Terence Blacker: The public has bought the myths of the vast wind energy industry

The energy business presents itself as if it were some sort of green charity

Share

After almost five years of being on the front line of a battle surrounding a proposed wind farm, I have begun to feel not unlike a turbine myself – buffeted by winds from different directions, turning wearily and often to little effect.

During that campaign, I have seen how one part of our national energy policy works on the ground. For all the doubts cast on the effectiveness of wind energy, and the arguments made over the impact of onshore turbines on landscapes and communities, the rush to develop has, if anything, accelerated.

In 2008, as the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England revealed this week, there were in England 685 giant turbines completed, in construction or awaiting approval. By the start of 2012, the number was 3,442, and applications made by March this year brought the number to 4,100. More and more often, inappropriate sites are selected, the CPRE report says. "Communities feel increasingly powerless in the face of speculative applications from big, well-funded developers."

Will these warnings be heeded? Almost certainly not. The enemy of good policy and fairness, in this case, is boredom. A vast and powerful industry has, with a certain cool daring, presented itself as if it were some sort of warm-hearted green charity, and has characterised anyone with reservations over individual sites as self-interested. The media and the public have, on the whole, bought it.

The case in which I have been involved will soon be concluded, but it has left me disenchanted. Last week, to take the latest example, Renewable UK, the trade body representing energy companies, proudly announced that, in a survey, 66 per cent of Britons were in favour of wind energy. Its boss, Maria McCaffery, has expressed her surprise that those who live in the country support it, too.

Why the surprise? If I were asked whether I was generally in favour of wind power as part of the energy mix, I would be cheerfully part of the majority. Only when you poll those whose daily lives would be affected about specific plans does a survey make any sense. Then there was McCaffery's bizarre claim, on the Today programme, that only "tiny, tiny little parcels" of the English landscape are vulnerable to the plans of developers. A single glance at her own organisation's map of proposed developments gives the lie to that absurd claim.

This disingenuousness is reflected at a local level. When developers conduct an environmental survey, they are not seeking to assess whether the site is suitable or not. The process is skewed from the start. Every test of noise, wildlife, impact on landscape, houses and churches, is designed, selected and presented with one aim in mind – to get it through planning.

Then there is the nastiness. Almost the most shocking part of my exposure to the tactics of wind farm developers has been the attitude of those pursuing their business interests towards those who would be affected by them. It starts with weary indifference, a refusal to attend meetings, attempts to discredit opponents.

Those speaking against a development are accused of selfishness; sacrifices, it is said, have to made by the few for the greater good. It is a somewhat one-sided argument. Ordinary people are required to make a sacrifice in their own lives and health while multinationals can increase their profits and a wealthy landowner – David Cameron's father-in-law, for example – can make millions in return for no work at all.

In the case of the development of which I have experience, the local planning officers and council have behaved with integrity and good sense but – step aside, localism – it will not be the council or local people who make the final decision, but a planning inspector. I am hoping she will attend to the specific issues involved rather than listen to generalised, often slanted arguments. Or would that be selfish of me?

Put the squeeze on class division

A group of MPs looking into social mobility has produced an interim report. The problem, they point out, is that in 2012 Britain is less socially mobile than any other developed nation. This fact, they boldly continue, "harms both social justice and economic growth".

Before handing over this month's Bleeding Obvious Award, we should, in fairness, point out that the committee has identified one of the main problems at issue: pre-school. Something called "school readiness" is very important. "Good parenting and warm family relationships" are what often help a child get on well in later life.

Currently, more than half the chief executives in charge of the FTSE-100 companies were privately educated, as were 70 per cent of high court judges, 54 per cent of top journalists, more than half of senior doctors, and 32 per cent of MPs.

What, then, is the solution to the scandal of worsening class division in Britain? More cuddles at bedtime.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before