The wind turbine that could ruin Norfolk

The Bodham wind turbine will destroy views for miles around

20 April 2013

Want to see a beautiful corner of old England? Come to north Norfolk, its gentle landscape dotted with houses, halls and cottages built from flint and clay dug from north Norfolk soil. Visit Baconsthorpe Castle, one of the most magical places in Britain, down a lane, up a track, round a corner and in a time warp. Walk, cycle or potter along winding country lanes under grand skies that have inspired poets and painters for centuries. Come, but come now — because, barring a miracle, north Norfolk will very soon be wrecked beyond recognition.

In an act that demonstrates the utter lie of the coalition’s claim to be committed to localism, a central government planning inspector has overturned the North Norfolk District Council’s decision to refuse permission for a gigantic wind turbine at Bodham, in the heart of our unspoiled countryside. When the scheme first emerged in August 2011, I wrote here of my disbelief that anyone could seriously consider ripping up our timeless skyscape with a 284-foot structure with a blade-span the width of a jumbo jet. The tip of the turbine would be 579 feet above sea level. It would degrade views for miles in all directions.

‘They’ve got to be kidding,’ I wrote. ‘No chance. The planners wouldn’t wear it.’

And the planners didn’t. Unanimously. I was there. Every man Jack on the district council said ‘No!’ Not one parish council spoke in favour of the turbine. One thousand, four hundred and fifty-five people wrote in to object to it. No other local planning proposal has ever generated such a response.

Proposals of precisely this kind had been foreseen and forbidden by the local authority in its planning policy, which declares that turbines ‘sited so prominently that they are apparent for miles’ should not be allowed, and particularly not ‘near the Cromer ridge’ — on which the Bodham turbine would be built.

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But the developer appealed, an outsider was bused in to review the decision, and he overturned it. On 8 April, the turbine was granted planning permission by an inspector who judged the opinion of local people and their elected representatives to be wrong. ‘This is not a referendum,’ he told the hearing. Indeed, it was not.

Nor was it a good advertisement for the 2011 Localism Act, which Nick Clegg told us would ‘mark the beginning of a power shift away from central government to the people, families and communities of Britain.’

Well, Nick, come here and tell that to Barbara, whose home is set to be dominated by a monstrous, throbbing machine with blades that will cut a 170ft hole in the sky 600 yards from her front door. Pop round the corner and explain to Paula, Simon and their young son how power has shifted from central government to families like theirs, when their home life is ruined by the overwhelming presence of turbines built in pursuit of insane central government policies.

And while you are here, drive six miles up the road to the council offices at Cromer — you’d have a good view of that turbine for most of the way — and explain your Act to the councillors our community elected. You could start with the summary on the parliament.uk website: ‘The Bill will devolve greater powers to councils and neighbourhoods and give local communities more control over housing and planning decisions.’

Perhaps it would be fairer to ask your colleague Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to come here and explain why the views of our community and our local government count for so little. Because one reason that your words on localism ring hollow is that his new National Planning Policy Framework has just come into force. You wouldn’t think there’d be a problem from what he wrote on 26 March in the Daily Telegraph: ‘Firstly, our reforms safeguard our glorious green spaces and countryside… The intention is to let residents, not remote Whitehall officials, decide… which cherished sites need to be protected.’

But when our residents decided our glorious countryside and our cherished sites needed to be protected, it wasn’t our view that prevailed. And when English Heritage argued that even under the new national planning policy, the damage to the setting of Baconsthorpe Castle and ancient local churches was not justified by any benefits claimed by the Bodham turbine, the remotely appointed inspector rejected their opinion, too.

For Pickles’s reforms are built upon ‘a presumption towards sustainable development’, and the person sent to tell us how that presumption should be weighed against any local disadvantages was empowered to write of Barbara’s bungalow and Paula and Simon’s cottage, ‘I do not think the properties would become unattractive places to live.’ Well, they do, and they told him so. And to them, they are not ‘properties’; they are ‘home’. But hey — what do they know?

In theory, the principles of sustainable development set out in the National Planning Policy Framework are laudable: ‘living within the planet’s environmental limits, ensuring a strong, healthy and just society, achieving a sustainable economy, promoting good governance, [and] using sound science responsibly.’ But the framework will struggle to live up to any of those ideals, because the notion of ‘sustainable development’ has been hijacked. Profiteers with no interest in social justice, and irresponsible, unsound scientists have conned and scared ill-informed MPs into passing environmental legislation that is wrecking the economy while doing little or nothing to save the planet.

Where is the social justice in driving millions into fuel poverty by forcing them to pay for subsidies that make windfarmers filthy rich? How can you achieve a sustainable economy when you drive jobs overseas by driving up electricity prices here? How is sound science being employed responsibly by building unreliable, inefficient wind turbines as part of a catastrophically incoherent energy policy that leaves us wondering not if, but when all the lights will go out? And where is the ‘good governance’ in talking up local democracy while riding rough-shod over it?

In a nation edging towards post-democracy, such questions need to be asked. Whatever our ministers say, their actions bring to mind the scorn for ordinary folk in China, where populated valleys are evacuated and flooded to produce power for the state. The comparison is imperfect, of course, because hydroelectric schemes produce reliable electricity at an affordable cost. And in pre-democratic China, nobody pretends that little, local people count.

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Show comments
  • CaediteEos

    Right now the left adore wind turbines – they upset the shire tories who inhabit most of the areas they can be built (no danger of any turbines going up in Islington or Shephard’s Bush) plus if the power runs out it just serves us all right for being greedy, electricity-hungry capitalists.

    The thing is though, all the wind turbines going up in all the wind farms are white. So how long before the metro-left rail against them for not being “multicultural”, “diverse”, “vibrant”, “dynamic” etc?

    • MichtyMe

      The right, should of course, abhor state planning, that appropriates property rights, confiscates the prerogative of ownership to do as it will upon its land at the behest of rural socialist communes.

    • dalai guevara

      No they are not – some are green at the footing. Surely, from Mars.

  • Vindpust

    Well said. Michael.

    You have elegantly summed up the charade that is localism and the post-Thatcherite, money-grubbing greed that sees the likes of the prime Minister’s father-in-law selling out landscapes and local communities for wind industry bribes.

    What happened to noblesse oblige in the Tory shires?

  • Teacher

    Absolutely shocking. I’m not voting for a party which will do this.

  • strobes

    A very timely article which illustrates our present misguided energy folly so well. The latest madness involves building a 60-acre solar farm on the slopes (but just outside) of the Brecon Beacons National Park. This disfigurement would provide a nice little rent for the farmer for 20 years and a fat earner for the “investment” company that is driving the development. What do we get out of it? Increased energy bills and a permanent eyesore and (allegedly) 10Mw production at midday on a clear day in midsummer (if we get one and when when we don’t need it!) It’s time the general public’s Pavlovian “If it’s Green it must be good for us” is exposed for the lie it is. Green applies to traffic lights.

  • Don Reed

    Come to the U.S. Drive around in various states. Count the various turbines that are shattered and left unrepaired. Come see your future.

  • balakris

    The answer is self sufficient communities.
    You chaps have the stomach for that?

  • Brett_McS

    Wind turbines aren’t even ‘green’ – they are tokenism at best and a complete con.

  • P J

    I used to hate the idea of wind turbines near my home too, until we lived near a nuclear power station!
    Every community should produce most of its own power or pay a heavy surcharge for using power produced elsewhere in conventional power stations. This money could be used to reduce bills of those near the power stations – then NIMBYS would have a proper choice: put up or shut up .

    • mjmcm25

      Have you read the article you presume to comment on? You are an idiot.

    • Vindpust

      The problem with your argument is that we have anyway to build the nuclear power stations, irrespective of how many turbines are built. Not my view but that of National Grid, who run the system.

      They state that even if we built DECC’s 2030 ‘worst case’ wind build of 23GW onshore and 51GW offshore (we have 5.7GW and 2.6GW respectively now) we would still need 30.5GW of new nuclear and 36GW of new gas-fuelled capacity to keep the lights on.

      Wind is a parallel system, not an alternative to base load power, read National Grid’s recent ‘Seven year statements’ if you want to discover how your electricity is actually generated.

    • Tim Reed

      You dismissively call them NIMBYS, but the most valid and relevant form of politics is local politics.
      People regularly protest about things that are occurring on the other side of the globe – issues which have no direct affect on their lives (freedom for Palestine, for example).
      Surely those who demand the right to affect change on their own doorstep are far more worthy of consideration, as these decisions will have repercussions for the daily lives of all local people.

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swank

        Tim: Darn right and well said!

  • scott_east_anglia

    The rationale underpinning the sustainable green revolution collapsed several years ago.

    The hypothesis that changes to the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere affects died when the tropospheric heating it predicted failed to materialise. That occurred years ago, but the band-wagon still rolled on, muttering something about data errors.

    The cod-science invented by the warming insustry to justify their alarmist predictions has been shown to be fakery.

    The potential power that windmills create must be covered by conventional thermal power stations running in spinning reserve to keep he lights on when the wind doth not blow. Thus the windmills are not in fact necessary in the first place, and merely make life needlessly difficult for the operators of the National Grid.

    The amount of energy in the wind that we can extract is too small to make the effort worth while. The only two energy sources that can sustain a western lifestyle are hydrocarbon fuels and nuclear fission. This has been know since at least the 1950s. Any engineer could have told the EU that, but as usual the arts degrees, living in their illusory superiority bubble, wouldn’t listen.

    Wind power would not be financially viable without:

    1. A huge subsidy stolen from customers through a hidden levy on power bills.

    2. The National Grid being compelled by law to pay for and use wind power in preference to the reliable and cheap power from thermal power stations.

    Fairly obviously, therefore, we are looking at naked fraud on a massive scale.

    Possibly the quickest way to end this nonsense is to end the subsidy.

    Before that, however, in order to discourage the leeches who have been living of the subsidy from stirring up political mayhem, there would need to be legislation to establish a clear link between the imposition of wind turbines intended to power the national grid against the recommendations of the local council and intentional fraud, with a long gaol sentence attached.

    That would also focus the minds of the ‘bussed in outsiders’.

  • andrewsaint15

    Just one more sign that Cameron’s Conservative are anything but conservative

  • andrewsaint15

    Just one more sign that Cameron’s Conservatives are anything but conservative

  • colin.watters

    If you don’t want wind turbines near houses perhaps consider draughting your own neighbourhood plan. The judge in the recent court case involving nPower and Milton Keynes ruled that a minimum distance from housing policy would NOT be contrary to National Policy provided it’s correctly worded.
    Despite it’s size a 284ft is quite small by most standards. Don’t assume you will get one this small near your house. Most of those going up or applied for in may area are over 400 foot tall.

  • Eyesee

    The 1967 Britannica book of the year 1966 had an article that said quite clearly, that the theory of rising CO2 causing rising atmospheric temperatures had been found to be wrong and any rise would be very small. Yet somehow, a whole raft of politicians are being duped by people who are keeping alive a fairy story, even now decades later. Talk about not keeping up!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Smith/100003485567217 John Smith

    They stuck one on the hill in Swaffham, Norfolk and did not seemed that bothered. So they stuck one on another hill. Then a phalanx on the hill at Pickenham.
    It did not really matter, as Norfolk had already been ruined by turning it into a prairie.
    Well done CAP!

  • http://twitter.com/stevetierney Steve Tierney

    Spot on. We’re fighting the same battle here in Cambridgeshire. The appeal starts tomorrow (Tuesday) at the Boat House in Wisbech. Readers very welcome to come join the protestors in the tough battle over the next eight days.

  • Albin

    An average nuclear plant the size of a shopping mall generates about 1100 megawatts 24/7. The biggest windmills are managing 5 MW when the wind is on. Doesn’t take much math or online research to come up with the square mileage of devastation needed to even begin to replace nuclear with wind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1175170121 Carrie Spurgeon

    One turbine you’re lucky, I’m surrounded by the fecking things! More will be added soon due to the overturning of our councils decision also!

    Once they have one industrial estate in situ, more always follow; good luck! Now where did I put my pressure cooker, that might take a few out!

  • http://orcadiana.wordpress.com/ Spaewife

    Planning for turbines clearly isn’t dictated by local planning offices. Central government are continuing to trump local policy in order to meet their energy/renewable targets. Every time a proposal is vetoed locally it is appealed and costs local councils and taxpayers thousands of pounds. Government are in contravention of the Aarhaus Convention and local inhabitants are not being listened to. This is happening time and time again. It has to stop.

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