Church says energy firms must listen to Northumberland wind opponents

Retired energy expert turned priest says energy firms need to consider feelings when it comes to the wind farm debate

A wind farm with many wind turbines
A wind farm with many wind turbines

A wind turbine expert turned priest has said it is time energy firms consider the emotional arguments when putting up huge structures in Northumberland.

Rev Dr John Harrison, a former Climatologist at the University of Stirling, has said it is time energy firms realise that they cannot measure opposition “at an emotive level” with the same “mathematical models, scientific equations and business plans” used to win planning applications.

Dr Harrison said that while climate change meant renewable energy had to be considered, he found himself questioning the “intrusive” nature of wind farms, saying the view northwards from Hadrian’s Wall was an “obscenity”.

Calling for a rethink in how the views of wind turbine opponents are viewed, Dr Harrison said the danger was that at present “we regulate and legislate ourselves into deeper and darker holes where the light of ‘feeling’ decreasingly fails to shine.”

His comments come a month after the Bishop of Newcastle, Bishop Martin Wharton said wind farms point to “a duty of care which we are failing to exercise.” The latest intervention increasingly puts the Church of England in the North East on collision course with the energy industry.

In the 1980s Dr Harrison contributed to site assessments for the early generation of Scottish wind farms. After years spent finding the best locations for turbines, the retired viar of Spittal and Scremerston said he know thinks the energy firms need to look past exclusively scientific considerations.

Writing for The Journal, he said: “Our primary duty of care is surely to future generations, while those with a religious faith believe they also have a duty of care to a higher being, who commissioned them to be wise stewards of the world in which we all live.

“Exercising a duty of care involves decision-making – what do we take and what do we put back? Are our decisions based on self-centred criteria such human acquisitiveness and our fragile ego, or on how we take what we need without compromising the future of the world around us?”

His comments were last night welcomed by the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Berwick Anne-Marie Trevelyan. She said: “The onshore giant wind turbine is an inefficient, noisy and disruptive industrial intrusion. Operators are paid twice as much for electricity compared to gas power stations, which leaves our poorest residents with higher electricity bills.

“There are more effective and appropriate renewable technologies for rural Northumberland to use as part of our contribution to the renewables revolution.

“Inappropriately sited industrial wind factories being built on uniquely untouched, rural landscapes is the problem, not the solution. We must not destroy our precious unspoilt ancient landscapes without justification which stands the test of time and fairness for our children’s futures.”

Already Bishop Martin has said turbines are turning the North East countryside into a “disfigured industrial landscape”.

The Rt Revd Martin Wharton hit out at “the harm that is being done to our beautiful landscape on which the health of our rural economy, and especially tourism, depends.”

Dr Harrison hinted at another energy conflict following the Government’s decision to change the subsidy system to favour offshore developments. “I doubt that the small reduction in subsidy that has been suggested will have much impact on what is in danger of becoming an entrenched battlefield,” he said.

That offshore bias has already seen the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations call for more cooperation with the industry at the planning stages of offshore wind farm developments to avoid destruction of prime North Sea fishing grounds.


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