James Delingpole

We’re destroying our countryside – and for what?

By the time you read this I’ll be in the place that makes me happier than anywhere else in the world: a section of the Wye valley in beautiful mid-Wales, where I’ll spend every day paddling in streams and plunging in mill ponds and playing cockie-ollie in the bracken and wandering across the sunlit uplands, drinking in perhaps the finest view God ever created — the one across the Golden Valley towards the Black Mountains, and beyond that to the Brecon Beacons.

6 August 2011

By the time you read this I’ll be in the place that makes me happier than anywhere else in the world: a section of the Wye valley in beautiful mid-Wales, where I’ll spend every day paddling in streams and plunging in mill ponds and playing cockie-ollie in the bracken and wandering across the sunlit uplands, drinking in perhaps the finest view God ever created — the one across the Golden Valley towards the Black Mountains, and beyond that to the Brecon Beacons.

By the time you read this I’ll be in the place that makes me happier than anywhere else in the world: a section of the Wye valley in beautiful mid-Wales, where I’ll spend every day paddling in streams and plunging in mill ponds and playing cockie-ollie in the bracken and wandering across the sunlit uplands, drinking in perhaps the finest view God ever created — the one across the Golden Valley towards the Black Mountains, and beyond that to the Brecon Beacons.

And each time I do so I wonder sadly whether this will be the last time I get to witness such perfection. No, I’m not dying, I don’t think. But the country I love is. Right now, all over Britain, there are people like me thinking similar thoughts about the special, secret place most dear to their hearts. For some, maybe it’s the Northumberland coast; for others, perhaps it’s Fullabrook Down in north Devon or the Vale of Avon Dassett in Northamptonshire. But the menace they fear is exactly the same.

Let me give you just one example of the kind of mini-tragedy being played out every day across Britain. It involves a man named Wyck who lives with his wife in mid-Wales near Machynlleth, not far from the environmental campaigner George Monbiot. Some years ago, Wyck bought a home there, in a valley so unspoilt and remote he still draws his drinking water from a well. Here he expected to live out a contented retirement. But then, last year, permission was granted for a massive wind farm to be built on the hills directly overlooking his house. And there was, he soon discovered, absolutely nothing he could do to stop it.

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The emails he sends me recording his battles with the unsympathetic authorities are so sad I can scarcely bear to read them. Here was their response when he wrote to ask how he was supposed to put up with the increased noise of those humming turbine blades at night. ‘Regarding your concerns about ETSU permitting higher noise levels at night, there are a number of reasons for this, including that most people tend to be indoors and have their windows closed between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., which mitigates against the sound of wind turbines.’

So at the whim of some bureaucrat, Wyck has not only had his view ruined, and the value of his property trashed (with no compensation), but is also expected to do something he has never done before in all his life and probably never thought he’d have to do — sleep with the windows shut.

Now maybe this detail doesn’t bother you as much as it does me. Maybe you’re one of those people who likes sleeping with their windows closed. Maybe even, heaven forfend, you’re one of those weapons-grade pillocks who declares: ‘Well personally I think wind turbines look rather splendid!’ But what I’ll hope we’ll all be able to agree on is that among the advantages of living in a free, democratically accountable country is that property rights are sacrosanct and that lifestyle is a matter of personal choice.

Some city dwellers, I know, detest the country. They find the mud too muddy, the people too reactionary, the social life too dreary. And here’s the brilliant thing: they are never required to go anywhere near it. Their whole lives they are perfectly free to spend congratulating themselves how urban they are; how culturally rich; how edgy; how diverse. If they can afford the eco-taxes on air fares, they can even fly to other cities at weekends to compare notes. That’s how pluralistic societies work — each to his own.

Except, now, it seems country dwellers — and occasional visitors capable of appreciating what’s special about the country — have been rendered exempt from this privilege. They’re expected to sit there and take it while their views are obliterated, their peace shattered by subsonic humming and flickery strobing, their retirement nest-eggs stolen, their cherished walks rendered toxic. And all for the sake of… well, here’s the truly disgraceful part… no bloody reason at all.

If there were one single argument in favour of wind farms then maybe at least a smidgen of the suffering they cause might be justifiable. But there isn’t, not one. I’ll spare you the full litany — read Christopher Booker; read John Etherington’s definitive The Wind Farm Scam. Suffice to say that even in terms of saving the environment (their supposed raison d’être), they fail dismally, not just because of the birds and bats they destroy, and the poisonous rare earth minerals used in their manufacture, but because — owing to the erratic nature of wind — they require 100 per cent back-up from conventional power kept humming on standby just in case.

One day, when it’s all over, historians are going to look back on this era as one of the most extraordinary outbreaks of collective madness there has ever been. ‘However could any democratically elected government have allowed such damage to be inflicted on Britain’s single greatest asset — its countryside — to so little benefit?’

And what will particularly incense the more socially conscious of those historians is the method by which this despoliation was achieved: the compulsory transfer, via taxes, tariffs and artificially inflated energy bills, of money from the pockets of the poor and the middle classes into those of rich landowners like Sir Reginald Sheffield, Bt, who — in the teeth of local opposition — has put up eight 400-foot wind farms on his 3,000-acre Lincolnshire estate and stands to make up to £3.5 million a year from them. With a bit more research they might even discover who Sir Reginald’s son-in-law is. O Tempora, O Mores, they’ll say.

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Show comments
  • ROBINA bull

    “they require 100 per cent back-up from conventional power kept humming on standby just in case.”
    Well, not really. Pumped storage provides a Co2-free backup.

  • Mariwarcwm

    I wonder if Robina Bull could tell me how much CO2 there is in the atmosphere; can she describe the mechanism by which CO2 warms the atmosphere? does she know that the warming effect is strongly logarithmic? what proportion is natural and what proportion man made, and why she can possibly believe, having looked up the answers, that CO2 is dangerous.

    Brilliant, Delingpole. I looked up Sir Reginald Sheffield and discovered who his daughter is. I believe that a close colleague of his son-in-law has a wife who earns £300.000 pa from windmills in Spain. I wondered how the Government could possibly continue to waste money on daft wind power, and put up energy prices in this recession. Some people are unbelievably selfish, ruin the environment and ruin the economy as well. It’s scandalous. Thank you for keeping up the fight.

  • David Insall

    Robina Bull displays the wisdom of a nobody. Pumped storage at Port Dinorwic was created in the hollow of a slate mine, whose excavation would cost millions today. Maybe she’ll put up the ready cash to start a new one?

  • allalongthewatchtower

    Well said, James, and as for Robina Bull and her fatuous pumped-storage schemes, consider the mechanics and economics of those – water pumped uphill so that it can be released at peak-consumption surges (i.e. after Corrie/Eastenders, when all the goggle-eyed unrealists are craving their cup of Maxwell House). Consider too the damage done by them to wild mountain environments. As to wind-turbines in Wales, take a look at Jim Perrin’s article in issue 2 of the re-launched Night & Day magazine for a view on this that affirms and expands on that of James Delingpole. The link is:

    He dishes even more dirt on the subsidy-garnering of Cameron, Clegg et al. Pray heaven this is going to be this year’s expenses scandal before they ruin every scrap of remaining beautiful land that Britain still has. Come on, Telegraph journos – on the case!

  • Lynn Pearson

    Thank you James, you have voice my thoughts perfectly – Yes, I do live in the beautiful English countryside, in our retirement nestegg of a house with an outstanding view and very close to the proposed windfarm you mentioned at Knightcote (Warwickshire). This is Hobbit countryside and actually the inspiration for Tolkein’s Shire – we can see ‘Roundtop’ from the hill behind our house! (for those who know The Lord of the Rings)- his worst nightmare is coming true, want to build turbines all over it – desicration.

  • Brownedoff

    ROBINA bull

    “they require 100 per cent back-up from conventional power kept humming on standby just in case.”

    Well, not really. Pumped storage provides a Co2-free backup.
    Sorry but you are wide of the mark but the following may help:

    National Grid state that:

    However, as the amount of wind increases, the proportion of conventional capacity that can be displaced without eroding the level of security reduces. For example, for 25000MW of wind only 5000MW (i.e. 20% of the wind capacity) of conventional capacity can be retired. This implies that, for larger wind penetrations, the wind capacity that can be taken as firm is not proportional to the expected wind energy production. It follows that the electricity market will need to maintain in service a larger proportion of conventional generation capacity despite reduced load factors. Such plant is often referred to as “standby plant”.

    see: http://tinyurl.com/3zmocas

    Putting this into plain English, what NG means is, that if you have 25,000 MW of wind, then you need 20,000 MW of “standby plant”, that is 80% of the wind.

    Secretly, I think that NG would prefer 100%, just to be really secure.

    I assume that you are aware that the “greenest government ever” seeks to impose about 30,000 MW of wind on the peasants.

    Using the 80% figure, for 30,000 MW wind, NG need access to 24,000 MW of standby plant.

    Just put this into perspective for you, Staythorpe CCGT, which was opened in May 20011, is capable of feeding about 1,650 MW into the grid. The cost of this power station was about £1 billion.

    see: http://tinyurl.com/3d2a5d7

    Therefore, if Dave’s fanasty comes to pass, someone (Gawd knows who) will have to build at least 15 Staythorpes to provide the necessary “standby” capacity. This would cost the power companies much more than £15 billion because costs are rising all the time and would take at least 15 years to achieve because you cannot build them all at once.

    Incidently, the pumped storage capacity at the end of 2010 was about 2,750 MW which, whilst useful today, comes nowhere near the standby capacity required when Dave’s nightmare comes to pass, being about 11% of 24,000 MW standby required.

    Why don’t you take this up with your MP.

  • Steve Davies

    Robina, UK pumped storage has the capacity to back up about 1% of UK electricity supply, wastes energy, and is incredibly expensive and carbon hungry to engineer. It is also already fully employed. All storage systems are very wasteful of energy including car batteries. There are much better ways of reducing CO2 emissions than wind-power. Trouble is wind is a gravy train – we all pay the rich land-owners and get nothing in return. I say ‘we want our money back!’

  • John Dracup

    ROBINA bull

    “Pumped storage provides a Co2-free backup”.

    Where do you think the power comes from to run the equipment in reverse to lift the
    water from the lower pond to the upper pond? Well, it comes from power plants which are emitting CO2 to varying degrees. Did you not know?

    So, you are wrong, pumped storage is not a CO2 free backup.

    Here is a list of the existing pumped storage schemes:

    Dinorwig 1,728 MW – 28 years old
    Festiniog 360 MW – 50 years old
    Foyers 300 MW – 37 years old
    Cruachan 440 MW – 45 years old
    Total = 2,780 MW

    Anyone hazard a guess when these old timers will start to fall over? They do not last forever you know.

    However, some proposals for new pumped storage in Scotland:

    Conversion of existing hydro
    Sloy, 60 MW

    New pumped storage schemes
    Coire Glas, 300 to 600 MW
    Balmacaan, 300 to 600 MW
    Total = 660 MW to 1,260 MW

    So,the best case is 1,260 MW new pumped storage sometime in the future, or maybe never what with capital being scarce and expensive.

    It is likely that there will be little or no pumped storage available if and when Dave’s dream comes true in 2020.

    Trebles all round! (copyright Private Eye).

  • Scilla Dillon

    Brilliant article.Thank you James! Sums up the complete scam.
    Please keep fighting. Well said allalongthewatchtower, MP’s in favour of Turbines SHOULD be shown up and disgraced. Surely the country could do better things with the £120 BILLION wasted on these monstrosities?

  • fenbeagle

    Well said James. More strength to you for saying it.

  • SuffolkBoy

    I am not scared so much that the country is populated by expert energy consultants of the quality of ROBINA but that the same delusion has infested the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, the UK Government, my local authority and the delegates to the UN. Either this is a new global religion or a massive scam.

  • Duncan Foulkes

    Great article James. Hopefully, the anti-windfarm campaign that continues to grow in Mid Wales will gather momentum and kill these madcap proposals once and for all. Apart from a few landowners, who will be laughing all the way to the bank, I am unaware of many people in favour the plans to desecrate more of the uplands of Mid Wales. We already have more than 200 wind turbines in this beautiful part of the country and there are another 600 planned. Allied to the turbines are powerlines and a 19-acre substation. I would urge anyone who cares for beautiful Mid Wales to join the campaign against these devastating proposals. And just in case you hear claims that the campaign is run by a vociferous minority who have moved to live in this area, let me assure you that there are just as many, if not more, ‘locals’ involved.

  • John Lucas

    Well done James – another brilliant article. The trouble is, it has made me more depressed than ever about the rape of the landscape by these wind-farm obscenities. I too live in mid-Wales, not far from the proposed Nant-y-moch development, which will turn a truly wild area, including the nationally important Hyddgen Valley, into an industrialised landscape (but why let 600 years of history get in the way of a good money making scam?). The politicians who sanction this desecration are either inept or corrupt.

  • peter shore

    It is a disgrace what is happening accross the Brotish countryside , it is all about profit for the companies concerned subsidised by the higher energy costs we all pay ,for something so grossley inificient and unsightly ,it is also being proposed accross large areas of the Buitifull Somerset levels ( see http://www.nopilrow.co.uk and also the links to huntspill site

  • right_writes

    I cannot see a huge amount of difference between these wind turbine thugs and the looting kind of thugs James, apart of course from the damage done by the warmist types.

    As for the motivation, both are spurious.

  • Jude Smith

    Answer me this, any of you. Would you prefer to live next to a coal fired power station or a wind farm? Be completely honest.

  • peter shore

    Stupid question Jude Smith , no need for either in an area such as the Somerset levels , their is a huge potential from the Severn . which would also act a not only urban re-generation 0creating much needed jobs ) but when built an atraction that would again bring much needed revenue

  • bufo75

    Sir Reginald Sheffield wrote to the Spectator in response to this article to say ‘the planning permission at Bagmoor had very little local opposition and was passed by North Lincolnshire’s planning committee without recourse to a planning enquiry’. However in June 2007 the Independent tells us that ‘Last year there was controversy over planning consent given for a series of eight 400ft wind turbines to be built on land at Bagmoor. At the 11th hour however 6 Tory planning officers were forced to withdraw from the planning meeting, after it emerged that Sir Reginald had an interest in the site’.
    What ‘controversy’ and why were the Tories ‘forced to withdraw’ ?

  • Mike

    Land owners farmers governments have ruined the countryside for all sorts of reasons and shut the public out,the destruction that has been done to our wildlife is very sad,I am 60 and when I was a boy the countryside was alive everywhere with wildlife with ponds meadows marshland to support it, its sad children are missing out,look at Google earth to see how farmers have cut into the forest and made it ugly and sterilised it,same old greed so sad.Mike.

  • Andrea Harvey

    I agree totally with the article. But, it’s not just wind farms, it’s everything. Solar farms, horrible monstrosity buildings and many others. Some blame immigrants but it’s not just that. It’s greedy, selfish individuals who buy up land and property to rent out at extortionate rents. I live in a village and half the village is empty during the winter months. Why? Because they are second or third homes just for holiday makers and now they say they need to build affordable homes on our beautiful countryside. If people weren’t so greedy, there would be no need for more houses. One landowner near me who owns a caravan park has bought up nearly all the land around here, knocked down two beautiful old Art Deco houses to build ugly buildings twice the size of the originals just so his holiday makers can spend a couple of weeks a year there and he can charge a fortune for the privilege. These were once family homes.

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