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Royal Dutch Shell Plc .com: In this green contest, the environment loses

By: Janet Street-Porter, The Independent – United Kingdom
Published: Jul 13, 2006

Plans to fast-track planning applications for commercial wind farms unveiled by the Government this week have caused consternation among environmentalists. To launch his plans, Mr Blair decided to take a boat trip from Whitstable in Kent to see the new wind farm which has just been completed of f the coast.

Of course, this was really another photo-opportunity in our two political leaders’ media battle to appear more green and loveable than the other. Shame that Mr Cameron slightly upstaged Blair by getting planning permission for a wind turbine on the roof of his hous in Kensington the very same day.

There is no doubt that w farms can supply us with another vitally needed source of energy. But constructing them close to areas of outstanding natural beauty or reserves nature serves is always going to be controversial. I doubt Mr Blair was too interested in the David and Goliath struggle going on a few miles down the coast from where his boat trip began Graveney Marshes are said to have inspired Charles Dickens and Daniel Defoe. The coastal path which runs from Seasalter and Whitstable along the Swale estuary and into Faver-sham is one of my top coastal hikes in Britain.

But the consortium planning to build 270 wind turbines in the sea off the North Kent coast, Shell WindEnergy submitted a proposal to build a large, ugly electrical substation on unspoilt Cleve Hill, overlooking Graveney Marshes. Apart from the fact that this monstrosity would take two to five years to build, and completely disrupt the tran-quality of a Kentish backwater, the large rectangular building would have been totally out of keeping with thee rural location. Graveney is a tiny hamlet, with a charming small flint 11th-century church, fields of cherry trees and reedy pastures with a network of drainage ditches where sheep and cattle graze.

The villagers formed an action group, set up a website, lobbied councillors and publicised their case in the local press. Early in June they managed to halt the Shell consortium’s multimillion-pound plans when Swale Borough Council turned down the planning application. But the campaigners should not be celebrating yet- because the consortium has several months in which to appeal, and now it looks as if Fast Track Tony will ensure that another bit of rural Britain is desecrated for ever.

Up in North Yorkshire, the people of Harrogate know only too well how commercial wind farm operators have the ear of government. In spite of huge local opposition, and being turned down by Harrogate Council, a wind farm is to be built right on the edge of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, at Knabs Ridge. The developers just went straight to John Prescott, who overruled the local council within a fortnight. The turbines will be visible for at least 15 miles, right inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Well done, John! Surely the future for wind power lies in encouraging people to use less electricity and in the Government taking a lead by declaring they are going to cut their consumption by at least 10 per cent a year?

royaldutchshellplc.com and its also non-profit sister websites royaldutchshellgroup.com, shellenergy.website, shellnazihistory.com, royaldutchshell.website, johndonovan.website, shellnews.net and shell2004.com are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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