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The Chief Executive of English Heritage has tweeted: “Today’s news on windfarms seems very good. Hopefully it will stop the rape of the countryside by greedy landowners and energy companies…”

That would be nice. But will it work out like that? What the press is actually reporting is a bit different: “New guidance is expected to tell councils that local people’s concerns should take precedence over the need for renewable energy, and give more weight to the impact of turbines on the landscape and heritage” (which is fine) but also that “The changes are part of a package of measures which include a significant increase in the amount of money communities will receive for agreeing to host windfarms nearby”.

In other words, “local bribes” are to be increased (typically to £100,000 a year towards local community projects or £400 a year off local householders’ energy bills). It’s consistent with the Government’s strategy for incentivising communities to accept housing developments and there’s talk of the same approach being extended to areas where shale gas drilling is proposed. So maybe not such good news for heritage after all?

It raises two ticklish issues that EH will presumably need to address and explain to the public:

1. If some landowners and energy companies are “greedy rapists” because they make money out of building certain heritage-damaging wind farms, will the same be said of local people who make money out of supporting them?

2. As a matter of principle, should local people, especially if motivated by financial gain, have a much bigger say than everyone else over the fate of heritage that is of national significance?



June 2013

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