Get Orf Our Land! (or How My Village Blew Away a 140ft Turbine)

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Two months ago my family and I finally moved out of the Big City and into paradise – a pretty rented cottage on a 2,500-acre estate in Northamptonshire with lakes, Capability Brown parkland, a 12th Century church, a ruined Elizabethan haunted house, an 18th Century walled garden and an ancient bluebell wood teeming with badgers, bats, deer and rare birds.

But what we didn’t know was that there was a snake in the garden: a planning application for an ugly 140ft wind turbine on the hill overlooking our new idyll.

The first I heard of it was when a woman called Sue accosted me at the Fawsley village fayre. ‘We’re so glad you’re here,’ she said. ‘Now you can help lead our fight against the wind turbine!’

Flattering though this was, I had to explain that I’m a troublemaker not an organiser. Sure, I could help out with an angry article, but if she wanted a leader she’d have to look elsewhere. Run a campaign? I can scarcely run a bath.

But from that moment on our paradise felt lost. Every time I went for a walk I couldn’t help glancing up at that hill, wondering how it would look when the wind turbine came. I thought of the sunrises it would blight, the low-frequency noise, the birds and bats it would slice and dice, and the hundreds of thousands of pounds going into the landowner’s pocket while the neighbours had their landscape ruined.

A fortnight ago, our worst fears came true. Sue emailed me to say the turbine had been recommended for approval by the planning officer. With only a week before the meeting when a decision would be made, we had left it too late. Only 12 people had written to object and planning approval was surely now a formality. ‘If only we’d put up more resistance earlier,’ said Sue.

At this point something in me snapped. There are things worth fighting for, and for me this was one of them. Come what may, the dragon must be slain.

What you don’t realise until you’ve fought one of these wind applications is just how grotesquely rigged the system is in favour of the developer.

Apply to your council’s planning department for a slightly bigger than normal conservatory and they’ll likely turn you down flat. On the other hand, propose to erect a noisy, gleaming white industrial wind turbine twice the height of the tallest oak tree . . .

Incredibly, it’s the developer (not the council) who gets to commission all the expert environmental, architectural, acoustic and ecological surveys assessing the proposed turbine’s impact. Is it any surprise that these surveys generally tend to find in favour of the person who has paid for them – of course there won’t be any noise, the bats will do fine, and the turbine will meld perfectly into the landscape.

Worse still, under current planning law, the presumption is in favour of renewable energy schemes. In other words, unless you can prove that the adverse effects of a turbine will ‘significantly and demonstrably’ outweigh its supposed carbon-reduction benefits, then the application is likely to be approved regardless of how strongly the local community objects.

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