(Back to report on public meeting)

When I first saw a wind farm I was on my way to the Lake District where I have walked and climbed for more than fifty years, drawn back again and again to a much cherished and preserved landscape. I had no idea that the turbines would be so huge. Even from many miles away they appeared to me a dominant and intrusive element in the landscape against the backdrop of the fells of the national park – a constantly moving element to which the eye is inevitably drawn – a restless intrusion in what is for many people a scene of unchanging and timeless tranquillity.

Like so many people, my dislike of this intrusion was tempered by a feeling of “oh well, I suppose we’ve got to have these things” based on a naive and hopeful belief that the powers that be were preparing a comprehensive renewable energy strategy in which wind farms would play their part. Naturally I trustingly believed that the choice of their locations would be based on a careful analysis of factors such as wind strength and consistency.

When I first saw details of this proposal – nine turbines almost five hundred feet high in the small scale landscape between Sulgrave and Weston – I was appalled, but the “I suppose we have to have them feeling persisted” and I looked forward to an explanation as to how this particular site had been selected. Was it especially windy? Did it already have good road communications suitable for the inevitable heavy vehicles? Was it considered to be a so-called brownfield site, already spoilt beyond redemption? Was the landscape already dominated by man made objects – cooling towers, power lines, silos etc? It is, of course, none of these things and at a meeting with the company’s representatives it became abundantly clear that they have no locational criteria to speak of and will simply propose a wind farm wherever they can come to a financial agreement with the landowner. They are then prepared to spend whatever it takes to fight the proposal through the planning process.

A subsequent meeting with the CPRE wind farm adviser totally convinced me that wind farms are simply not viable in terms of their carbon saving contribution to energy needs. So I have moved from being a simple NIMBY (not in my back yard) to a NIABY (not in anyone’s back yard).

So who does benefit from this current proposal? Only, it seems, the developers and the landowner, in this case the richest of all the Oxford colleges who clearly regard their ancient land holding here as simply an investment to be financially exploited to the full with no regard to the ancient concept of stewardship as once practised by resident rather than absentee landlords – that of handing on to their successors a tract of unspoilt English countryside, conserved and even enhanced for future generations.

The villages around here have been called “the lost villages” – remote from large towns and national communications. This is a traditional heart of England enclosure landscape of small fields, with their hedgerows still mainly intact, of copses, of ancient barns, of byways, green lanes and minor roads winding unobtrusively through the countryside. A few years ago, when I first had the privilege of maintaining the village website I wrote a piece on walking in this area, including the following words: “This is a gently undulating pastoral landscape and there are some surprisingly distant views to savour. Far from any main roads, the walks here can be enjoyed in a silence which is sometimes almost profound.”

Anyone who has walked, ridden a horse or cycled to what I call the top of the Moreton road, paused and turned to gaze southwards will understand what I meant. No, it’s not a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but a vast tract of completely unspoilt countryside with views as distant as Brill Hill to the south of Oxford.

I for one am not prepared to see this area of quintessentially English countryside spoiled by alien structures, always moving, lit at night, completely at odds with the scale of the landscape, visible from miles around, without doing everything in my power to resist a proposal which I am convinced will benefit no-one, least of all the inhabitants of this village.

Colin Wootton