Tilting at windmills

CAMPAIGN to Protect Rural England – now, that sounds like something we'd all support, right? Right now the countryside needs protection more than ever - from roads, pollution, industrial and residential development, yes - but from windmills?

CAMPAIGN to Protect Rural England – now, that sounds like something we'd all support, right?

Right now the countryside needs protection more than ever. From residential and industrial development, and all the roads and car parks that go with it. Even, in many ways, from farming.

But one battle currently being waged by the CPRE is Nimby-ism gone mad.

Like a demented Don Quixote, the CPRE is tilting against windmills. Ugly things, they say. Must be stopped.

Step forward Nimby Neil Hanger of Great Glemham.

He's just heard that a company called Saxon Windpower wants to put up six wind turbines on the old Parham airfield. I used to live within dog-walking distance of that exposed spot, and I can confirm it's an ideal site for harvesting the power of the wind.

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Mr Hanger thought so too at first. Then he had second thoughts.

"My initial thoughts," he said, "were 'renewable energy sources – great'. Then the actual siting of them really hit home."

A good idea anywhere except in your back yard, then, Neil?

Mr Hanger teaches in Leiston, in the shadow of Sizewell, so he really ought to know better.

Which would you rather have on your doorstep – a couple of nuclear reactors with the potential to cause death and destruction on a heroic scale? Or a few giant windmills turning elegantly in the breeze?

I can, I suppose just about understand Mr Hanger's fear that living near a wind farm might reduce the value of his house. Just about.

But house values will only be adversely affected as long as people have the ridiculous idea – propagated by people like the CPRE and Mr Hanger himself – that wind turbines are a bad thing.

Presumably Mr Hanger uses electricity from time to time. I do, you do – we all do. All that power has to be generated somewhere, somehow.

The hazards, both real and potential, of nuclear power are mind-numbing.

Fossil fuels like coal, gas and oil will not last forever, and in the meantime are responsible for such ills as black lung disease, acid rain and a huge contribution to global warming.

And the trouble with wind turbines is… er… some people can't see how beautiful they are.

I USED to enjoy a good pipe. For years I smoked one at my desk. Eventually my colleagues complained and I gave up – and almost at once found I was waking up in the mornings without sinusitis. Which was nice.

It wasn't that long ago – about 17 years in fact – yet it seems inconceivable now that anyone could pour out smoke at work as I did. Times change, and in this case for the better.

Those smokers who attempt to sue tobacco companies for their failing health are surely on a loser. No one, you'd think, could seriously claim not to know that smoking is bad for them.

According to the British Thoracic Society (no, I didn't know there was such a thing, either), more than a fifth of smokers suffer from a persistent cough. No surprise there.

Apparently, more than half of them fail to realise there is a connection between their habit and their cough. That is a surprise.

That familiar smokers' cough is linked to something called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a blanket term which includes bronchitis and emphysema. It is, they say, the fifth biggest killer in the UK – and 95 per cent of such deaths are caused by smoking.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

On the very day the Thoracic Society presented their survey results, the lobby group Ash also launched a new campaign.

Ash is offering legal help to workers in pubs and restaurants who want to sue their employers over the effects of passive smoking.

It says: "Secondhand tobacco smoke contains known carcinogens and passive smoking can lead to lung cancer, heart disease and and respiratory problems."

My nine-year-old stepson has a persistent cough. He lives most of the week with his mother, who smokes heavily.

When at home he suffers from asthma. Whenever he spends much time at my house, where nobody smokes indoors, his breathing instantly improves.

Could these facts, do you think, be in any way related?

And how long, I wonder, before children start suing their parents over the environment they provide for them?