Lessons arising from the DART/Dorset (CPRE) experience

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Contents

Foreword

A separate four page detailed briefing document already exists for the benefit of newly formed Action Groups fighting against wind turbines (obtainable from jrt@lifestyles100.plus.com). Several Action Groups have already been briefed verbally using that document as the guideline. In addition the informative and highly refined DART Web Site is recommended viewing.

This paper complements the above material and is designed to provide some general working guidelines, in easy narrative form, based on DART'S twenty-six months' operating experience in fighting off two quite separate proposed wind turbine projects which were by coincidence, adjacent to, and concurrent with one another.

DART had a steep learning curve and was grateful to many others for their advice and inputs throughout. It should be stated here that the nature of every Campaign will be fashioned by local circumstances and the personal credentials & style of those involved. To that extent there is no one answer - but there are some fundamental operating principles.

Background

DART was formed in March 2003, allied with Dorset CPRE from the very outset, as a local response to two adjacent threats in the Lower Winterborne Valley. National Wind Power Ltd (NWP) wished to build 23 wind turbines on land belonging to one principal landowner (and 3 others) - and Your Energy Ltd (YE Ltd), using their customary device of a subsidiary instant paper company, wished to develop 9 turbines, again with one principal farmer (and one other).

Outcome

In the event the NWP proposal never even reached the planning application stage and was seen off, in March 2004, after 12 months fighting which was fortuitous as it was over 50MW capacity and would thus have gone direct to the Department of Trade & Industry thereby by-passing the Local Planning Authority (LPA). The YE Ltd project did come forward to the LPA in August 2003 and after a 15 months' staffing period (including three external studies) the application was rejected by the Development Control Committee (DCC) in October 2004. But then, at the last possible moment, in April 2005, it was submitted for appeal by YE Ltd to the Bristol Inspectorate which rejected it (after some time latitude) in June 2005, on procedural grounds. The company concurrently "withdrew" their appeal in a formal letter to the Inspectorate.

Current Situation

At the time of writing, these two threats to the Dorset countryside and the affected communities would seem to be over for the time being. But a renewed threat could always reoccur, not least if the Government's policies, especially through PPS 22, were to be reinforced and thus help to encourage such developments even further than hitherto. The outcome from the Romney Marsh Enquiry in October 2005 is a good illustrative example of the dilemma. So, the price of freedom remains "Eternal Vigilance".

The Aim

After 26 months of vigorous and sustained campaigning, DART/Dorset CPRE acquired a wealth of experience and expertise which it is felt should be recorded for the benefit of others where appropriate. The aim of this paper is to highlight the key issues & lessons arising.

The Major Issues

Basic Strategy and Approach to Campaigning.

To campaign is to fight, if not a general war, then at least a battle. Either way, you will not win by being half-hearted or fighting with one arm tied behind your back. An all-out attack, carefully devised, coordinated and supported is essential to success. It is therefore not surprising that there is direct relevance to the 10 Principles of War which have been refined over many centuries and are universally accepted. These are set out at Annex A showing how they were used by DART. They provide an instant, comprehensive check list to ensure that your "Strategy and Approach" are correctly focussed. They are commended to you as mandatory guidance.

Setting Up a Campaign Committee

(See also Annex A). A key determinant by DART was to ensure that we teamed up ab initio with our local CPRE organisation thereby benefiting immediately from an established Charity with kudos, experience and a wide membership base. However some other Groups have chosen to remain separate from CPRE. Whilst many eager volunteers may initially rush to the Colours with offers of Committee help, the numbers will soon diminish to those who are truly committed. Apathy can be rife in this busy day and age. So, it is important to establish an Executive Committee of say a maximum 6-10 dedicated activists (real Doers) with clearly allocated personal tasks to spread the burden and to avoid waffle in Committee and any subsequent off-loading of tasks as the campaign develops. A range of talent is required, including a high profile Chairman (DART had the local MP), a strong Meetings�/Working Chairman & efficient Secretary and ideally some PR/Legal/Planning/Medical/Technical & advanced Computer knowledge (for setting up a web site). Whilst all members of the Committee will ideally need to be well informed across the whole field of renewable energy, selected individuals will need to concentrate on the pros & cons of wind turbines in order to be able to argue convincingly at local level so as to refute the legion misinformation from certain quarters.

Funding the Fight

Assured funding is essential. For the record DART collected some £12,000 from Trusts, Dorset CPRE and the Public, most of which was spent on Technical Advisory Fees, Solicitors, Hardware (Printing & Publicity materials), Web Site, etc. Timely plans were in hand to raise further monies for any appeal work, but which were not ultimately required. Given that fund raising is a generic subject in its own right and familiar to most activists, it is not addressed further in this paper.


The Information Gathering Operation

Taken within the wider context of Annex A, reliable, good incoming information is the overriding requirement for any successful Action Group. It is the only way to operate with precision and keep one step ahead of the eager landowner and the professional Developer, both of whom are driven by attractive commercial incentives. Information must be sought from every available source. This is an on-going activity which can pay enormous dividends. It can only be coordinated by one person who issues the tasks to those Informants considered best to do them - and through whom all information is fed back to build up the jigsaw which can then be disseminated in a timely - but controlled manner to ensure that sensitive sources are not prejudiced. One could dwell longer on this type of activity but suffice to say here that the DART operation eventually employed many "Informants" over the 26 months, most of whom did not know of the others' involvement and frankly did not even wish it to be known that they themselves were involved. This is not a game and it is not for the faint hearted: but if handled properly, it can yield superb results. Such activity is the best way for any Action Group to remain proactive rather than reactive. It was fundamental to DART's success in both projects.

Liaison & Lobbying

  • a. Parish Level. The basic start point is to ensure that the Parish Council/s get a properly recorded mandate from their bailiwick/s and are seen to be fully on your side. Without this support an Action Group does not have the procedural & legitimate benefits of the Electorate�s backing. Once achieved, one can then rightly demand that the PC & local District Ward Councillors help accordingly.
  • b. District Level . There is much benefit in establishing early on how key Officers & District Councillors within the Local Planning Authority may be thinking, but ever mindful that they have also to be seen to remain neutral until the Development Control Committee (DCC) has deliberated. The best method therefore is private/social discourse. Concurrently, one must prepare a sound case to counter the developer's planning submission and similarly for the eventual DCC hearing to balance their verbal delivery on the day. There is benefit in submitting a good, timely information pack to key personnel to educate them for their eventual decision making task - but brevity is required to ensure that busy people read it.
  • c. County'Level'. Whilst a County Council normally has no statutory authority in planning matters they are a Consultee of considerable significance. So the same principles of contact apply possibly by using established formal CPRE interfaces and informal contacts as before.
  • d. Other Groups & Individuals. You will need all the help you can get so you must cultivate other reputable bodies such as the RSPB, Wildlife & Woodland Trusts, the BAT Society, British Horse Society, the Ramblers Association, National Trust etc and finally those individuals in influential positions such as MPs, MEPs
  • e. The Press. Good Press coverage is part of the necessary wider Public education. The Press will generally seek to give both sides' views but human stories and good supportive editorial is worth its weight in gold.
  • f. Landowners . That leaves the landowners whom DART chose to attack mercilessly. Whilst they may already be in a contractual position with the developer and not easily able to withdraw in the short-term (and also likely to have a charge upon their property), there will come a point when they do have the option to proceed or to withdraw. The aim is to lobby the landowners and their immediate family sufficiently early to bring that end about.

Enthusiastic Membership of the Action Group. Any Group must initially secure at least "over 1000 names" for a Petition in addition to the Parish Council's mandate. This can best be done by collecting the names at the Public meetings but is also likely to involve much door calling which is a grind. Thereafter, maintaining the enthusiasm and morale of the Membership (including the Committee Members and the Campaign's overall momentum) is important and can be very hard work. There is first a need to foster a deluge of letters from the Public to the LPA and then to ensure a huge turnout if the Application does come before the Development Control Committee, as large numbers in attendance really do count. Regular meetings, a periodic, informative and encouraging Newsletter (mostly by E-mail hopefully) and a cracking good web-site are suitable options to help achieve this momentum together with area wide Publicity Boards to keep matters alive in the much wider Public's mind where good Press coverage, once again, is invaluable.

Renewable Energy Foundation (REF). REF does not campaign against wind turbines in any particular location, and instead represents practically the only Body arguing forcefully on behalf of those who believe that, whilst renewables have something to offer, the current policy, particularly the Renewables Obligation subsidy system, is gravely flawed - and has resulted in the effective suppression of worthwhile renewables, (tidal and biomass for example) and the over-concentration on a low merit technology, namely wind. REF is not anti-wind, as such, and suggests that while its contribution will be very limited, wind may have something to offer offshore, in sites closer to the centres of load, such as London. DART's period of operation coincided with the early days of REF's development but, having paid up fully, DART was still able to benefit greatly from informal dialogue and assistance. This essential help and information will be available in increasing measure to other new Action Groups and it is self-evidently mandatory for any such groups to pay up and join, or suffer a void accordingly. REF acts as an information gatherer and clearing house for much relevant material relating to developments in renewable energy and related policy. The Foundation also responds to government consultations and attempts to improve the understanding of journalists. In short, they are a voice of sanity chipping in wherever possible in Whitehall and Westminster. Thus, not only can their information assist a group in strengthening a local campaign, the Foundation's activities will, with luck, make future wind-farm applications less likely in your area and elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Personal Incentives To Campaigning

The very need to fight a campaign at all is, at best irksome and may more likely be a huge demand on personal time and resources. Individual enthusiasm will centre on a combination of passion (about the countryside, and local well-being), fear (effects on property values or amenity levels), health and noise issues (a contentious area of complex & uncertain definition) and your dedication to Public Service and Duty within your Community. If you are going to launch forth then it would be narrow minded not to admit, that in intellectual terms, the whole field of Renewable Energy is interesting, even stimulating and enjoyable. That thought may just help your adrenalin levels, sufficient to sustain you towards a successful conclusion. ===

Summary

Over 26 months, DART/Dorset (CPRE) together with the Parish Council and the Local Planning Authority forestalled the development of 32 wind turbines threatened by two separate development projects. This sustained fight was based on the 10 Principles of War as set out at Annexure A.

A Campaign committee should ideally be fairly tight in numbers with a broad range of talent and carefully allocated duties to ensure equitable, sustainable loading over a long period. It is infinitely preferable to fight pro-actively rather than reactively. This can only mature through an effective information gathering exercise controlled by one Committee member. Liaison & Encouragement on a wide front are required, with approaches to those in Statutory positions requiring careful handling.

The fundamental baseline for any campaign is that the local community has expressed a properly recorded view, preferably through the Parish Council (PC), as only this provides the statutory mandate for subsequent actions by both the PC and the Action Group � not to mention the start point of the required high numbers for the inevitable petition and sufficient financial support.

Annual membership of the Renewable Energy Foundation is commended as mandatory for any Action Group that seeks to be professional (see www.ref.org.uk).

ANNEXURE A: The ten principles of war and their relevant applicability to campaign work

Selection and Maintenance of Aim (No 1)

This should be fairly straightforward. In DART's case there was need for particular care given the choice of title, secondly that there were two separate projects to deal with and the threat of a third development nearby. There was therefore a wider dimension but also a cautionary need not to become embroiled in someone else's (wider) Dorset fight.

Maintenance of Morale (No 2)

To maintain the Public's enthusiasm, especially for protracted periods, is sheer hell in this busy day and age. One has to accept also that others may not share your own degree of enthusiasm about the cause even where they are affected adversely, other than an initial showing of giving their name in support, hopefully giving a donation - and then a deep sigh of relief that someone has formed an Action Group to take care of everything. Sadly, this short lived enthusiasm can extend also to some committee members. Be warned that apathy can be rife.

Offensive Action, Surprise, Concentration of Fire... (Security) (No 3-6)

You will not win by being passive and reacting to others' leads. It is essential to be Offensive, to remain proactive, to keep one step ahead which in turn may entail "thinking two steps ahead". This necessitates any Action Group having a clearly defined Think Tank element, some precise, timely coordination (see also below) and good incoming information (see main body of paper). Secondly, on Surprise, you do not want "the enemy" to know how much you know about them (until you're ready for it). Thirdly, having good information allows you to Concentrate Your Fire (Efforts) for maximum gain. Finally on Security, caution & sensitivity are required especially in regard to information gathering.

Economy of Effort, Administration, Flexibility & Cooperation (No 7-10)

(Economy of Effort) A Campaign Committee must not be too large since it will be unmanageable. It should have an Executive Committee with each member having clearly defined tasks to spread the workload (ie. Chairman, Secretary, Information Gathering, Publicity/Press, Liaison etc). Life is not perfect but failure here can result in an imbalance of efforts that will not augur well in the longer term for the enthusiasm or effectiveness of Committee members.

(Administration) The coordination task falls naturally to the Action Group's Secretariat which could ideally be a husband & wife team covering the functions of Meetings - Chairman and Secretary - but no matter how it is arranged there must be a clearly understood focus for the campaign and tight administrative control must be exercised.

(Flexibility) A well formed committee will be able to take proper, flexible & timely decisions to keep the campaign flowing fast.

(Cooperation) There is bound to be a need for huge cooperation & dialogue between committee members and various external bodies & individuals: E-Mail makes this easy and anyone who does not have immediate access to it, will regrettably be only a second class member of the Action Group and liable to waste time at meetings in being brought up to date.