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The Independent
13 November 2003
Wind Farms top poll of Architectural Eyesores by Michael McCarthy
Environment Editor

Wind farms are the new pet hate for many country dwellers, the magazine Country Life reveals today.

The clumps of large wind turbines on the tops of hills might represent the future of green energy production, but they are the worst architecture in Britain, according to a poll of its readers and contributors.

People dislike them more than other eyesores such as motorway service areas, conventional power stations and ugly office buildings because of the size of their intrusion on the landscape, the magazine found.

"I was personally very surprised at the strength of people's feelings about wind farms," said Country Life's architectural correspondent, Jeremy Musson. "People not only hate the ones that are already there, they are terrified of new ones being built near them. They feel that the small gain in electricity produced is not worth the damage done to the landscape. They don't think it's a conservation solution - they don't think it's worth it."

The magazine's poll comes amid growing concern about the widespread impact of wind farms on landscapes in the uplands of Britain. More than 5,000 wind turbines, typically more than 300ft high, are likely to be needed to fulfil the Government's plan to produce 20 per cent of Britain's energy requirements from renewable resources by 2020.

Last week, the Government published new planning guidance designed to make it easier for wind farms to be given planning permission in the face of local objections.

One of the most contentious proposals was that there should be no "buffer zones" around protected areas - thus inviting developers to site wind turbines right up to the edge of national parks. The National Trust warned that this could lead to large-scale wind turbines inflicting damage on valued landscapes in some of the most sensitive areas of England.

Motorways and their service stations also ranked high in the Country Life survey, which sought nominations on buildings and structures that blight urban or rural environments.

Other hated eyesores included buildings such as Birmingham New Street railway station and Didcot power station in Oxfordshire.

Fourth on the list was Battersea power station in south London, followed by "electricity pylons", 1960s Basingstoke - full of concrete office buildings - motorways, Knightsbridge Barracks in London, St James Shopping Centre in Edinburgh and M1 service stations. Most of the respondents voted for structures that affected them locally, Country Life said.

The magazine expressed surprise at the nomination of Knightsbridge Barracks, which it described as a "dramatically modern and uncompromising building" by Basil Spence. More predictable, it said, was Birmingham New Street station, referred to as an "airless and confusing warren housing one of the country's most important rail interchanges".

The magazine also asked leading figures with a background in art, architecture and design to show how they might redesign an eyesore of their choice. Janet Street-Porter, The Independent on Sunday's editor-at-large, chose to demolish the Victoria Shopping Centre in Harrogate. John McAslan, an architect, took it upon himself to redesign Heathrow, describing it as "the world's worst airport". Alan Powers, a design historian and architect, recommended streamlining the 1950s Bowater House on London's Hyde Park. The artist Hugh Buchanan suggested Edinburgh University's 1970s Appleton Tower be redesigned as an 18th-century tenement block. Christopher Bradley-Hole, an architect and landscape designer, wanted to demolish the former Royal Navy tower blocks which overlook the 16th century Portland Castle on the Isle of Portland, replacing them with "inhabited hills". The architect wanted to replace Charter House Tower in Ashford, Kent, with low-rise housing.

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