Some people say global warming isn’t real. Others say wind energy is a racket. Without getting into all that, it is reasonable to hope that where permission for wind farms is sought then a fair balance is struck when evaluating the advantages and the harm. Recently though, despite English Heritage’s attempt to provide a rational basis for assessing that balance there is evidence to suspect that nothing was ever going to stop certain wind farms being built.
Mynydd y Betws seems to be a very clear example since an extensive prehistoric landscape was deemed unworthy of protection, then partly not found, then found by amateurs, then knowingly partly destroyed with professional approval and finally downplayed once again. In most spheres new evidence prompts a re-trial to avoid a miscarriage of justice but not when it comes to building windfarms in Wales it seems.
Even more recently in Northamptonshire a windfarm has been given the go-ahead on the grounds that although it would cause harm to the setting of a number of designated heritage assets, the harm would in all cases “be less than substantial and reduced by its temporary nature and reversibility” and therefore outweighed by the “substantial public benefits” the scheme will deliver.
Well, here’s one of those affected heritage assets about which the Inspector said the harm would be “less than substantial“. It’s the National Trust property Lyveden New Bield. So, dear Reader, how far away does the wind farm need to be from that to make the harm “less than substantial” ? Two miles? Four?
(The actual distance away the windfarm will be is 1 kilometre!)
It seems pretty clear that the way the legislation is set up means heritage is likely to lose out in most straight contests with the “substantial public benefits” windfarms are said to bring. Electricity is always a substantial public benefit and although heritage is as well it can’t be measured in megawatts. Add to that the facts that there may be political pressure to allow developments and that anyway no-one can fairly judge between chalk and cheese and it’s not unreasonable to suggest the law has loaded the dice against heritage.
Update 11.15am !
Interestingly, English Heritage Chief executive Simon Thurley has just tweeted:
“Despicable & disastrous decision to allow a wind farm near Lyveden New Bield. If built it will spoil a very special place forever.”
Update 25 April 2012
English heritage et al are to formally challenge this decision