We get Extinction Rebellion’s message. Climate change is only too obvious in the countryside. The effects of heavy rain followed by prolonged periods of dry weather, fewer frosts in winter and hotter summers are easily monitored by changing patterns in leaf emergence, insect numbers and the consequent effect on the balance for nesting birds. The Woodland Trust’s Nature’s Calendar records all these changes and it is open to all to take part.
So if we get it, why isn’t it obvious that we are doing something? That is what people want to see. Wind provides half the renewables: go to the Lincolnshire coast and there are wind turbines across the horizon out at sea. But most people don’t see them. Solar is 30 per cent of renewables, but the restrictions on panels in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (such as the Lincolnshire Wolds), on listed buildings and English Heritage and Natural England sites mean you can put them only where no one can see.
Local authorities are bound by the National Policy Planning Framework, updated in 2019, which precludes any development in these areas that changes the view unless it can be demonstrated to be in the public interest. I suggest that non-fossil-fuel power is an overriding public interest.
Obvious solar panels on public buildings, churches and manor houses and on scheduled areas of land will show that government is taking the matter seriously. Our local representative democracy would be wise to be proactive in showing that there is a climate emergency, unless it wants to be superseded by Extinction Rebellion’s demand for citizen assemblies.
Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen, firstname.lastname@example.org