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Fed a lot of spin from turbine firm
IF ONLY Liverpool corporation had known in 1956 what SSE Renewables knows now about propaganda rhetoric – or PR if you insist on the respectable abbreviation – they could have saved themselves a great deal of trouble.
The nine-year campaign of protests that preceded the flooding of the Tryweryn valley might all have been avoided. The destruction of homes, farms, a chapel, a school, a graveyard – the obliteration of the entire Capel Celyn community – might have been achieved without a whisper of dissent. Circumvented might have been that bothersome clash between Gwynfor Evans and his pals and the police in Liverpool Town Hall, and all the other expressions of anger that foreshadowed the eventual flooding of the valley in 1965.
All the corporation needed was a nice, cheery newsletter put out from time to time and delivered door-to-door. With stunning mock-up photographs of salmon leaping from the placid, sunset-tinted waters of the projected reservoir, and happy Meirionnydd families enjoying picnics on the lakeside sward, their new rowing-boats moored beside them. Oh how, like SSE, the city fathers needed a news-sheet with information on plentiful “community” and “stakeholder” consultation, contact details for a locally-based community liaison officer bearing a good local name - and the whole printed by a local printer with faultless political credentials.
It would of course have needed to include matchless peer-reviewed research demonstrating how industry on Merseyside would grind to a halt unless the Tryweryn valley was eliminated, while explaining that the compensation would be a supercharged local Welsh economy spawned by progressive tourism based on fishing, sailing and water-sports.
Just as SSE now seeks in its latest thistledown-against-blue-sky-decorated newsletter to sell us the fiction that for the lights to stay on, and for the world not to fry, the wild and historic and uplifting hillsides of Nantymoch must be dug up and defaced and industrialised.
To persuade us that their 64 towering turbines set in millions of tonnes of concrete, associated transformers, crane hardstandings and access tracks, attended by a trans-mid-Wales cortege of power-line pylons, tree-felling and, for an unknown length of time, closure of rights-of-way is an acceptable price to pay for a relative trickle of intermittent electricity.
Thus we are in danger of being persuaded that destruction of heritage, human and natural, is not only necessary, unavoidable and for the common good, but desirable, beneficial and, to use the persuader’s favourite word, “exciting”. What will it take to persuade the political successors of Gwynfor Evans that the industrialisation of the hillsides of Nantymoch would be an imposition of a gravity easily comparable to that of Tryweryn?
That an assault on this wild and historic place, where Owain Glyndŵr and a small force defeated the 2,000-strong armies of Edward I at the Battle of Hyddgen in 1401, would be a desecration scarcely less serious?
That the destruction of this desolate beauty, once accomplished, will be permanent. That, once dug up and defaced, this landscape can never be restored. Tryweryn, its assault on a community undiminished, is likely at least to carry on supplying water. There will be no such faint compensation from an industrialisation of Nant y Moch.
Within a generation or two at most, the turbines there will be hopelessly outdated, while any promised restoration of the landscape would be an impossibility.
Within a generation or two, they would be exposed as the product of panic, of a desperate desire by government to be seen to be doing something, but that something having been proved to have made no significant lasting impact on energy security.
Too timid to voice opinion
WITH LESS than a week to go before the eight cabinet members of Ceredigion council are due to decide whether to defy overwhelming public opinion and close Bodlondeb old people’s home, the position of Lib Dems takes on a special importance.
MP Mark Williams has strongly urged the council to investigate alternatives to closing Bodlondeb and says he has huge sympathy for the concerns of its residents. Meanwhile, the sympathies and opinions of two Aberystwyth councillors who are members of the cabinet – Ceredig Davies and Carl Williams – are far from clear.
County councillors generally make much play about the fact that they are often effectively prevented by council protocols from saying what they think on particular issues at preliminary stages of a debate. That being said, there are ways of indicating what you think without actually saying so, and without therefore falling foul of the rules, rules which electors, and many councillors too, find frustrating and needlessly rigid. But councillors are too timid to do it.
Ceredig Davies is at least making clear his belief that the report on Bodlondeb due to be discussed next Tuesday should not be confidential. Carl Williams takes a distinctly stuffier view. If the study is presented on pink paper – that is, not to be seen by the public – it will, he tells me, “have been done by the author on the advice of the authority’s legal department for very valid reasons.” Oh dear.
with Patrick O'Brien
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