An article has appeared recently in the Pevensey Bay Life magazine which reports on some of the allegations made against not only the Yes to Polegate Wind Farm campaign but also against Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth. It seems like our new group is beginning to make quite a splash locally because the anti-wind farm lobby is taking us seriously enough to start taking pot shots at it and to try and undermine its public image with misleading and incorrect statements. The editor of Pevensey Bay Life is apparently generous and open-minded enough to try and create a balanced account that does justice to both sides of the Polegate Wind Farm debate and he has solicited comments from all those involved, with the intention of writing a follow-up article which incorporates whatever feedback he gets. In order to help him create such a balanced account, our Co-ordinator, Andrew Durling, has written the following letter in response to the Pevensey Bay Life article:
With reference to your recent article in Pevensey Bay Life regarding the Yes to Polegate Wind Farm campaign, in which you gave notice of a follow-up article, you may be interested in my perspective as I have been a very active participant in the campaign. To start off with, I am presently the Co-ordinator of the Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth group, and my role is entirely a voluntary one. I am not an employee of any company or organisation whatsoever, being a retired person living in the local area for the last 12 years. My work with the Yes to Polegate Wind Farm campaign is also entirely unpaid and voluntary. I was at the very first meeting of the campaign, which was overwhelmingly dominated by the presence of local residents equally as concerned as I was by the lack of understanding and lack of correct factual information both about the proposed Polegate Wind Farm and about wind power in general. Our passion about the issue meant we immediately and spontaneously organised ourselves at that meeting into a campaign group, making our own decisions and using Cyra Parkes and Brenda Pollack merely as sources of information and advice to help us with ensuring that the facts about the wind farm and wind power were put across to the local media and local people as clearly and as widely as possible. Every campaign group, and every voluntary group for that matter, needs to seek the advice of professional advisers from time to time, but that does not mean that the advisors run the show; in this case, they did not, nor did they want to. That meeting was not set up and run by Friends of the Earth, and the Eastbourne group that I helped to set up was just on the drawing board at the time of the meeting. The Yes to Polegate Wind Farm campaign was not the catalyst for the creation of the Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth group, which was also the result of the spontaneous getting together of local residents like myself who cared passionately about a whole range of local environmental issues, not just wind power. In fact, the bulk of the work of the group to date has been to support the Bee Cause campaign of Friends of the Earth to try and help save British bees from the catastrophic decline in their numbers and health, and over 70 people attended the very successful film screening about bees put on at Eastbourne Town Hall on July 19th. It just so happens that some of the volunteers within Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth are also volunteers within the Yes to Polegate Wind Farm campaign, but both campaign groups are separate entities with their own particular dynamics and organisational structure.
You report that a certain Joyce Richards commented that one of the people attending the original meeting was a ‘dissenter’ who was asked to leave. That meeting was advertised as one solely for local residents who wished to actively support the Polegate Wind Farm. It was not meant to be an open forum for both pro- and anti- wind farm views; at that stage the anti-wind farm campaign was already well established and promoting its views widely in the local area. It was the local pro-wind farm constituency that was lacking a public voice. Nevertheless, the ‘dissenter’ eventually made his reason for attending the meeting known and proceeded to talk at length about his opposition to the wind farm. He was listened to respectfully, his genuine concerns were acknowledged compassionately and sensitively, and he was allowed to finish what he had to say. He was even invited by some present to provide details of the research that he referred to, research which he claimed backed up his case, as many in the group expressed an openness to consider all research evidence available, but to date we have not had those details, as far as I know. But his presentation was clearly eating into what limited time we had to get on with the real reason for the meeting, at which point he was politely asked to leave and he did so willingly.
The Yes to Polegate Wind Farm campaign has been very satisfying to work with as it confirmed to me that many local residents do back wind power and welcome the proposed Polegate Wind Farm. This backs up recent national polls which demonstrate that a significant majority of the British public support wind power and wind farms. I was on several of the campaign stalls, organised and manned by volunteers, that were run in the local area, and we gathered over 600 signed letters of support for the wind farm all of which were handed over to Wealden District Council, equalling the numbers of letters against the proposal. This support for the wind farm was not ‘manufactured’; we simply asked the local public to show their support and they did so willingly and spontaneously, and many thanked us for what we were doing. There is nothing like standing up in public for what you believe in and seeing what the response is, and I am proud of what I and my fellow volunteers did in proving that there is real and solid local support for the Polegate Wind Farm, contrary to the denials of the anti-wind farm campaign. There is a genuine debate to be had about the Polegate Wind Farm and I and my fellow volunteers will continue to strive to ensure that debate is a more informed one that includes information and facts that have often been denied or overlooked in the debate so far. A better informed debate will be of benefit to everyone, regardless of what the final outcome of the Polegate Wind Farm planning application is. In the light of the urgent challenges of global warming and establishing clean, green, safe, dependable, and renewable energy sources, that debate is critical and timely.
I hope these comments of mine are of use to you and please rest assured that I am happy to provide more information if you wish. I look forward to reading your follow-up article.