MP hears Withiel’s concerns

North Cornwall MP Dan Rogerson attended the October meeting of Withiel Parish Council but held out no hope that he would help stop the spread of wind turbines. He was more positive on better broadband, and on the money Withiel is owed for the solar farm at Kerriers – but on turbines, the shutters are down.

It was pointed out that while Cornwall Council claims it is encouraging the proliferation of turbines because of national policy, other counties have not interpreted that policy in the same way – in fact this tiny parish has more wind turbines than Surrey, Sussex and Kent put together. Mr Rogerson said this was because the wind was in the west, but if you’ve stood on Beachy Head or Box Hill you’ll know there are many places in the Home Counties where wind turbines would be just as valid – or as useless – as Withiel. If the government was doing to the Home Counties what it is doing to Cornwall, there would be a riot.

Mr Rogerson said that the distribution of wind turbines was “unfair” but the random strewing of towers about the county might be cleaned up by Cornwall Council’s local development plan, expected next year. That will come too late for Withiel – and given Cornwall Council’s attitude, expressed by its wind turbine expert Adrian Lea, that Withiel was already blighted by power pylons so wind turbines would do little harm, there’s no guarantee they won’t designate Withiel for further wind turbine concentration. Cornwall Council is also actively urging all town and parish councils to get into the wind turbine racket, and is planning to put up wind turbines on its own account.

Turbines are grossly inefficient and are predominantly paid for by the poor, while the subsidies largely go to rich landowners and turbine importers. Profits are massive – Goldman Sachs and Texas Pacific Investments have moved their wind energy company to Cornwall to take advantage – but subsidies cost every family in Britain an average of £300 a year. Mr Rogerson said that even if the subsidies were withdrawn the price of energy would continue to rise because of the cost of decarbonisation. This is debateable – electricity in New York costs one quarter of what it costs in Withiel, and the price is falling.

Wind turbines are very much the Liberal Democrats’ contribution to the Coalition, but even Energy Minister Ed Davey says they are of little value unless China and other developing countries get on board the global warming boat – and Mr Rogerson agrees. China overtook America as the world’s largest energy consumer in 2011 and it expects to continue increasing its energy use exponentially until at least 2035. It is opening one coal-fired power station a week and has more than 300 under construction. India is opening them almost as fast, and has plans for 470. Even the Germans are building 23, and they’ll burn lignite, the dirtiest form of coal. Ruining Cornwall’s landscape and pushing pensioners into fuel poverty to pay turbine owners is as useful as spitting on a forest fire.

Mr Rogerson blamed Withiel’s problems in getting the £35,000 it was promised as a condition of planning permission for the Kerriers solar farm on a planning system that is ill-suited to dealing with such issues. He will help the Parish Council pursue the matter. He was also more positive about being able to help on broadband. “I’m happy to work with Withiel to push this,” he said: “There are further pots of money which the government is making available for the harder-to-reach areas.” Mobile phone signals will also improve as 4G spreads, and Mr Rogerson will work with the Parish Council to ensure Withiel is not left out in the cold.

The Council discussed the potential for a Neighbourhood Plan and debated a planning application – the full draft minutes of the meeting are on – Pat Malone