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Can Saudi developers comprehend the significance of Heathcliff? The Brontë community is outraged by the proposal for a windfarm.
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Can Saudi developers comprehend the significance of Heathcliff? The Brontë community is outraged by the proposal for a windfarm.


“Hello Heathcliff, it is I, Cathy. I am near the wind turbines.” This may not align with Kate Bush’s vision and is likely not what Emily Brontë envisioned as she roamed the desolate moors of West Yorkshire and crafted Wuthering Heights.

However, if a wealthy individual from Lancashire succeeds in their plans, large areas of moorland in the Brontë region could potentially house the largest onshore windfarm in England.

Richard Bannister is the proprietor of Boundary Outlet, a series of bargain retail centers, and also possesses approximately 9 square miles of marshy moorland situated between Haworth and Hebden Bridge. He has collaborated with a company supported by Saudi Arabia to create proposals for transforming the “cunning, blustery” moor into the Calderdale windfarm.

The proposed windfarm would consist of 65 turbines, each reaching heights of 200 metres (655ft), which is 40 metres higher than Blackpool Tower. According to its supporters, the project has the potential to produce sufficient renewable energy to supply 286,491 households for a year and reduce carbon emissions by 426,246 tonnes per year.

However, there is a growing resistance from the community towards the project, specifically due to worries about the peat bogs, which play a vital role in trapping carbon and preventing excess water from reaching the vulnerable valleys downstream.

Some are concerned about the decrease in available space for birds to build nests, particularly for curlews, lapwings, and golden plovers. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has deemed the site “completely unsuitable”.

The potential impact on the profitable literary tourism industry is also a concern, as stated by the Brontë Society. They believe that the development would greatly harm the iconic local viewpoint and internationally renowned landscape.

The ruins of Top Withens farmhouse, thought by many to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

Every day, numerous hikers walk past the last farmhouse on the Haworth side of the moor, where poets Lydia Macpherson and Nick MacKinnon reside. This farmhouse is located directly on the Pennine Way. On Bush’s birthday, it is not uncommon to see some walkers sporting red dresses.

Many people head towards the two solitary sycamore trees that mark the location of Top Withens, a dilapidated farmhouse that was once owned by Macpherson’s ancestors. It is widely believed that this place served as the inspiration for Wuthering Heights, at least in terms of its setting.

According to MacKinnon, visitors from around the globe flock to the location where Cathy and Heathcliff resided. The two sycamore trees at Top Withens are likely the most beloved in Britain, especially after the unfortunate destruction of the Hadrian’s Wall tree by a chainsaw. However, the developers responsible for this destruction are from Saudi Arabia and may not understand the significance of curlews and Heathcliff, or have any reason to care.

Mackinnon stated that Bannister, being a local, should have a better understanding of the situation. He believes that this application is either dangerously careless when it comes to wildlife, flooding, and preserving heritage sites or it displays a lack of respect for the residents of the Worth and Calder valleys and the concerns of numerous others due to the entitled and selfish actions of the owners.

Opponents of the windfarm argue that their efforts are not solely motivated by a desire to preserve their own exclusive views, but rather to advocate for the well-being of all – whether they be ally, adversary, or avian.

“The inhabitants of this area are the avian species,” stated Clare Shaw, a fellow poet residing in Pecket Well, near Hebden Bridge. She is also organizing a reaction from the artistic community in Calderdale. “It is crucial that we do not disrupt this essential environment which they are instinctually drawn to.”

Some people have mixed feelings about the project.

Professor Joseph Holden, an expert in geography and peatlands from the University of Leeds, stated that according to carbon calculators, the windfarm’s carbon benefits would exceed the carbon losses from the peatland. However, he also acknowledged that wind turbines can cause devastating damage.

Holden is in charge of the Shetland Windfarm Environmental Advisory Group, which is overseeing the building of 103 turbines. Once completed, this will be the biggest windfarm on land in the UK.

Poet Lydia Macpherson

The impact of destruction extends beyond individual turbines and their bases, he explained. A pathway must be constructed for each turbine, and significant cables must be hidden underground to link them all to the National Grid. This process will result in significant disturbance to the peat.

Holden, a scientist specializing in peatlands, expresses deep sadness upon witnessing the destruction and harm caused to peatlands on windfarm sites. These vital ecosystems have taken thousands of years to develop and store carbon, making it all the more devastating to see it lost. Holden advocates for placing windfarms in areas that will have minimal impact on carbon storage, preserving these valuable peatland environments.

He recommended exploring other hills at higher elevations with less dense soils, as they could potentially be more suitable for a windfarm.

The developers submitted a 151-page scoping document in September, as the government lifted its moratorium on large onshore windfarms, indicating that the plans are still in their initial phases.

Prior to submitting a complete planning application, the developers are required to conduct a formal assessment of the environmental impact.

A representative from Calderdale windfarm and Worldwide Renewable Energy stated that their focus is on responsible development that shows consideration for the landscape, minimizes disturbance to wildlife habitats, and addresses any potential effects on the surrounding environment.

“We understand that there are concerns regarding the preservation of heritage, and we have enlisted the help of cultural heritage experts, such as Wessex Archaeology, to assist us in protecting local heritage sites, including the Brontë heritage. We are dedicated to taking these concerns into account as we continue with our design process.”

The representative stated that while the initial funding came from Saudi investors, should planning approval be granted, a majority of the shares will be sold to investment funds based in the UK.

The planning lead for Calderdale council, Richard Seaman, stated that a complete public consultation will be conducted and all feedback received will be carefully considered for any planning application that is submitted.

Source: theguardian.com