Azara Blog: Windfarms in Cumbria

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Date published: 2005/04/13

The BBC (Caroline Wyatt) says:

On the green wind-swept hills of Cumbria loom several new landmarks: their long, tall frames silhouetted against the darkening skies.

Close-up, you can hear a high-pitched whistle and a loud whoosh as their huge blades scythe through the wind.

These five gunmetal-grey turbines are part of an existing wind-farm at Lambrigg, aimed at providing the area's energy needs in a sustainable way.
Kyle Blue has brought me here to look at the impact of even a small wind farm on the stunning, craggy landscape of the fells.

The 53-year-old chartered surveyor, born and bred in the nearby village of Orton, speaks with a calm passion about why many locals are bitterly opposed to plans for a much larger wind farm on the crest of Whinash fell.

"It would be the largest wind farm in the country, in some of the loveliest landscape outside the national park," says Kyle Blue.

"What worries us is that once a development occurs, it encourages others.
Cumbria is already home to 11 wind farms, but Whinash would be the largest by far.

Its 27 turbines would provide enough power for 47,000 homes. The turbines would be 115 metres high to the tip of each blade, the same height as St Paul's Cathedral, at a site bordering the Lake District National Park.

We drive there to take a look across the valley.

Even from several miles away, it is clear that a major wind farm on the ridge of the fell would change the wild landscape irrevocably, something the 'No Whinash Wind Farm" group is determined to prevent.

"If I were certain wind power were going to deliver what people hope, the sacrifices might be worth it - but I don't believe it is," says Kyle. "Many see this as the gateway to the lakes.

Tourism employs some 40,000 people in Cumbria, and putting that at risk is really putting the county at risk."

But Whinash is the perfect site, counters Steve Molloy, project manager for West Coast Energy, agents for the wind farm developers Falck.

"The wind resource here is excellent, and this is a very remote site," he insists.

"The wind farm would have no ecological impact. The land here does have its merits, but it's hardly of the same value as the Lake District National Park. It basically consists of acid grassland and some blanket bog."

Local chocolate maker David Kennedy vehemently disagrees.

He runs Kennedy's Fine Chocolates in Orton. In this village of just 300, his cosy shop employs 20 - making this a vital local business.

"Tourists are not just the icing on the cake for us - they are our bread and butter.

Even a small fall in numbers could really affect our business," he worries. "If the wind farm was put up and fewer tourists came, that would have a big impact.

We might have to move and not all our staff could move with us. I am all in favour of renewable energy, but if the area became carpeted with wind turbines, I wouldn't want to work here."

You get the typically flippant remarks from West Coast Energy. The basic problem is that they are not compensating the residents for the destruction (as they see it) of their landscape. Dismissing this landscape as "acid grassland and some blanket bog" is adding insult to injury. Windfarms are almost all sited in rural areas and the benefit almost all goes to urban areas (and the companies who own the windfarms). This is the kind of inequity which the so-called environmentalists (and the BBC) like to campaign about when it comes to other countries like India (e.g. when it comes to hydroelectric power) but somehow in Britain they are happy for the rights of their fellow citizens to be trampled.

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