Letters: Locals powerless against the wind-power lobby

 

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Terence Blacker's experiences and complaints are echoed throughout many other rural communities whose lives have been blighted, or are under threat, from the erection of wind turbines ("The public has bought the myths of the vast wind energy industry", 1 May).

Local people around here are fighting a planning application to build four 125m-tall wind turbines (bigger than the London Eye) less than a mile from the rural hamlet of Hollingdon and the villages of Soulbury and Stoke Hammond in Buckinghamshire. As with Mr Blacker's experience, there has been absolutely no consultation by the developer with residents and the apparent arrogance of these energy firms towards the local population simply beggars belief.

We have also had a group calling themselves Yes2Wind suddenly appear with their stall in our high streets. Their stall has an amateur look and feel to it, but is showcased by a well-thought-out and designed banner with a logo covered in green flashes and lettering, seemingly cleverly designed to give the appearance they are an independent green group.

However, Yes2Wind are not a green group by any stretch of the imagination, as they are owned and run by company called Pendragon PR, which in turn has been directly employed by the large energy companies to go around the country and gather support for their planning applications.

The Yes2Wind people manning their stall don't admit this unless challenged, or indeed have it written anywhere on their literature or documentation, that they are being directly employed and paid by the developer to gather signatures. Mr Blacker is right; the process is skewed from the start, with energy companies employing every underhand tactic they can come up with. But what disturbs me more than anything is the way local democracy from the parish councils upwards can overwhelmingly oppose such applications, often with very valid reasons, yet our democracy is then steamrollered by a planning inspector, leaving little, if any, right to appeal.

Michael W Cook

Soulbury, Buckinghamshire

Terence Blacker accuses me of absurdity in claiming that only tiny parcels of land are open to wind energy development.

Opponents of wind farms may be astonished to learn that the wind industry understands the importance many people attach to views – and that we sympathise with them. That's why wind-energy developers work with communities throughout the planning process to identify how the visual impact of a project can be minimised.

This can only work if communities are willing to sit down with developers and properly engage with project proposals, and not reject them out of hand. The number of constraints this process puts on potential sites for development is significant. Only 0.2 per cent of our landmass hosts wind turbines, and even if every proposal planned is built out, this will only equate to 0.5 per cent (within which only a tiny amount of land is actually taken up by turbines themselves, with the rest given over to farming etc). For comparison, roads take up 1.5 per cent, while agriculture takes 77 per cent.

Mr Blacker also claims that only people living in the vicinity of proposed wind-energy projects should be polled when assessing public support.

Why does he want to exclude people living near existing wind farms? In fact, 62 per cent of rural residents think the visual impact of wind turbines is acceptable, compared to 57 per cent of people who live in towns and cities.

This is not surprising – people who live in the countryside are much more likely to have actually seen a wind farm for themselves.

Maria McCaffery

RenewableUK, London SW1

School inspectors of the golden age

With all this talk of Ofsted (letters, 8 May), I wonder whether any ex-teachers like myself can remember the general inspections conducted by Her Majesty's Inspectors years ago? In my 34 years at the chalkface, I only ever had one. It took place in 1979 when I was a young recently appointed head of languages at a large comprehensive on the outskirts of Lincoln.

We were descended upon by 15 HMIs, who stayed around two weeks. At the end of the inspection each HMI took his or her head of department to one side and gave advice as to how we could improve. I found it altogether a very positive experience.

Scroll forward 15 years and I was still head of department at the same school when we had our first Ofsted inspection. After months of preparation from each department, with a mountain of paperwork including extensive schemes of work, we were shocked to find that, when they arrived, their team leader had not bothered to have this paperwork mailed to her over the Christmas holiday, with the result that the inspectors arrived completely unprepared.

The inspection proved less than pleasant, and at the end I received only a cursory report delivered by the team leader in front of myself and the senior management. My inspector appeared to have spent most of her career in a girls' public school, hardly the appropriate training for inspecting the workings of an all-ability school like mine.

John Marriott

Lincoln

When I taught six- and seven-year-olds in primary schools and an inspection was due, I used to tell them a very important person was coming to see them to see how well they behaved. It worked every time!

Rosalind Grant

Newcastle upon Tyne

Airport hygiene shames the UK

Congratulations to British medics, who have only taken 150 years to learn that hand-washing kills bugs ("Hygiene drive leads to health miracle", 4 May). Now that this basic lesson has been learnt can we please move on to the next statement of the obvious: install mixer taps in the toilet areas at British airports and motorway service areas and banish the "danger, hot water" notices which seem to be regarded as a substitute for good sanitation?

It is known that infectious viruses are rapidly spread through areas which attract huge crowds, such as international airports. It would be great if the travelling public could follow the medics' lead and wash their hands properly and regularly – but the handwashing facilities have to work properly first.

Today if I want to wash my hands at, say, Gatwick Airport I have the choice of cold water (reduced effect on bugs) or scalding water (dead bugs but me on my way to A&E). No mixer taps and no plugs in the washbasins means I might as well be in a third-world plumbingless slum rather than a first-world, first-rate airport.

Kevin Probert-Ehaver

Tallinn, Estonia

Philosophy is still going strong

Nicholas Gough (letters, 5 May) will have no difficulty in finding surviving literary and philosophical societies more than 50 years old. In the north of England alone there are those of Manchester (founded 1781), Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1793), Liverpool (1812) and Leeds (1819). Although not among the oldest, Whitby Literary and Philosophical Society is unusual (if not unique) in still running the museum it was founded to provide in 1823 – a museum that is deservedly popular for the range of its exhibits as well as its atmosphere of a typical Victorian "cabinet of curiosities".

Roger Pickles

Whitby, North Yorkshire

Memories of PE misery

Harriet Walker's comments about the lack of enthusiasm of girls for school PE ("I blame the psychotic gym teachers, 2 May) brought back the misery of shivering in a skimpy skirt and polo shirt on freezing netball pitches with much larger girls just handing the ball to one another over my head.

I was once hit across the neck with an enthusiastic hockey stick, and another time awoke after being knocked out by one, to the sound of the teacher yelling at me to get up and stop messing around. And add to that the indignity of always being chosen last by the sporty girls whenever a team was picked.

It wasn't that I didn't like exercise – I loved hill walking and swimming, and since leaving school I have completed two marathons and enjoy fell running.

There are simply some subjects which should never be taught by teachers. Perhaps schools should take out contracts with local-authority gyms and swimming pools, and use their coaches, allowing the kids to choose what form of exercise they want to do. Certainly imposing the misery of "games" on all the small, short-sighted weaklings is likely to put a lot of them off for life.

Liz White

Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire

A triumph for the Coalition

The Coalition leaders have received a lot of criticism lately but I would like to congratulate them on their recent performance. On 8 May they not only managed to find a factory that was still manufacturing British goods, but they also found people with jobs to whom they could talk. Sterling work chaps!

Mike Wood

Thornton, Lancashire

Credit card cues

While I agree with Stuart McLean that British banks have encouraged debts (letter, 5 May), does he not know that a British credit-card supplier will, at his request, set a default to pay off his total outstanding debit balance every month, without monthly instructions? Of course, you must be sure you have sufficient funds in your current account.

Roger Clarke

South Wales

TV hairstyles

Surely the problem is not the hairstyle of the presenter, but the fact that we see too much of it (letters, 4 May). All too often we are given a full-face shot of someone flicking their tresses telling us what a wonderful view or building there is in front of them. A presenter's hairstyle is a matter of personal choice and it should remain that way, without viewers being over-exposed to it.

Dr David Bartlett

Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Low-paid plea

Any new employee at our supermarket does not get paid for a month. So a young person gaining employment must find a way of living for a month with no income, while the supermarket enjoys the interest on their pay. Little wonder that payday loan sharks have a field day. Low-paid workers should benefit from a law forcing employers to pay them weekly on request.

Derek Evans

Devizes, Wiltshire

Police protest

Police officers protesting about cuts to pay and conditions might find the rest of us more sympathetic to their cause had they and their colleagues not so willingly and enthusiastically weighed in on behalf of their political masters to break up the equally legitimate demonstrations of others.

Maxine Watt

Leeds

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