As the Armistead wind farm near Old Hutton nears completion, and we hear of all the benefits that will accrue, it seems opportune to share my thoughts on the conflict posed for a conservationist by the advance of wind farms in the countryside – something I have spent a significant amount of the last 14 years opposing.
I have enjoyed a lifetime’s association with the wild places of the North West. I have climbed its crags, walked its hills and delighted in nature conservation.
The restorative power of natural things has been a vital counterpoint to a demanding occupation of scientific and medical research, and kept me in touch with my basic self.
There are some people, myself included, to whom a large, wind turbine is a marvel of engineering. But, unlike a church tower or cathedral spire, it does not enhance the landscape. Nor in isolation will it meet the country’s energy needs, let alone solve climate change. Even if the countryside was covered with such wind turbines, we would still be reliant on conventional power stations.
Cumbria alone would require up to 3,000, and even the wind developers admit that for 25 per cent of the time wind turbines are useless. Dotting a few here and there is simply tinkering with the problem and is just not worth the disproportionate damage they cause to the landscape.
In 1999 I became a founder member of the conservation organisation, FELLS, dedicated to opposing damaging development blight. We have fought many battles since then, and our councillors have served us well, rejecting all major developments in South Lakeland and Eden district. They also rejected Armistead, only to have their democratic decision overturned by a single inspector at public inquiry.
Unfortunately the results of his decision are now there for all to see. These six turbines are overpowering close-up, and are clearly visible far and wide from the Coniston Old Man range, Grange-over-Sands, and the Forest of Bowland, to large tracts of the Howgills and Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The Old Scotch Road, which dates from at least the 12th century, is completely overshadowed and if the same developers have their way this will be compounded by even larger turbines at Killington.
This unique lakeside site close to the Yorkshire Dales National Park is yet to be decided, but is not the only risk; there are many other schemes in the wings. Even added together, the electricity generated by them is miniscule, compared to the damage they would cause.
The real motivation of wind developers is, as always, profit. And nothing wrong with that, except of course their profit comes from our subsidies. Witness their outcry when a 25 cent reduction in subsidies was proposed.
The wind industry would not exist without them. The rent to land-owners, and donations to local organisations are all paid for by us - money from the many being channelled to the pockets of the few.
As a conservationist, I have been active in the Cumbria Wildlife Trust, who oppose wind schemes that threaten wildlife, for two decades. I manage one of its reserves, and give many talks on wild life subjects.
It is a sad paradox that other ‘green’ conservation organisations should feel obliged to support this wind farm madness. We should come together to put an end to this vandalism. Our combined energies would be so much better spent concentrating on local issues where we can really make a difference such as energy efficiency, small-scale renewable projects, community initiatives and helping address the problem of rising fuel poverty In the meantime as long as there are windmills to tilt at, so long will I feel constrained to do so.
Conservationist Dr Mike Hall, President of FELLS