Photo: Wendy Schotsmans

By Tiffany Francis

The Conservative energy minister John Hayes has recently spoken out against onshore wind turbines, deeming them unattractive, noisy and ‘imposing’.

Shall I repeat? The energy minister: the man supposedly in charge of finding safe, renewable energy sources to fuel the future of Great Britain, has spoken out against wind farms because they don’t match the ‘green and pleasant land’ he is trying to protect…

Around 4,000 turbines are due to be built across the UK by 2020, which is sufficient to meet the UK environmental targets, according to Mr Hayes. However, he believes they are now disagreeable to the aesthetic appeal of England, declaring:

‘We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can’t single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land.’

Very noble, Mr Hayes, but what proportion of the public agree? Last month, a study by YouGov discovered that 55% of the public want an increase in wind farms, and 14% are very happy with the number we have already. More people are turning their backs on the old-fashioned energy sources of coal, oil and gas, and are investing their money and enthusiasm in renewables. Yet Hayes has declared that they are ‘imposing’ on communities, declaring ‘enough is enough’.

Shadow Energy Secretary Caroline Flint, of the Labour party, has accused Hayes of ‘playing politics’, commenting on the damage he is doing to the morale of the country:

‘With energy bills skyrocketing, what hard pressed people urgently want is action, but instead we have a shambles of a Tory-led government which can’t even agree with itself.’

Indeed, Hayes is quick to shame wind turbines, but it is unclear what he believes is a good alternative. It must be difficult to find an energy source that visually matches the pink azaleas on the terrace, whilst not compromising the view over the south lawn. If we have mercilessly attacked the planet for hundreds of years, I think we should probably cope with the odd turbine to help it heal. Besides, their appearance is completely subjective: many people, like myself, think they are elegant, tranquil, modern sculptures scattered across the land.

In all fairness, the job of finding efficient, renewable energy sources whilst saving the pennies is a difficult one: wind is expensive, nuclear power is controversial and tidal energy is still in its infancy. Even solar energy has its difficulties: as the technology is constantly improving, solar fittings can quickly become outdated and need upgrading, which is jolly expensive. Even after this, a solar panel can take up to 4 years to recoup the energy it was built with.

Yet Hayes’ main problem seems to be with the aesthetic appeal of the turbines themselves. Who cares if they successfully provide neighbouring towns with clean, guiltless energy? I’m sure we can all agree that the health of the planet is nothing, in comparison to the heartbreak and agony we may feel upon experiencing a tall, white windmill ‘whooshing’ viciously at us. Distressing is not the word.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m an avid fan of the National Trust, I adore the beauty of the English countryside, and there’s nothing I like better than to sit on a stile in my wellies and feel British. But denial is a terrible thing, and Mr Hayes surely cannot be that idiotic. What’s the point in ‘protecting’ the countryside now, from the terrorising ‘horror’ of the turbine, if there is no countryside to protect in the future?