Terence Blacker: How an energy company put wind in our sails

Share
Related Topics

It is time to doff the cap to a developer, to utter grateful thanks to a member of that much-criticised group, the energy companies. They may have resisted a windfall tax and made unfortunate jokes about profiteering from the energy crisis, but in south Norfolk, a toast is being drunk to the wisdom and judgement of one of their number.

Until a few days ago, a proposal was in place to develop a stretch of agricultural land between four villages into a wind power plant containing seven 125-metre turbines and the considerable infrastructure needed to connect the plant to the national grid. As, over the past year, the project entered the planning process and an ever-wider collection of interests and factions became involved, it seemed likely that a much-loved and much-used part of local landscape would become industrialised and changed for ever. The community became caught up in the sort of crazed soap opera of rumour, propaganda, stress and division which is being experienced in towns and villages across the country.

Then, at the end of last week, the company involved announced, almost casually, that it had changed its mind. The site contained a number of disadvantages which, taken together, suggested that it was inappropriate for development. The plan was being abandoned. The grateful thanks are not for the wisdom of this decision. The original proposal had always been slightly dotty. There are houses on all sides of the site. The wind is even said to be unusually low in the area. With the urgent need for renewable energy, it is more important than ever that investment goes into developments with minimal impact on human lives and landscape, and maximum energy efficiency. This site would fail abysmally on both counts.

The gratitude owed to the energy company and the landowner has nothing to do with energy; it concerns the community. Frankly, it shook us out of our complacency. For years, we had taken for granted the fact that we had a stretch of attractive, unspoilt land, with a public bridleway and over-wintering flocks of lapwings and golden plover within walking distance. Over the traumatic, and occasional melodramatic, past year, this precious resource has been appreciated in a way it never was before. "I suppose I'm selfish," said a man who has lived in the area all his life. "I just like looking across those fields at the end of the day when the sun's going down."

That was another useful lesson learned. The debate about development often contains easy, intellectually idle accusations of selfishness: the energy companies are philanthropic environmentalists while those arguing that the landscape of a small, crowded island is too precious to squander for dubious benefits are deemed to be self-interested. It is desperate, cynical nonsense, invariably deployed when all other arguments have failed.

The developers managed something which politicians have failed to do. They unified a community, bringing together a variety of personalities and talents in common cause. That sort of localism, frequently invoked by politicians, is a powerful force once galvanised into concerted action. It seems more than possible that the dynamic collective spirit sparked into life by the threat to the landscape will continue, perhaps investigating possibilities of co-operative conservation, the sort of initiative being championed by the Transition Network. We have become involved in what is perhaps the most urgent debate of our time. Another kind of energy has been released.

* As Andrew Motion wearily approaches the end of his tenure as Poet Laureate, he deserves our thanks. Unkindly mocked in the media, Motion has promoted the cause of poetry and done much to rehabilitate poets back into the community. His recent complaint that it has been a thankless task is surely justified: writing poetry for the Queen is futility personified. In revealing that his work has suffered, Motion has delivered another useful lesson. The more a writer plays the part of being a writer, the less he writes.

Live music is made for sharing

One of the less surprising news items this week was that the revenue earned from live music now exceeds the value of CD and download sales.

According to market research company Mintel, £1.5bn was spent on recorded music last year, compared to £1.9bn for tickets to live concerts – £1.05bn going on rock and pop, £500m on classical, £200m on jazz and £150m on opera. The explanations for this trend tell only half the story.

The perceived value of recorded music has fallen as it becomes more easily available online, says the Mintel report. By contrast, the popularity of festivals has grown at an extraordinary rate. There were 12 festivals listed on the website efestivals.co.uk in 2000 – today there are 664. But why? There is surely a connection between the trend away from the recorded to the live and the fact people spend an ever-increasing amount of time in front of a computer screen, cut off from human contact. There is a hunger for community – and that good live music provides almost better than anything else.

* Which public figure would you least like to appear, with reporters and cameras in tow, at a moment of intense private grief? The answer for most people would surely be Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York – the ex-royal, ex-children's author, ex-weightwatcher who is now a byword for celebrity nothingness.

Yet, strangely, there she was, centre stage, at the funeral for Ben and Catherine Mullany, the Welsh couple shot dead on their honeymoon in Antigua. Fergie had met members of the family while on her way to Antigua with her daughters for a holiday; the family, presumably, were flying out to bring back the couple's bodies. Weeks later, the Duchess was at Llandaff Cathedral, reading a Yeats poem at the funeral and looking sorrowful in news photographs. "The nation was so touched by [the murders] and I just felt they were taken away at such a young age," she told the press, adding that the Sarah Ferguson Foundation would contribute £10,000 to a charity set up in memory of the Mullanys.

Families grieve in their own way and, if Fergie's presence at the funeral helped those close to the Mullanys, then their wishes should be respected. But it is difficult not to feel faintly queasy as this fringe celebrity plays the Queen of Hearts role, hawking her qualifications as a mum and parent and implying that she was there to represent the nation. As with all celebrity endorsements, playing a lead role at the funeral will provide a useful pay-off in terms of image and publicity.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Media Sales - OTE up to £30,000

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Software Developer

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique & exciting opp...

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The economics of the stock market is simple really: buy and hold

Ben Chu
Jeb Bush's campaign will emphasise both his conservative record as a former governor of Florida and his commitment to building a more inclusive Republican Party  

American democracy is up for sale, and it’s a warning to us all

Shirley Williams
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border