One evening some four years ago, I found myself among a small group of people outside the Sellindge Community Hall. We had just heard a KCC politician singing the virtues of Sellindge as a recipient of a lorry park, a waste treatment dump (at the invitation of Mr John Champneys) and a substantial composting centre processing fetid material from all over the county. This small group of people were very talented and each had expertise in particular areas. I had little if any expertise – so they made me Chairman and the Sellindge and District Residents Association, known as SANDRA, was born. Over the past years it has fought to ensure that no Lorry Park is built, no Waste Treatment plant is established, no wind turbines are constructed and no gargantuan housing estate is developed in or on our borders without any obvious concern for the best interests of the village. On the other hand we did conceive the notion of bringing back a Sellindge Village Green with some new houses surrounding it, a village green and common that disappeared early in the 19th Century when the Reverend Richard Champneys and others enclosed the land for their own benefit while depriving the poor of the parish of their meagre existence. A village green would give Sellindge back it’s centre. Many improvements would flow from it. Shepway DC so liked the idea that they got £50,000 from the government to give to some consultants who said it was a good idea to have a village green. Such is life.
Anyway, four years on and not quite so robust as once I was, I find I cannot keep my house and land as I would wish to do. Resisting the temptation to construct a wind turbine in my back yard so as to make enough money to pay others to look after things, I have decided it is time to go. Land is very special. None of us should own or control land that we cannot make proper use of. Anyway, it is not reasonable for me to remain as Chairman with my house on the market. I go reluctantly to join the ranks of the Residents committee. Leading the Residents team has been a real privilege and meeting such well-motivated people has delivered me into the realms of honour. And it has been a real honour to be with such people. The Chair is now carried jointly by Bob Edden and Les Barratt. All of the SANDRA team either work or are already committed to other projects, family – duties of every kind, yet all have given time, time and again. Sellindgers and other local villagers have also provided a huge amount of support. It is true to say that Sellindge has developed a ‘reputation’ in Planning circles. It is vital this fearsome reputation is not lost. That means each of us making some effort. For the few moaning minnies of Sellindge (oh yes we know who you are and the poison you spread!) who insist that nothing can be achieved are wrong. A village united is indeed a powerful image.
I am happy that I resign as Chairman at a time of good news. The proposal to construct a wind turbine on land owned by Mr Richard Price has been unanimously rejected by the planning committee at Shepway DC. Mr Price has been very foolish. We offered to meet with him way back last Spring to discuss and resolve various issues positively but he ignored our letter. Instead, he continued to sanction a proposal to build a monstrosity, 61 metres high – higher than a twenty storey office block as one councillor pointed out – in the middle of the countryside and adjacent to our villages. It seems that Mr Price and family are quite indifferent to the dreadful effect this structure would have upon local residents – the same residents who would be paying extra money on their electricity bills to fund the subsidy payments that would end up benefiting him and his family. What has he and his family got that the other residents have not got. Well . . .land of course – he’s got the land. At the same time these resident’s houses would also be losing considerable value causing much misery and suffering. Mr Price even admitted in the Sellindge Village News last February that wind turbines ‘blighted the countryside’. They certainly do – and to what purpose? No one has ever been able to demonstrate that land based wind turbines, here or elsewhere in Europe, lessen the use of power stations powered by coal or oil or gas. Conventional power stations have to remain operating in case the wind drops below the operational level. We cannot blame Mr Price and others like him, for taking advantage of the incredible ignorance of Government and European departments or the ‘chancers’ who operate the companies who benefit from such ignorance but we can do everything possible to restrict them.
There are plenty of them about. Besides the Price application, Ecotricity are intending to apply for six turbines and they have found some willing partners. Take for example Farmer Jo Butcher who has been offered one turbine on her land nearby the landing strip of the aero club. I cannot write about the disgraceful tactics of Jo Butcher to find her way on this windfall but one day somebody will.
Then there is Mr John Champneys who seeks to welcome onto his land as many as five of the Ecotricity wind turbines each measuring 125 metres high. The ‘20 storey high building’ wind turbine sought by farmer Richard Price is dwarfed by farmer John Champneys ambition. His dream and our nightmare are for the biggest - five turbines whose individual height is just short of the Euston Tower in London – a building with 36 floors. Just think here in Sellindge, Lympne and Court-at-Street a total of six turbines whose individual height will be equivalent to a 36 storey office block. I am well aware of the ecological arguments offered in support of wind turbines. And certainly we all need to look at the profligate way we all use electricity and energy in general. But no one should be subjected to such huge machines towering over the places where they live.
That brings me on my list of ‘farewells’, to Sellindge Parish Council. Ah yes, Sellindge Parish Council. For some reason, SPC has made serious and untrue statements about me and by implication the Residents Association. So I went along to a PC meeting and found myself next to Susan Carey our KCC councillor – no one else was there – all three of the regulars were at Folkestone I suppose. When the opportunity came to speak I stood up ready to deliver a vitriolic salvos of invective. But I couldn’t. First I could sense that Susan Carey was wafting sentiments of ‘peace and goodwill to all mankind’ in my direction. Secondly, as I looked at the gathered Parish Councillors sat around their tables, hardly a fulsome or edifying sight, I suddenly realised that they were here at work at 8 15 pm in the evening and not sat at home, dozing in front of their televisions or computers. They were all out on a cold, unpleasant night fulfilling their roles as Parish Councillors and giving their time and efforts for the sake of the community. Could one really be angry with such people? Dear Sellindgers it takes quite a lot to fulfil such duties on a cold and unpleasant night. It is so much easier to criticise people than to make the effort to do something for others. Our Parish Council deserves criticism but surely some of us should consider whether each of us might make more effort for the general well-being.
One of the things the PC has accused me of is negativity so I want to end this indulgence, if you are still reading it, on a positive note. The original inspiration that founded SANDRA was a vision that Justice might rule over selfishness so as to provide sufficient space for everyone in our village to enjoy a quiet life of well-being. At this time of Christmas one might add that it takes very little effort for each of us to offer thoughts of peace and goodwill. Next year is likely to be critical for those of us who want Sellindge and our other local villages to remain rural. All kinds of industrial proposals are surfacing that will affect us greatly. If we act with goodwill as a united village we can achieve a huge amount for our families and those who will follow us. Please remember Edmund Burke’s dictum ‘ All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’. It is as true today as it was in the 18th century. Merry Christmas and a very happy new year.