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Energy war heats up

[Tuesday 11 July 2006]

THE political row over Britain's future energy needs has already begun to heat up despite the fact that the Government has not yet published the results of its long term energy review - and one of its pet projects is already being opposed by one of the country's biggest conservation bodies.

More windfarms near national parks?

There are already two mega-rows brewing, both of them affecting directly or indirectly people in the upland areas of northern England, including the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria.

As ministers struggle to find ways of providing for the country's ever growing use of energy, Tony Blair is already said to be in favour of a new programme of nuclear power stations, an idea regarded with horror by Labour left-wingers.

Paradoxically, this option is welcome to many people in Cumbria, home of Sellafield, HQ of the country's nuclear industry. Sellafield provides vital jobs in an area of high unemployment.

But yesterday, the influential Royal Society for the Protection of Birds threw a spanner into the works for what is said to be the government's biggest idea for renewable "green energy," the Severn Barrage between the coasts of South Wales and Somerset.

The RSPB says the costs of the barrage would be too high - and that it would wipe out important habitats for wading birds.

Politicians and councillors in North Yorkshire and Cumbria are digesting this news and its possible implications for the region. Should the Severn barrage project be pigeon-holed - it is said to be capable of producing 5% of the country's energy needs - it would throw extra weight behind demands for more windfarms.

Although a public enquiry has already blocked the proposed huge wind farm at Whinash, between the Dales and Lake District national parks, the area is still looked upon with envy by windfarm developers - a prospect which fills northern conservationists with dismay.

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