They’re building a wind farm, six turbines the height of Salisbury cathedral spire, on the hilltop half a mile from your home. Would you say, on balance, that this will increase or decrease the value of your property? Hmm. Tough one. Let’s try and work it out by carefully weighing up the pros and cons.
• The lovely view which was one of the reasons you bought the house has been destroyed.
• From now on your days will be plagued by ‘shadow flicker’ and your nights by irregular whumping and low-frequency noise which may cause you insomnia, raised cortisol levels, stress, anxiety, disorientation, panic attacks, depression.
• Your once-happy village community is now bitterly divided between the minority who supported the wind farm (the landowner; anyone else in the pay of Big Wind) and the majority who opposed it but had it forced on them nonetheless by Planning Inspector diktat.
• The raptors you used to enjoy watching circling over the hilltop in search of prey will soon by sliced and diced by the turbine blades. As will the neighbourhood bats.
• Any tourist income your village may once have received will dwindle to nothing, for people only like walking or staying in B&Bs in beauty spots — not ex-beauty spots.
So that’s the most immediate cons taken care of. Now, the pros.
• The wind turbine company has promised to buy your village a nice new hall.
So that’s all right, isn’t it?
No it’s not all right. It makes me sick. A monstrous injustice is being perpetrated against the people of rural Britain and what amazes and disgusts me is that so many institutions which ought to know better are complicit in it. I don’t just mean the coalition government, though they’re probably the worst. I mean the royal family (which stands to make billions from offshore wind, not to mention the Duke of Gloucester and his appalling development near Lyveden New Bield); the aristocracy (rich landowners like Dave Cameron’s father-in-law Sir Reginald Sheffield Bt, who makes £1,000 a day from the wind farms on his estates in Lincolnshire); the journalists — saving such honourable exceptions as Christopher Booker and David Rose — who are either too lazy or parti-pris to investigate the scandal; the wind industry, with its multi-million-pound propaganda-and-legal-bullying machine; the lawyers, engineers, local politicians and technocrats who won’t speak out because there’s too much money to be made from perpetuating the myth that wind is environmentally friendly and popular; distinguished-sounding bodies like the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors….
Ah, yes. The RICS (founded 1868: ‘Est Modus In Rebus’). You might imagine that they would be the best source of reliable — and loftily independent — information on wind farms and property values. It’s not, after all, as though there’s any shortage of compelling evidence. For example, only yesterday I heard from a gentleman in Northamptonshire who was told by a surveyor that his home would be worth 25 per cent less once the wind farm had been built next door. I know many similar stories from Devon, Norfolk, Wales, Scotland, Wisconsin, Maine, Canada and South Australia. In the worst cases, the properties haven’t merely lost a chunk of their value: they’ve been rendered completely unsellable.
Now, it could, I suppose, be that my sources are compromised. Perhaps they’re all renewable-energy-haters in the pay of Big Oil. Perhaps they’re all just insane climate-change-denying liars. But how would you square that with the recent findings of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which agreed that a property near the Fullabrook wind farm in Devon ought to be moved to a lower council tax band because the owners’ lives had been made misery by the turbines’ intermittent whooshing noise? Are the VOA a bunch of paid deniers too?
So where is the RICS on all this? Is it taking a principled stand on this issue of such key importance to property owners all over rural Britain? Hardly. Its website — in answer to the question ‘Do wind farms affect property prices?’ — lamely and disingenuously claims ‘There is no definitive answer to this question.’
The RICS refers back to a study it commissioned in 2007 from two researchers at Oxford Brookes university, one of them an expert in ‘sustainable development’. About half the short study is mysteriously dedicated to explaining why wind energy is popular and necessary (‘the activities of man are responsible for the changes in climate that we are seeing’, runs one pull-out quote). When finally it gets round to trying to answer the question it was set, the report is inconclusive. Yes, there is evidence that the ‘threat’ of a wind farm may have a ‘significant’ impact on property prices. But perhaps, it suggests — though without any evidence — the opposite may also sometimes be true, ‘if the community are actively involved in the process and enjoy some of the benefits through lower, greener, fuel costs’.
This bravura exercise in fence-sitting may seem like canny politics to the slithy wormtongues of the RICS, but the effect it has had on wind farm policy has been disastrous. It is cited both on the Department of Energy and Climate Change website and by the wind industry’s propaganda arm RenewableUK to ‘prove’ that wind farms have negligible effect on property values.
I would go on. I will go on. The stench from the wind industry and its many leech-like hangers-on is overpowering and it’s a disgrace that so few people are speaking up for the thousands of victims affected by it. But I am. I hereby announce my intention to stand in the Corby by-election as the anti-wind farm candidate. Not in my back yard. And not in yours either!