The saying, Not In My Back Yard, has spawned the acronym NIMBY, which in turn is generally used as a term of disapprobation, if not of actual abuse.

Disapprobation may be justified where NIMBYs are hypocritical about developments, approving of them elsewhere, but claiming special reasons why they shouldn’t have to put up with them in their neighbourhood. However, so long as not accompanied by justified charges of hypocrisy, then I think NIMBYism is actually rather laudable. After all, who is better-placed than locals to understand their own area and to defend it against the depredations of Big Green?

Which brings us to recent big news on the BBC website:

Stars say Suffolk wind farm plans ‘anything but green’

Some rather well-known NIMBYs have found themselves the subject of the articlei with the above heading, due to their opposition to plans for a wind farm in their metaphorical back yard. Of the three signatories who signed, only Griff Rhys Jones lives nearby, to the best of my knowledge; I assume Dame Joanna has been moved to write due to the impact onBenjamin Britten’s Snape Maltings Concert Hall, and that Ralph Fiennes is concerned both because he was born in Ipswich and following his involvement with the recent film about Sutton Hoo (The Dig).

Dame Joanna Lumley has warned that the creation of two windfarms off the Suffolk coast could see the area “disappear under a sea of concrete”.

The actress is one of 17 people, including actor Ralph Fiennes and comedian Griff Rhys Jones, who signed a letter stating the windfarms were “anything but green”…

…The letter, published in The Times, said the plans for the sites, named East Anglia One North and East Anglia Two, were “destructive”.

The main concerns presented in the letter were about the building of onshore substations and the running of underground cables to transport the electricity from turbines.

It stated there would be “six further towering structures, sacrificing land at Snape, close to the 6th Century Anglo-Saxon cemetery and home of Benjamin Britten’s Snape Maltings Concert Hall”

The story continues:

The letter said the plans “threaten fragile ecosystems, diverse wildlife, Aldeburgh and the thriving local tourist economy”.

“Planned industrialisation on this scale is a national issue and anything but green,” it said.

And of course they are right. Those words sum up the situation regarding wind farms on- and off-shore all over and around the British Isles.

I’m not going to criticise Dame Joanna for hypocrisy, given the gushing blurb for her ITV programme called “Joanna Lumley and the Human Swan”ii, at which point she seemd to be in favour of off-shore wind farms:

As Sacha heads further north, Joanna catches up with her on the North Yorkshire coast at the site of one of the 40 offshore wind farms in the UK. They take a boat to get up close to one of the turbines and learn that, in 2020, for the first time Britain generated more electricity from renewables than from fossil fuels.

No, metaphorically, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous ones who do not need to repent.iii

Griff Rhys Jones, on the other hand, has always been on the side of the righteous:

Griff Rhys Jones attacks green energy ‘desecration’ of countryside

That was the heading to an article in the Guardian from as long ago as 22nd May 2013iv, and I can’t improve on his words, which form the sub-heading to the article: “The comedian says renewable energy projects are subsidy-hunting free enterprise, despoiling ‘pristine landscapes’.”

If it’s one cheer for Dame Joanna (whose position on the proposed development is very welcome) then it’s three cheers for Griff:

“[The] government is hiding behind subsidy-hunting free enterprise. The result of this has been and is random desecration, with little or no accountability,” he said of windfarms that he felt were badly sited. He also suggested the intermittent nature of renewable energy undermined its environmental credentials. “How can we effect [sic] to be green, when we use gas from uncertain fossil fuel driven sources as back up? It is logical to ask why we are assaulting our shrinking countryside in the name of this apparent hypocrisy.”

A “distorted” planning system was failing to protect green spaces, he added, but “aiding and abetting an exponential grab at the countryside.”

Instead of solar power, which “doesn’t operate” at night, he said he would like to see more nuclear power, such as two new planned reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk, because it would cut carbon emissions, provide more power than solar and had a small physical footprint. “I am not a climate change sceptic. I am a solution sceptic,” he said.

Perhaps if the powers-that-be had listened to him then, we wouldn’t be facing our current energy plight. Hilariously, by the way, that Guardian article from almost nine years ago ended thus:

Jeremy Leggett, whose comment article in the Guardian Jones was responding to, said: “I’m glad that Griff’s whole belief system on energy is out in the open now. It’s more useful to have these kinds of debates in a holistic context. Let’s see how his case fares in reversing the opinion polls that show big majorities of people favouring ‘scattered whirly-gigs, and glinting solar panels’, and believing – as the Germans are showing every day – that in fact they do a rather good job of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions.”

As for Ralph Fiennes, I can find no record of him making public pronouncements with regard to climate change or wind farms before he signed the recent letter of opposition. Two cheers, I think.

Conclusion

Opposition to environmentally destructive industrial scale developments is always to be welcomed. It would be particularly welcome if Griff Rhys-Jones’ co-signatories looked beyond Suffolk and objected also to the great environmental damage being caused all over the UK in the misguided belief that trashing the UK’s environment is a price worth paying because by reducing (actually, exporting) our greenhouse gas emissions, we can prevent dangerous climate change. We can’t. Surely in this week of all weeks, geopolitical reality must be starting to dawn on those who seem determined to ruin this country’s environment and energy security.

In the meantime, let’s hear it for the NIMBYs.

Endnotes

i https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-60560313

ii https://www.itv.com/presscentre/sites/default/files/jl_human_swan_press_pack_.pdf

iii Luke 15:7

iv https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/may/22/griff-rhys-jones-green-energy

18 Comments

  1. Renewable development is a subject with the power to change minds. But offshore farms have an innate advantage in that they are mostly specks on the horizon if they are visible at all from shore. So they probably don’t generate as much opposition as they ought. We have seen here that on-land structures, which are hardly troubling at all objectively once complete, seem to be the focus of attention. Never mind the birds that will die.

    I have recently spent quite a long time trying to “audit” the collision risk monitoring for the Bhlaraidh extension, in attempting to match the developer’s ornithologists’ estimate of golden eagles killed. So far I can’t replicate their numbers, but I dunno if it is because I am doing something wrong or they are. Needless to say the death of a single goldie on the green altar would be a disgrace. I could be wrong, but I doubt whether there is much opposition to Bhlaraidh: in the middle of the Highlands, it is not in many people’s back yards.

    As Jones says, we need nukes. And rather than one at a time, with each a completely different design, we need to bang them out to a pattern.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder if we can coin a rival mnemonic for NIMBY, one that mentions the birds, including the amazing golden eagles, who are the continuous, innocent victims. Not In The Birds’ Air or Not In Our Birds Air? The ‘Our’ intended as a loving possessive like ‘our Mary’ up north, in other words the opposite of the current non-ownership that nevertheless feels it has the right to destroy. The result isn’t as snappy as NIMBY but it seems worth some thought.

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  3. Jit: Good luck with tracking the collision risk. It’s no surprise that you can’t match the auditors results: they will have been paid to find little or no risk.
    However I have to disagree with: “We have seen here that on-land structures, which are hardly troubling at all objectively once complete, seem to be the focus of attention.” Whenever I have been in sight of wind turbines, I have always found them very distracting and intrusive, much more so than fixed structures like pylons. The eye is drawn to movement which makes it hard to look at a piece of landscape without being distracted.
    I’ve read that it is now a challenge to find views in Scotland that are not polluted by whirling blades.

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  4. Ah Mark you are a heartless soul!
    The Crown Estates have only collected £200 million so far from licencing offshore windmills.
    In this era of “Necessarily Sky Rocketing” to quote the great President ( sorry ex President) of the Us when he said the Climate has stopped warming today on his inauguration, our poor sovereign needs extra income.
    What with all those houses to heat, giant SUV’s to fuel and extra family legal costs to pay, Come on Man.

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  5. Thank goodness for NIMBYs (especially in Suffolk, just now, as it happens) – this sounds like a monstrous planned development on a massive industrial scale:

    “Giant Suffolk solar farm plan is substandard says council”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-60580070

    “An application to build a giant solar farm has been described as “substandard” by a council.

    Energy firm Sunnica wants to build the project which would span 1,130 hectares (2,792 acres) around several villages in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

    But Suffolk County Council said it would “permanently change a really unique setting”.

    Sunnica said the solar farm would help contribute to government’s target of net zero by 2050….

    …Several villagers and local groups are opposed to the solar farm.

    Dr Catherine Judkins from Say No to Sunnica said the plans would use “highly productive arable farmland”.

    “It produces potatoes, it produces carrots, it produces wheat, with the current situation in the world it’s not just the energy supply that is at risk here, it’s a food security issue as well,” she said.

    John James, from Brookside Stud, near Chippenham, said: “Our biggest concern is the huge size of the batteries, it’s 45 acres which is bigger than my stud and it’s three storeys high.

    “The amount of power that will be stored in there, the biggest danger is if one of those erupts the whole thing will go up and we’ll go up with it.”

    Conservative councillor Richard Rout from Suffolk County Council said: “The application from Sunnica is substandard on so many levels.

    “When these renewable schemes come forward they can’t come forward at any costs.

    “This is unique landscape shaped by agriculture and horse racing and it’s a vast scheme.”

    The leader of the opposition group of Greens, Liberal Democrats and independents on the county council, Andrew Stringer, said sadly there were many shortcomings to the application, the Local Democracy Report Service said….”.

    My word, when even Green and Lib Dem councillors oppose it, then there really must be issues.

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  6. More on the monstrous plans for a solar farm in Suffolk that would cover almost 2,800 acres. I’ll write that again – 2,800 acres!

    “Light … or blight? Anger rises at plan for Britain’s biggest solar farm
    £600m project is one of 900 in planning pipeline to provide green energy”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/mar/05/light-or-blight-anger-rises-at-plan-for-britains-biggest-solar-farm

    “A proposed new £600m solar farm in eastern England – covering an area eight times bigger than Hyde Park in central London – faces opposition over claims it would be a “blight” on the countryside.”

    When things like this can appear in the Guardian of all places, is the worm beginning to turn?

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  7. “Suffolk: Angry scenes at meeting about giant solar farm”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-60693030

    “There were angry scenes as more than 100 people listened to the firm behind a giant solar farm outline its plans.

    Energy firm Sunnica wants to build the project which would span 1,130 hectares (2,792 acres) around several villages in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

    Residents said they were concerned about the size of the site, the location and the use of arable land.

    Sunnica told the meeting the project was essential if the UK was to meet its net zero greenhouse gas target by 2050.

    The meeting on Wednesday evening took place in Red Lodge in Suffolk, one of the villages affected by the development.

    The room was so full that some people stood outside in the cold for the two hour meeting.

    Audience members became increasingly exasperated as the company, Sunnica, struggled to answer many of their questions, claiming that a lot of the details were still to be worked out.

    Other members of the audience were worried about the impact on the countryside and the loss of farmland amid concerns about food security.

    Sunnica said most of the land was low-grade agricultural land and it would be decontaminated and returned to its original use when the project came to an end in 40 years’ time.

    There was also anger at the lack of consultation to date by the company, which it blamed in part on the pandemic….”.

    Once again, let’s hear it for NIMBYs. Somebody has to make a stand.

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  8. “MPs join march against Sunnica solar farm in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-60812728

    “About 200 protesters including MPs Matt Hancock and Lucy Frazer have marched against plans for a large solar farm that could power 172,000 homes.

    Energy firm Sunnica wants to build the project that would span 1,130 hectares (2,792 acres) around several villages in Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

    The protest started in Mildenhall before heading to Worlington.

    In its application, Sunnica said the plans helped to meet the “national need for new, renewable means of energy”.

    West Suffolk Council’s cabinet agreed to object to the proposals in its response to a consultation this week.

    Residents have said they were concerned about the size of the site, the location and the use of arable land.

    The affected villages would be Mildenhall, Freckenham, Worlington, Barton Mills and Red Lodge in Suffolk; and Chippenham, Snailwell, Fordham and Burwell in Cambridgeshire.”

    Good for the NIMBYs. Keep it up!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. “Solar farms: Can expansion overcome Tory MPs’ concerns?”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-60878403

    “The government badly needs to generate more renewable energy to meet its emission targets and make the UK more energy independent.

    But some of its own MPs are among those lining up against projects that could power hundreds of thousands of homes.

    At least 20 have publicly spoken out against solar or wind projects in their own constituencies in the past two years.

    Many of them say they fully support increasing energy from renewables.

    But building wind turbines and solar panel farms can be deeply unpopular in constituencies.

    Cabinet ministers know this too – and have even been debating giving people who live near wind farms energy bill discounts to sweeten the pill.”

    Like

  10. Is there no end to these gargantuan, industrial-scale development plans? Will we have any part of our green and pleasant land left in an unindustrialised state?

    “Norfolk solar farm the size of 65 football pitches proposed”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-60901624

    “A large solar farm – the size of about 65 football pitches – could provide power for 12,500 homes and a vertical farm, its developers have said.

    Plans for the farm have been submitted to South Norfolk Council for farmland near Colton, west of Norwich.

    Developer Pathfinder Clean Energy said its solar site would be built on land the owner said was difficult to farm.

    Concerns have been raised about a possible fire risk, solar glare, and the site being too visible.”

    Like

  11. Even celebrity NIMBYs fail – what chance do the rest of us have?

    “Two windfarms off Suffolk coast given planning permission”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-60949049

    “Permission to build two windfarms off the Suffolk coast has been granted by the government.

    The development will have 142 turbines which ScottishPower Renewables said could power about 1.4 million homes.

    Some, including Dame Joanna Lumley, said the onshore infrastructure in Suffolk meant the windfarms were “anything but green”.

    But the government say the need for energy creation outweighed the negative aspects of the development.”

    Like

  12. “Norfolk solar farm approved near Mulbarton and Newton Flotman”

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-61987623

    “Plans for one of the UK’s biggest solar farms have been given the green light.

    Bloy’s Grove, a 200-acre (81-hectare) scheme which would generate enough energy to power 14,000 homes, was approved by South Norfolk district councillors on Wednesday.

    Some criticism has been made about the loss of agricultural land for the project.

    EDF Energy, which is behind the plans, said the site had been chosen to reduce the impact on the nearby community.

    The scheme will be built off Brick Kiln Lane, between Mulbarton, Newton Flotman and Swainsthorpe in Norfolk.

    At 49.9 megawatts (MW), it would be one of the biggest solar schemes in the country, just behind Wroughton Airfield Solar Park in Wiltshire, which is the fourth-largest and generates 50MW of energy, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

    It would cover the equivalent of 133 football pitches and will operate for 35 years, and also includes a substation, fencing, an orchard and other trees planted to cover the development.”

    That’s one heck of a lot of lost agricultural land:

    “Glyn Frost, from Swainsthorpe Parish Council, said she was in support of increasing green energy but had “great reservations” about using currently productive agricultural land, especially while food production is of “high importance”.

    Her concerns were echoed by committee member Florence Ellis, who said food supplies needed as much attention as energy production, and questioned the screening of the site.”

    Like

  13. 49.9 megawatts

    Seems like a strange number? Why not 50 MW? Because then the scheme would count as a “Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project” and there would then be considerably more hoops to jump through.

    This is in my back yard (and Alan’s). Alas I have not been keeping up with planning, or I would have opposed it. (For a time I tried to keep up with local planning, but the web interfaces were utterly useless, almost as if they were designed to put the reader off. For some applications, there were hundreds of documents, and no way to sort them. So there were letters of support and opposition and letters clarifying irrelevant minor points, all in a huge unsorted list, hidden in which were the documents that you actually wanted to read. And that was if you actually knew of a development and were able to search for it (by knowing the application number – text searches invariably failed). If you casually went to the planning websites hoping to be alerted to significant developments: yet again you were confronted by an enormous unsorted list, most of which related to people wanting to put up a sign or change their windows.)

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Jit, well spotted regarding the 49.9Mw point.

    As for the mess that is the planning website – conspiracy or cock-up?

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  15. Jit,

    There are a number of techniques that are used to give the impression of openness without being open in any effective manner. One that I have witnessed first hand is the holding of public consultation workshops without advertising them properly in advance. As a consequence, the workshop is badly attended, which suits them fine, since only those who attended are then deemed interested stakeholders to be copied in on future bulletins. All the stakeholder management boxes are ticked without raising the profile dangerously. It didn’t quite work for the wind farm they proposed to erect near my home town but the same people have returned with proposals for a solar farm and the same tactics seem to be working this time.

    Like

  16. John, indeed, it’s a tactic that those in positions of authority have turned into a fine art. Two observations from Cockermouth, Cumbria:

    1. A few years ago the Council found itself in receipt of government largesse for local projects, and so had £1M+ burning a hole in its pockets. It decided to proceed with a crass refurbishment of the ancient Market Place, including horrible garishly-coloured plastic seating completely inappropriate for the location. At the public meeting hich they must have been shocked to see was well-attended, sentiment was almost universally hostile. They went ahead anyway. So much for consultation.

    2. There is a big ongoing debate about what to do regarding nuclear waste. Because we have the misfortune to be the location for Sellafield, and to be relatively sparsely populated and a long way from London, Westminster politicians seem determined to site the “geological disposal facility” (aka nuclear dump) here. The first process failed because Cumbria County Council objected. Under the rules the Government put in place at the time, that should have been that, but not a bit of it. They’ve come back for a second go, and they have a newly-created body in charge of this round of “consultations”. Fancy leaflets have been pushed through doors, big adverts placed in the local press. I’ve written to them twice and never received so much as an acknowledgement, let alone a considered reply. So much for consultation.

    Liked by 1 person

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