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By the time you read this I’ll be in the place that makes me happier than anywhere else in the world: a section of the Wye valley in beautiful mid-Wales, where I’ll spend every day paddling in streams and plunging in mill ponds and playing cockie-ollie in the bracken and wandering across the sunlit uplands, drinking in perhaps the finest view God ever created — the one across the Golden Valley towards the Black Mountains, and beyond that to the Brecon Beacons.

And each time I do so I wonder sadly whether this will be the last time I get to witness such perfection. No, I’m not dying, I don’t think. But the country I love is. Right now, all over Britain, there are people like me thinking similar thoughts about the special, secret place most dear to their hearts. For some, maybe it’s the Northumberland coast; for others, perhaps it’s Fullabrook Down in north Devon or the Vale of Avon Dassett in Northamptonshire. But the menace they fear is exactly the same.

Let me give you just one example of the kind of mini-tragedy being played out every day across Britain. It involves a man named Wyck who lives with his wife in mid-Wales near Machynlleth, not far from the environmental campaigner George Monbiot. Some years ago, Wyck bought a home there, in a valley so unspoilt and remote he still draws his drinking water from a well. Here he expected to live out a contented retirement. But then, last year, permission was granted for a massive wind farm to be built on the hills directly overlooking his house. And there was, he soon discovered, absolutely nothing he could do to stop it.

The emails he sends me recording his battles with the unsympathetic authorities are so sad I can scarcely bear to read them. Here was their response when he wrote to ask how he was supposed to put up with the increased noise of those humming turbine blades at night. ‘Regarding your concerns about ETSU permitting higher noise levels at night, there are a number of reasons for this, including that most people tend to be indoors and have their windows closed between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., which mitigates against the sound of wind turbines.’

So at the whim of some bureaucrat, Wyck has not only had his view ruined, and the value of his property trashed (with no compensation), but is also expected to do something he has never done before in all his life and probably never thought he’d have to do — sleep with the windows shut.

Now maybe this detail doesn’t bother you as much as it does me. Maybe you’re one of those people who likes sleeping with their windows closed. Maybe even, heaven forfend, you’re one of those weapons-grade pillocks who declares: ‘Well personally I think wind turbines look rather splendid!’ But what I’ll hope we’ll all be able to agree on is that among the advantages of living in a free, democratically accountable country is that property rights are sacrosanct and that lifestyle is a matter of personal choice.

Some city dwellers, I know, detest the country. They find the mud too muddy, the people too reactionary, the social life too dreary. And here’s the brilliant thing: they are never required to go anywhere near it. Their whole lives they are perfectly free to spend congratulating themselves how urban they are; how culturally rich; how edgy; how diverse. If they can afford the eco-taxes on air fares, they can even fly to other cities at weekends to compare notes. That’s how pluralistic societies work — each to his own.

Except, now, it seems country dwellers — and occasional visitors capable of appreciating what’s special about the country — have been rendered exempt from this privilege. They’re expected to sit there and take it while their views are obliterated, their peace shattered by subsonic humming and flickery strobing, their retirement nest-eggs stolen, their cherished walks rendered toxic. And all for the sake of… well, here’s the truly disgraceful part… no bloody reason at all.

If there were one single argument in favour of wind farms then maybe at least a smidgen of the suffering they cause might be justifiable. But there isn’t, not one. I’ll spare you the full litany — read Christopher Booker; read John Etherington’s definitive The Wind Farm Scam. Suffice to say that even in terms of saving the environment (their supposed raison d’être), they fail dismally, not just because of the birds and bats they destroy, and the poisonous rare earth minerals used in their manufacture, but because — owing to the erratic nature of wind — they require 100 per cent back-up from conventional power kept humming on standby just in case.

One day, when it’s all over, historians are going to look back on this era as one of the most extraordinary outbreaks of collective madness there has ever been. ‘However could any democratically elected government have allowed such damage to be inflicted on Britain’s single greatest asset — its countryside — to so little benefit?’

And what will particularly incense the more socially conscious of those historians is the method by which this despoliation was achieved: the compulsory transfer, via taxes, tariffs and artificially inflated energy bills, of money from the pockets of the poor and the middle classes into those of rich landowners like Sir Reginald Sheffield, Bt, who — in the teeth of local opposition — has put up eight 400-foot wind farms on his 3,000-acre Lincolnshire estate and stands to make up to £3.5 million a year from them. With a bit more research they might even discover who Sir Reginald’s son-in-law is. O Tempora, O Mores, they’ll say.

The Spectator, 6 August 2011