The battle for the future of Shropshire's landscape has now reached the bloodshed stage where the concept of 'localism' that favourite word of Eric Pickles and David Cameron is being tested
The battle for the future of Shropshire's landscape has now reached the bloodshed stage where the concept of 'localism' — that favourite word of Eric Pickles and David Cameron — is being tested. The highly controversial and unwelcome wind turbine planning application at Upton Cressett — the ancient hamlet where I live in Shropshire — was voted on by both Morville Parish Council and Chetton Parish Council.
Both councils roundly rejected the proposals. That is what Localism is meant to be all about — isn't it? Localism, however, is rarely what it is meant to be.
The same applies when a government minister refers to a 'community'. What is a community? No minister has ever defined the concept.
Now that the parish councils have voted, we have to win over the Shropshire Council planning committee, which is not likely to be until the autumn, at the earliest.
By then, however, the government will have published their 'guidelines' for turbine positioning close to heritage assets.
Working with the law firm of Sharpe Pritchard, I am hoping that the government will listen to a number of the recommendations first put forward by Spear's in our 80 page submission on 'Heritage Protection and the NPPF' to planning minister Greg Clark at the consultation stage of the NPPF.
Since local parish councillors are elected representatives of the local community, I was relieved to see there was not a 'secret ballot' at the Morville Parish meeting on Monday. The village hall was packed — standing room only — and the vote was carried without a single councillor voting in favour of the turbines which would desecrate the Shropshire landscape which so inspired such poets and writers as AE Housman, Louis MacNiece and PG Wodehouse.
No issue in my lifetime living in Shropshire has more angered the local community that the idea of these turbines being imposed on Shropshire without proper local democratic consent.
Shropshire's historic landscape is under threat from wind turbines
One of the worst elements has been the wilful, mercenary tactics of the rent-a-comment Green Army — the Eco-Wind fanatics who have been busy trying to muster as many pro-Crida 'support' comments on the Shropshire Planinng Portal as they can by emailing pro-wind activists across the country who have no interest in the landscape, beauty or heritage of Shropshire.
For the last week, the Shropshire Planning Portal has been swamped by comments from eco-activists from Scotland and elsewhere who are simply trying to play a numbers game and who have never visited Bridgnorth — let alone Upton Cressett — and who have no idea why the Shropshire Hills are such an iconic part of the rural English landscape.
This is thanks to the efforts of Jon Halle of Share Energy, who has been sending out group emails to non-locals in the 'eco-wind community' begging them to 'spend a minute posting a supportive comment' on the Shropshire Council website. 'We know there is a lot of support but we need to actually show it!' he wrote, revealingly. 'If we can build these 2 turbines, (around Bridgnorth) they will be the first in the West Midlands and set a great precedent…Please forward to local people!'
To read these comments as feedback from the local community would be grossly misleading — the real community of Shropshire Hills do not want our treasured and iconic landscape despoiled for the sake of turbines that require traditional energy source back-up to even function, and which will produce hardly enough electricity to boil a kettle in Bridgnorth.
Of the several hundred public comments currently on the planning portal, well over 200 are objections from local residents who actually live around Bridgnorth, Morville and hamlets such as Upton Cressett. There is just one Support comment from anybody who is actually a local resident. Yet Crida and the farmer Clive Millington have the nerve to call their wind farm a 'community wind project'. A community of just one. That says it all.
Thankfully the parish councils of Morville and Chetton have seen through this empty 'community' rhetoric.