Richard Herbert was a 47 year old Norfolk farmer. He was married with 3 children. Today's Telegraph reports that he was an unselfish and sensitive man, who cared a lot about what his neighbours thought of him. Last April, he received a solicitor's letter warning him that he would be sued if he allowed a German renewable energy company to build a wind farm on his land. Two weeks later he tied a weight to his body and committed suicide by jumping into the Middle Level Drain, near his home. Richard Herbert had no history of psychiatric problems.
Reason I noticed this article is that about 3 years ago, a Spanish renewable energy company approached me with a proposition to build a wind farm on land my family owns on the high land between Llanerfyl and Dolanog in Montgomeryshire. At the time this caused me a bit of a problem. Firstly, because I was my party's 'environment' spokesman and opposed to the Government's enthusiasm for on-shore wind farms. Secondly, the area of land in question was only part of the site, and the other landowners were all keen on the project. And thirdly (and most significantly) my immediate family were all keen and outvoted me 5-1 on the issue. It was a touch problematic, and I was much relieved when the Spanish company decided not to proceed with the project.
But this experience gave me an insight into the bitterness which surrounds wind farm proposals. People were telephoning in an aggressive way, late at night, blaming me personally for the proposal. One or two said that they could never vote Conservative while I was involved with the Party. I can still recall being told in a 200 strong public meeting that I wasn't being truthful when I said that I did not own the land on which a wind measuring mast was placed.
That's the thing about about wind farms. Never known anything like them to divide communities and divide families. And they don't even produce much energy. But an army of turbines are about to march onto great tracts of the Welsh uplands. The Government of Wales has decided. The Government, in the form of Technical Advice Note 8, has made it nigh on impossible for Planning Authorities to refuse applications for wind farms in the designated Strategic Search Areas - no matter what they think of the proposal. Thankfully, none of my family own any land involved. No good blame the farmers who have a responsibility to their families to derive income from their land. No good blame the renewable energy companies, who are only responding to Government stimulus. Lets hope that there are not too many other casualties like Richard Herbert.