German-owned speculative developer Energiekontor recently had application for five 126.5m turbines close to Fenrother, near Longhorsley, unanimously refused following the advice of planners.
The scheme was opposed by the overwhelming majority of local people, which probably explains why Energiekontor paid a Yorkshire eco-activist to gather signatures on pro forma letters supporting the application at a street stall in Morpeth.
Jeff Rice (AKA ‘Jeff MacDonald’), of East Riding Action for Wind, (ERA4Wind), East Riding Alliance For Climate Action, Greenpeace, South Yorkshire Against Incineration, etc. is a full time activist who advertises his services to developers on the Yes-to-Wind website run by the wind industry. Before Morpeth he was canvassing tourists in Burnham-on-Sea for signatures to support a turbine planning application by Broadview Energy. Pictured with him is Jonathan Lincoln, of Sustainable Energy Alliance/Alliance4Wind and Greenpeace, another of the ubiquitous handful of activists who we see working for developers across the UK.
In Morpeth they were recorded giving false information to the public about the Fenrother proposal and wind power in Northumberland. It seems ignorance of the area, the proposal and the facts regarding renewables in Northumberland are no hindrance when it comes to working for the wind industry.
Recently Jeff Rice was posing for the camera in Tiverton, where he was canvassing signatures for a turbine near Stoodleigh, about five miles from Tiverton.
Wind developer Your Energy Ltd (YEL) felt obliged to apologise to a Planning Inquiry in Cambridgeshire for their lack of consultation with local people (‘Wind Farm Firm Say They Are Sorry’, Hunts Post). Their appeal was rejected.
They behaved in exactly the same manner in the Berwick area: very few people contacted with an initial letter; a solitary ‘exhibition’ that was not properly advertised; a failure to answer written questions from both the public and councillors; promises to meet with local people and arrange a visit to an operating wind farm not kept.
Moorsyde Action Group (MAG) was launched at an open public meeting where supporters of the ‘Moorsyde’ scheme were invited to speak. The major landowner involved in the scheme, did so (at length), as did one other supporter. That was the level of support at a packed open meeting.
When the the Local Planning Authority advertised the scheme and invited representations from the public, only 12 letters of support were sent to the planners: 3 from the landowners involved and 4 from outside Northumberland. These 12 letters remained the grand total of expressions of support for the ‘Moorsyde’ scheme from January 2005 to late July 2006. By contrast, nearly 250 detailed letters of objection were sent.
When MAG organised a petition against the scheme 756 people signed, supplying their addresses, and the petition was lodged with the Council. A door-to-door survey with the petition showed that 81.2% of households within 2.5km objected. Duddo Parish Council carried out a door-to-door survey of all households in the Parish which obtained similar results. Shoresdean Parish Council held a public consultation which again showed overwhelming opposition.
On November 15 2006, neartly 2 years after the planning application was submitted, Matt Kelly of YEL asked the planners whether he could see the file containing public responses to the application.
In the same month, YEL hired Richard Claxton, a Greenpeace activist from Yorkshire, who helped found a secretive pro-‘Moorsyde’ group (with “about 8 members” a spokesperson told the Press). The aim of all this was to generate the illusion of public support for the scheme and some ‘letters’ as evidence of support from ‘the silent majority’ to be produced at the fast approaching determination meeting in December 2006.
A small group of young men, obviously not locals and all wearing ‘Yes2Wind’ badges, stood out like a sore thumb at a packed planning meeting on 12 December 2006 where, yet again, YEL’s ‘silent majority’ of supporters had failed to turn up. Otherwise, the few other supporters present were landowners involved in ‘Moorsyde’ and Barmoor projects and the developers’ staff.
After the ‘Moorsyde’ determination was deferred at the last moment, members of the MAG committee talked for some time to the bald man in a black beanie who appeared to be leading the ‘Yes to Wind’ group. Rather coyly, he said he was “visiting friends” and “on the way to Scotland”.
Suspicions were further raised by reports of Yorkshire activists overheard discussing computer hacking and sabotage on a train to Berwick and the same group being spotted at a hotel in the town.
The role of the bald man in the beanie was soon revealed by the gossip of a naive member of the secretive ‘Moorsyde’ support group, after the meeting. He was revealed to be a former Greenpeace organiser from East Yorkshire called Richard Claxton, working under cover for Your Energy.
Richard Claxton used a scam that had worked very successfully in Yorkshire: using teams of activists, some wearing Greenpeace tabards, to man ‘Yes to Wind’ street stalls where people were asked to show their support for wind (and renewables in general) by signing pre-written letters. Passers-by were told that signing was a vote for clean, green renewable energy and against nuclear power.
“ ... the plan for the next visit to Selby is to illustrate the nukes/renewables choice with radiation suits and wind-turbine headgear. Many members of the public were quick to identify this choice ... In three days of communications work, only one person expressed a preference for nuclear power.”
‘Richard Claxton, Greenpeace Area Networker, Hull and East Yorkshire.’ (Greenpeace Active Supporter Website).
Mr Claxton knows very well that wind power generation does not substitute for nuclear power. The most pro-wind report to date, which is invariably referenced by the BWEA, Greenpeace and FOE, states: “It would be unrealistic to assume that wind energy would displace any nuclear capacity,” (‘Wind Power in the UK’, Sustainable Development Commission. 2005. p35).
There is considerable doubt as to whether the signatories, including children, knew that they were actually signing letters supporting a commercial planning application.
YEL used similar tactics at West Hinkley, in the West Country, with signatures being harvested at Glastonbury Festival and from holiday makers stopping at service areas on the M5. Ironically, such is their principled opposition to nuclear power, YEL sold their interest in this site to EDF, for the development of a nuclear reactor!
Planning authorities have become increasingly aware of the way Claxton and others operate in trying to rig the numbers of planning responses in favour of their clients. Hundreds of photocopied, identically worded pro forma ‘letters’ are easily identified by planning authorities and are often labelled for members of the decision making body as bulk pro forma submissions which are regarded as having little real value in the consultation process.
Now, PR companies are using mail-merge software to try and get round the problem by producing individually tailored letters for submission. They boast that this can now be done at a street stall:
To see the gloss that Claxton puts on this to planning authorities, see a letter (PDF file) that was submitted to a Development Control Officer at Carlisle City Council in July 2008 with a bundle of pro forma ‘letters’ gathered at street stalls (‘information stalls’ in Claxton-speak) in Carlisle for Claxton’s client, Bolterstone.
Despite Mr Claxton’s best efforts for Bolterstone, only 242 ‘letters’ of support were received, compared to 1,300 objections. The scheme was thrown out at appeal after an initial rejection by the LPA.
So many objectors wished to speak at the inquiry, that it had to reconvene for an extra day. (See: ‘Turbines: Inspector throws out appeal’, News & Star, 14 March 2010).
Pendragon PR are well known locally for their work for Catamount Energy. They were employed to puff the Barmoor turbine scheme and take on the overwhelming public opposition to the scheme in the local area.
They were behind the referral of SOUL, the local Response group, to the Advertising Standards Authority and ‘helped’ form a secretive proxy support group, BREWS, which never held a public meeting, declined all invitations to take part in public debate, but which lent its name to glossy newsletters that were printed and distributed by Pendragon from Manchester. BREWS have not been heard from since the Barmoor application was first refused. Their website (mysteriously authored in Yorkshire) disappeared at around the same time.
Express Support are, “part of the pendragon group”. They boast that, “... politicians are there to represent the views of the people who elected them. So if it appears that a community totally opposes a planning development, local councillors may well see it as their job to represent that view and work to have the application turned down.”
“The problem is when a vocal minority creates the impression of mass objection when in reality most people are supportive. How can this happen? Well objectors object – they make themselves heard – loudly and constantly. Supporters on the other hand tend to be silent.”
This may be inverted to explain the problem with the tricksters: The problem is when a commercial organisation is paid to create the impression of mass support when in reality most people object. This subverts the democratic process.
There has been a remarkable consistency over the years in the figures of local people who oppose proposals, see the Moorsyde petition and the West Ancroft page for the exit poll of visitors to E.ON’s exhibition.
An article in The Herald, Scotland, has accused a major windfarm developer of “questionable ethics” in using this sort of letter-generating software to help boost public support for its proposals on Shetland.
Dr Peter Lynch, a senior lecturer in Stirling University’s department of politics, is quoted as saying: “I would say they are on questionable ethical territory here. It raises serious questions about the value of the public consultation process if letters generated by a computer software system are to have the same weight as those submitted in by members of the public in the normal way.”
Pendragon is but one example of the growing number of PR companies who offer to ‘manage’ public opposition to wind developments for developers.
Another example is the aptly named ‘Consense’:
In 2006, we formed Consense as a separate trading division of 2Cs Communications. We started to run online consultations for wind farm planning - another industry sector where the planning process can be hampered by vocal anti-groups. Open Debate was first adopted by Your Energy for their Milton Keynes Wind Farm which subsequently gained planning consent in December 2007, and it is now used by a wide range of wind farm developers including Broadview Energy, Infinergy, npower renewables, ScottishPower Renewables, Vattenfall, and Viking Energy.
‘First and foremost, have a look at this well known website -- www.yes2wind.com
‘Remember this? This was the web site that WWF, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace set up a few years ago to lobby for more wind power in the UK. Look at it more closely; to bend the old Peter, Paul and Mary song a little, “where have all the logos gone?” It appears that they sold-on the name and the intellectual property that goes with the site to someone else in late 2009 -- either that or they just forgot to register the web address after the two-year expiry period. Curiouser and curiouser!
‘Now: 1. Do a standard ‘whois’ lookup on that web address and you get “not known”; 2. Check the general US .com registry and you get the name of another registering company; 3. Check the registering company for their group of addresses -- http://www.nominate.net/ -- and you'll find the registrant as being one ‘Alex Doyle’ from Manchester; 4. Do a company search and you’ll find “Yes 2 Wind Limited” (company number 6984227); 5. Pull their documents from Companies House and you’ll find that Alexander (Alex) Doyle is a director of the company -- along with Philipa Kershaw, Andrew (Andy) Nicol, and John Everett [of Green Campaigns] (don’t ask me for their full particulars, if you want them you’ll have to get them yourself).
‘So who are these obviously really concerned and dedicated environmentalists who run “Yes 2 Wind” now the Greenpeace et. al. have dropped it?; what’s their common relationship?
‘Start manipulating the global web of knowledge and very quickly you’ll see that the name -- “Pendragon PR” -- will keep turning up. Pendragon PR are a company who specialise in PR for the energy industries, especially, BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY, renewable energy.
‘So, this is how the “Yes 2 Wind” scam now works (I use the word “scam” deliberately, for it is a deception that I believe might hold some interesting opportunities for campaigning in and of itself):
‘Pendragon PR(www.pendragon-pr.co.uk) specialise in PR for energy companies. Philipa Kershaw looks after their “support services including finances, personnel, administration and IT”, and so presumably does the same for “Yes 2 Wind”. Andy Nicol appears to be a front man for Pendragon at trade shows, promoting their services including something called “Express Support” [see above] (I’ll come back to these two interesting words later). Skip John Everett, we’ll also return to him later. Last, but not least, Alex Doyle is Pendragon’s managing director.
‘1. If you are a supporter/member of WWF, Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth I think you should be apoplectic with rage that a PR company, representing global corporations involved in nothing short of mass-scale environmental destruction, is trading on their associations with the former “Yes 2 Wind” website in order to promote anti-environmental development.
‘2. If you really truly believe in large-scale wind development, I still think you should be hopping mad! When the Daily Mail/Tory-Lib-Graph (sorry, I don't want them to but once I run my ‘send’ program I’ve no control over this information) pick this up they’re going to besmirch your “environmentalist” credentials by pointing out that the company who operates the “Yes 2 Wind” web site represents a bunch of corporate bread-heads hell bent on eco-destruction -- and not only have they made you fall for it, you’ve probably been doing free lobbying work on behalf of their corporate clients without knowing it!
‘3. If you play into this game of supporting large-scale wind development then don’t be surprised if you’re honestly held ecological beliefs are pretty much done-over by people like Pendragon PR in the name of subsidised corporate markets. E.g., that is what the “arms race” of ever-bigger wind turbines is all about -- maximising returns.
‘In my personal view being an environmentalist is about seeking a reconciliation between the planet and the human species, but under the rules defined by the planet (those sciency sort-of rules that cause problems for economists; Thermodynamics, meta-population dynamics, etc.). Everything the Pendragon PR stands for is, in my opinion, the opposite. They are using PR techniques and database-driven computerised letter spamming to councils in order to get their clients dodgy projects through -- controlling the public perceptions of what is or is not “green” by manipulating the agenda through front groups and web sites.’ [Our emphasis].
For the full text of this post by Paul Mobbs see the Power Switch forum, The UK’s Peak Oil Discussion Forum & Community.
Yes2Wind, the private limited company controlled by Pendragon/Green Campaigns personnel, is now openly boasting of its use of mailmerge software to create personalised planning representations that they hope will fool the planners into believing that they are individually written expressions of support for turbine planning applications:
Unlike many campaigning organisations which (rightly!) offer people the opportunity to submit a template letter of support for a specific project, yes2wind uses a facility to create a letter which reflects individual concerns. Because the method has been used successfully, it has been criticised by opponents as being unfair...
One wonders what the reaction would be if groups opposing industrial turbine arrays started using the same dubious tactics!
While so-called eco-activists in the UK sell their services to big energy companies with major interests in coal mining, dirty power stations, nuclear power and oil tanker leasing whose only interest in wind power is a quick buck from subsidies or offsetting their dirtier power generation with Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROC’s), we see eco-activists in the US protesting at the ecological damage being done to landscapes by wind developers:
‘Protesters arrested at Lincoln windfarm’
‘LINCOLN --- Five people were arrested this morning after they refused to stop blocking construction vehicles at the Rollins wind energy project here.
‘The arrests came as roughly three dozen protesters gathered at the entrance to the project site, shortly before 8 a.m. The action was part of a rally planned by citizen groups opposed to the project on Rollins Mountain, as well as other large-scale wind energy proposals around the state.
‘Most of those arrested were affiliated with the Maine branch of the national activist group, Earth First! ...
Channel 4 programme featuring several leading environmentalists who think that the ideological fixations of much of the Green movement, led by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, are unscientific, are harming people and the environment and have damaged action against anthropogenic global warming and its effects on people in disadvantaged countries (click above or here).
See also: ‘Nuclear power, yes please... leading greens join forces in a major U-turn’, The Independent, 23 February 2009.
Our ‘Dirty Tricks’ page has examples of the dubious behaviour and ethics of some Greenpeace and other so-called ‘Green’ activists when working for the wind industry in our area.
Your Energy uses a standard set of rather grubby PR tactics in the attempt to show support for their turbine schemes. As well as employing the likes of Richard Claxton to gather pro forma expressions of support at street stalls and set up proxy support groups supported by the company, they also use a bogus ‘survey’ of opinion. Any returns are used to turn well-meaning expressions of support for renewables into ‘evidence’ of support for the planning application.
The company used a borough-wide mailshot to distribute 8,300 post-paid ‘Your View’ cards in the summer of 2006. This managed to miss some settlements closest to the proposal. The cards had 3 dodgy ‘questions’ designed to show the support of ‘the silent majority’ for the scheme. This evoked such an underwhelming response that YEL were reduced to doing a rather silly analysis of the small number of returns and quietly submitting it to the Planning Department (without the evidence of the original cards, so that names, addresses and responses could be examined). On the Isle of Wight they press-released the results of a similar exercise (their Welland scheme was rejected soon afterwards).
They counted the many cards that refused to tick the box supporting ‘Moorsyde’ while supporting renewables and wind power in general as signifying support for the scheme.
The exercise further backfired when the company were exposed as carrying out their consultation, which included a ‘newsletter’ purporting to represent the facts of the project, while they were in the process of submitting a revised scheme to the planning authority.
The debate on ‘the right renewable for this area’ at the Border Green Festival in Berwick, in July 2007, went ahead without the speakers who were listed to speak on behalf of the wind developers.
Joe Lannon, leader of the secretive ‘www@Moorsyde’ group, and David Sanders of BREWS, the Barmoor supporters group sponsored by Pendragon PR for Force 9 Energy, both failed to show up, showing their usual aversion to public scrutiny.
Though Your Energy‘s local representative didn’t show up, Richard Claxton, the Yorkshire activist and former Hull and E. Yorkshire Greenpeace organiser working for Your Energy, was there. As ever, he was willing to talk to the press but not to the public.
While confirming that he was still working for Your Energy, Mr Claxton said it was his day off. He then spoilt the effect by sidling up to the Journal’s reporter and giving him a statement on why Messrs Sanders and Lannon had failed to appear.
He said that they had cried off because: “The local pro-group expected a local debate on local issues.”
There is a certain irony in Mr Claxton, a Yorkshire activist employed by Your Energy, then a Bahamas-registered, London-based speculative wind developer, speaking for Joe Lannon and David Sanders who were protesting about non-locals being involved in a debate!
There is an additional irony in Mr Claxton being so ‘active’ in our area when the Greenpeace ‘Active Supporters’ website page for the East Yorkshire group, of which he was formerly listed as area organiser, was then telling us that it “is no longer active”!
Of course, Mr Claxton was a professional activist from 3 May, 2005, when he incorporated his limited company, ‘Green Campaigns’ until 2010 when the company was closed. Mr Claxton was briefly joined by his friend John Everett, who is now heavily involved in ‘Yes2Wind’ and ‘Embrace my Planet’, a campaign organisation run by the wind industry:
“Embrace is an arms-length campaign of RenewableUK (formerly BWEA), the trade association for renewable energy suppliers in Britain. While it is sponsored by companies, the campaign itself is activist-led - Embrace provides the facilities for renewable energy supporters to campaign directly to their elected representatives, as well as organise campaigning events for themselves.” (Embrace website).
There is some surprise that Your Energy were employing someone with a criminal conviction for aggravated trespass. NPower, their neighbouring developers at Toft Hill, cannot have been too amused that YEL were paying someone who had been involved in the occupation of their Didcot power station. This is estimated to have cost the company £690,000 (see local press).
More recently, Richard Claxton was fined £295 and received a conditional discharge after pleading guilty to trespass offences following a rooftop protest at the Palace of Westminster in October 2009. This action caused a major security alert for Parliament and the Metropolitan Police.
At the Border Green festival Mr Claxton was with (but carefully kept his distance from) a gang of Yorkshire activists who had travelled up specifically to hound Dr John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) who was speaking in the debate.
One of their number, ‘Jeff MacDonald’, of ‘East Riding Action for Wind’ (‘ERA4Wind’)/‘East Riding Alliance For Climate Action’/‘ Greenpeace’/‘South Yorkshire Against Incineration’, etc. etc., did try shouting down Dr Constable but was soon dissuaded from disrupting the debate by the event organisers, the Chair and members of the audience who wanted to hear the speakers.
‘Jeff MacDonald’ was later given the opportunity to address a question to the panel but then proceeded to deliver an incomprehensible tirade of abuse directed at Dr John Constable. Much of this attack seemed to be based on his confusion of Dr John Constable, who is a well known former academic at Cambridge University and now Policy and Research Director of REF, with another John Constable who is senior UK economist for Exxon Mobil!
An attempt to discuss wind issues with ‘Jeff MacDonald’ afterwards confirmed not only his lack of basic research skills but also a surprising ignorance of the basic facts of wind power generation.
“Since studying Ecology at Manchester University in the early nineties, Jeff has been a full time environmental activist and campaigner”, according to his website.
He is a Greenpeace organiser in Huddersfield and advertises his services on the Yes-to-Wind site: Jeff Rice and Vicki Shaw - ‘Based in Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Promotional campaign services available to developers’.
A Jeffrey Rice, 43, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire recently received a 6 month conditional discharge and fine for trespassing on the roof of the House of Commons with 54 other Greenpeace activists, including Richard Claxton.
Response groups in North Northumberland have attempted to involve local environmental activists - and even ‘foreign’ activists such as Richard Claxton and Jeff Rice - in an open, public debate on renewables and the sustainable development of this area of Northumberland.
Sadly, it has become evident that some so-called environmental activists are much more interested in stunts and demo’s than in boring stuff like debating the reality of energy production, transmission and consumption and how it relates to questions of sustainability and regeneration in rural areas.
These tiny activist groups punch above their weight due to the constant media presence of full-time activists and use of a variety of portentous group names by the same handful of people. For example: Huddersfield, supposedly a centre of environmental activism with a population of 146,000, has a Greenpeace group with only 20 members, according to the Greenpeace website.
See Journal article by Alistair Gilmour - ‘Pro lobby pair snub debate’, 9 July 2007.
In the Berwick area there were a number of instances of signs belonging to local response groups being destroyed or stolen and a large blimp was cut loose at night, causing a potential hazard to air traffic.“The police were called and they suspected it was sabotage” (Press report).
Just prior to the Berwick public inquiry Your Energy Ltd (YEL), the ‘Moorsyde’ developers, were again using activists from outside the area to try and give an impression of support for their deeply flawed scheme. The Alnwick FoE website showed that YEL’s Alison Hood was trying to organise bulk ‘letters’ to submit to the Inspector.
A somewhat incoherent rant by David Farrar (who authors nearly everything on the Alnwick FoE website) was presented as a model for letters. It displayed an astonishing ignorance of the area, the application and wind power generation.
Just to pick out the only point that remotely connects to the planning issues: the author says of the three appealed applications:
“... previous views [sic] have already identified these areas as UK locations with well above average wind speeds”.
Mr Farrar seemed to be unaware of the fact that the ‘Moorsyde’ developer had themselves admitted that the area has below average wind speeds:
“The fact [that] Felkington is on a low lying plateau means the wind conditions are relatively low”. (Bill Richmond, Your Energy Chairman. Berwick Advertiser, 20 October 2004).
The very few ‘letters’ resulting from this exercise were thinly disguised pro forma submissions from Edinburgh. Most signatories seemed to think that the ‘Moorsyde’ proposal was in the Scottish Borders not Northumberland and repeated, in formulaic fashion, Mr Farrar’s erroneous comments on the local wind resource.
Rather less amusing was Mr Joe Lannon’s last submission on behalf of YEL. Mr Lannon ran a pro-Moorsyde ‘group’ founded with the help of Richard Claxton, a Greenpeace activist hired by the ‘Moorsyde’ developers only weeks before the abortive determination meeting of December 2006, two years after the planning application was lodged.
Mr Lannon’s secretive Moorsyde fan club had “about 8 members”, as a spokesperson told The Journal, never held a public meeting and rejected repeated invitations to take part in public debate on the ‘Moorsyde’ proposal.
Mr Lannon, a part-time teacher at Berwick High School, again trotted out a ‘survey’ he had conducted using his High School pupils. Last time this surfaced, representations were made to the school governors regarding Mr Lannon’s misuse of his position as a teacher to further the interests of a commercial planning application.
The sixth form pupils voted in a straw poll on a planning application for which they had heard only Mr Lannon’s highly selective and ill-informed opinions.
Our correspondent in Angus sends news of yet another attempt to stuff the response files with pre-written letters:
“Jeff Macdonald [aka Jeff Rice] and Richard Claxton came to Angus to support the Novera/West Coast Energy proposal at the Mountboy site, Rossie Moor, on the edge of the Montrose Basin wild bird reserve. The site is on the edge of an SSSI.
They were collecting signed pre-printed letters of support from people in Brechin, Montrose and Arbroath.
They set up an attractive stall in busy parts of Arbroath, Montrose and Brechin. People were encouraged to look at an array of colourful leaflets and information displayed on their stall, which also had literature publicising Greenpeace.
At the end of their conversation, they then asked people to sign-up to show their support. A clipboard was put in front of them with pre-printed letters of support, addressed to Angus planners, for the Novera/West Coast Energy - Rossie Moor turbine development. People, by then ready to move away, were willingly signing-up.
They were also allowing children to sign-up. I noticed children signing and confronted Jeff. His defence was that the children wanted to do it. Jeff MacDonald admitted he did not know where the proposed turbine site was in relation to his stall in Montrose - He could not even point to the site's direction. When trying to counter our claims that the site was unsuitable all he did was refer people to the Novera brochure which he was handing out, with the comment that this would answer their queries. When we pointed out the omissions and errors in the brochure he was silenced. He appeared to know nothing about the site and we only heard him arguing that wind turbines (presumably anywhere) were important to stop global warming.
Richard Claxton said very little and seemed to be merely supporting Jeff.”
The schemes at Montreathmont and Mountboy were thrown out in May 2009 after a public inquiry. Reporter Michael Shiel said that, in both cases, the renewable energy contribution the wind farms would make did not outweigh what would be “significant local impact”.
See also: Views of Scotland (VOS). ‘Strange Bedfellows, Views of Scotland Briefing Paper 8’, February 2008. This is a briefing paper on the activities of so-called eco-activists working for big energy companies to influence planning applications.
Following on from Your Energy’s use of an ex-Greenpeace activist from Yorkshire to pack the ‘Moorsyde’ response files with pre-written letters just before a planning meeting (see above), NPower hired eco-activists from Wales to do the same for their Toft Hill scheme.
Activists in Berwick were manning a stall that had one part of the Toft Hill environmental Statement on show and they admitted to the writer that they were being paid by NPower to collect signatures, though they were unwilling to give their full names and were remarkeably camera shy for people who spend most of their lives trying to get pictures of their stunts into newspapers. In the 45 minutes we were present, we did did not hear them once mention to people they were approaching that NPower were paying for the exercise. Nor did the stall or the pre-written letter they were using bear the name of NPower or any other organisation (see below).
Npower, when contacted by the press, issued a statement claiming that the stall was being run by an organisation called ‘Alliance4wind’. We googled the name and got the following result: “Your search - Alliance4Wind - did not match any documents.” Very strange - an invisible activist group!
A quick bit of research on the internet revealed that the tall gent with the bouffant hair is Jonathan Lincoln, founder, leader and spokesperson of the Welsh ‘Sustainable Energy Alliance’, one of a number of micro groups of eco-activists. His sidekick is Bryan Norris, from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, also of SEA. Jonathan was listed as a Greenpeace organiser in Porthmadog, North Wales in 2006. SEA’s website, authored by JL, gives a list of the wind power projects that they support; at the time of his Berwick activity these were: Gwynt-Y-Mor, Lindhurst, Langham and Rhyl Flats; all NPower proposals.
Jonathan is now accepting commissions to operate on behalf of other developers, press reports identified SEA as operating on behalf of Infinergy, the developer of 10 huge turbines north of Grantham: “The firm pays the expenses of members of the Sustainable Energy Alliance when they visit the Grantham area to lobby for the proposed wind farm at Thackson's Well, near Long Bennington.” The Grantham Journal quotes an Infinergy spokeswoman as saying: “The activity is done by SEA and not by Infinergy.” An interesting distinction!
SEA’s informative style of debate on renewables issues is typified by its T-shirts:
Nearly every bullet point in this document is misleading or factually incorrect.
It seems that the Jonathan Lincoln continues to spread his client base, more recently working for Broadview Energy:
‘Windfarm support is Worthless’
‘Broadview Energy Limited wants to erect five 351 feet tall turbines at Warwick Hall Farm.’
‘But local residents, fearing a windfarm would destroy the area’s beauty and damage the tourist trade, got more than 1,700 letters of objection.’
‘In response, Broadview collected around 430 signatures from residents and visitors to Workington, and a further 320 from people in Maryport, Wigton and Carlisle, during four days of canvassing opinion.’
‘John Ryden, chairman of Westnewton Parish Council, said: “As far as I can see, the letters are worthless.’
‘“Reports that letters received by the local authority totalled 1,700 against, with only a handful of support, panicked the developer to pay some ‘windfarm warriors’ to stand on the streets of local towns for a number of days to scrape together letters of ‘support’.’
‘“Notably, there was an absence of support from rural areas, as most support came from Workington.”.’
‘Jonathan Lincoln and Brian Norris were in Maryport last Thursday soliciting support under the banner Alliance 4 Wind.’
‘They asked people to sign pre-written letters to send to the council in support of the Westnewton project.’
The Westnewton application was overwhelmingly rejected by Allerdale Council’s Planning Committee on 8 June 2010.
The employment of the dirty tricks brigade just serves to demonstrate how out of touch wind development companies are when it comes to successful PR.
Though the closure of Mr Claxton’s ‘Green Campaigns’ business may show that even the wind industry eventually learns from its mistakes.
In our area, Your Energy’s underhand tactics further alienated local people who had already been alienated by the company’s failure to consult them and their representatives. Their activities fed a large amount of hostile press coverage.
Dubious pro forma submissions even featured during the planning presentation when the ‘Moorsyde’ scheme was first rejected and were the subject of withering criticism by several speakers at the public inquiry. All in all: a major own goal in PR terms.
Our thanks to Richard Claxton, John Everett, Jeff Rice/MacDonald, Jonathan Lincoln and Bryan Norris!
The leader of Alnwick District Council, Heather Cairns, was defeated in local elections in 2006 by Robert Thorp, who had been leading the fight against the Middlemoor and Wandylaw proposals.
Mr Thorp’s campaign centred on the wind farm issue and obviously struck a chord with the voters.
Mrs Cairns had voted in favour of the Middlemoor and other wind proposals, going against the views of most local people and most of her council colleagues.
Sir Alan Beith saw his majority slashed from 8,632 to 2,690 in the 2010 general election. Many consider that his refusal to address the issue of the wind rush in Northumberland and its impact on rural communities was a factor in this.
This is a major issue in the constituency, yet Sir Alan, unlike his Conservative opponent who was the beficiary of an 8.3% swing from the Lib Dems, did not see fit to even mention it in his election literature.