their view and their house prices: but they may also be defending a still-inviolate sense of solitude which is valuable to us all.
If you think the imperative of climate change overrides everything, and wind farms should be put absolutely anywhere, answer this: would you put a wind farm next to Stonehenge? If you answer "yes", I can only say that you need help. It is the less obvious cases which are genuinely difficult. But to some extent the difficulty will be resolved in the coming years, as most windfarm construction moves offshore, where bolshie neighbours are not a problem.