James Delingpole running as an anti-wind farm candidate in constituency with no wind farms

Corby might have five wind turbines in the future though.

James Delingpole, scourge of renewables everywhere, has announced his candidacy for the Corby by-election in this week's Spectator, writing, seemingly in all seriousness, that:

The stench from the wind industry and its many leech-like hangers-on is overpowering and it's a disgrace that so few people are speaking up for the thousands of victims affected by it. But I am. I hereby announce my intention to stand in the Corby by-election as the anti-wind farm candidate. Not in my back yard. And not in yours either!

Yes, Delingpole is seriously attempting to reclaim the phrase "NIMBY". Good luck to him with that; currently, Ladbrokes has the odds at 8/11 for him to lose his deposit, so he's got an uphill battle ahead of him.

But if he's running as a single-issue candidate, then surely he has latched on to a massive local issue, right? Richard Taylor, for example, famously won two straight terms as an independent candidate running against the closure of Kidderminster Hospital in his constituency of Wyre Forest. Delingpole presumably has realised that the scourge of wind farms in Corby is at least that bad.

Corby Borough Council tell me there are zero (0) wind farms in the borough of Corby, which holds three quarters of the population of the constituency. East Northants county council tell me that there are zero (0) wind farms in the electoral wards of East Northants which comprise the rest of the constituency. And an ordnance survey map of the constituency confirms there are zero (0) wind farms in the overall parliamentary constituency of Corby. There is one nearby – it's marked on the map as the little windmill to the easy of Burton Latimer – but that's actually in the neighbouring constituency of Kettering.

There is, however, one planning application for a wind farm in the rural part of Corby constituency, midway between Corby and Oundle, outside the village of Brigstock. Well, I say wind farm; it's more like a wind paddock, with five 125m turbines being proposed on land currently held by the Duke of Gloucester.

Dellingpole dismisses anyone who supports the development as "in the pay of Big Wind", so by that definition he presumably sees 100 per cent opposition; but the electoral commission works on different rules. We shall see how successful Delingpole is, but hopefully he hasn't quit his gig at the Telegraph too hastily.

Updated 8:10pm with confirmation from East Northants county council

Wind turbines. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The tale of Battersea power station shows how affordable housing is lost

Initially, the developers promised 636 affordable homes. Now, they have reduced the number to 386. 

It’s the most predictable trick in the big book of property development. A developer signs an agreement with a local council promising to provide a barely acceptable level of barely affordable housing, then slashes these commitments at the first, second and third signs of trouble. It’s happened all over the country, from Hastings to Cumbria. But it happens most often in London, and most recently of all at Battersea power station, the Thames landmark and long-time London ruin which I wrote about in my 2016 book, Up In Smoke: The Failed Dreams of Battersea Power Station. For decades, the power station was one of London’s most popular buildings but now it represents some of the most depressing aspects of the capital’s attempts at regeneration. Almost in shame, the building itself has started to disappear from view behind a curtain of ugly gold-and-glass apartments aimed squarely at the international rich. The Battersea power station development is costing around £9bn. There will be around 4,200 flats, an office for Apple and a new Tube station. But only 386 of the new flats will be considered affordable

What makes the Battersea power station development worse is the developer’s argument for why there are so few affordable homes, which runs something like this. The bottom is falling out of the luxury homes market because too many are being built, which means developers can no longer afford to build the sort of homes that people actually want. It’s yet another sign of the failure of the housing market to provide what is most needed. But it also highlights the delusion of politicians who still seem to believe that property developers are going to provide the answers to one of the most pressing problems in politics.

A Malaysian consortium acquired the power station in 2012 and initially promised to build 517 affordable units, which then rose to 636. This was pretty meagre, but with four developers having already failed to develop the site, it was enough to satisfy Wandsworth council. By the time I wrote Up In Smoke, this had been reduced back to 565 units – around 15 per cent of the total number of new flats. Now the developers want to build only 386 affordable homes – around 9 per cent of the final residential offering, which includes expensive flats bought by the likes of Sting and Bear Grylls. 

The developers say this is because of escalating costs and the technical challenges of restoring the power station – but it’s also the case that the entire Nine Elms area between Battersea and Vauxhall is experiencing a glut of similar property, which is driving down prices. They want to focus instead on paying for the new Northern Line extension that joins the power station to Kennington. The slashing of affordable housing can be done without need for a new planning application or public consultation by using a “deed of variation”. It also means Mayor Sadiq Khan can’t do much more than write to Wandsworth urging the council to reject the new scheme. There’s little chance of that. Conservative Wandsworth has been committed to a developer-led solution to the power station for three decades and in that time has perfected the art of rolling over, despite several excruciating, and occasionally hilarious, disappointments.

The Battersea power station situation also highlights the sophistry developers will use to excuse any decision. When I interviewed Rob Tincknell, the developer’s chief executive, in 2014, he boasted it was the developer’s commitment to paying for the Northern Line extension (NLE) that was allowing the already limited amount of affordable housing to be built in the first place. Without the NLE, he insisted, they would never be able to build this number of affordable units. “The important point to note is that the NLE project allows the development density in the district of Nine Elms to nearly double,” he said. “Therefore, without the NLE the density at Battersea would be about half and even if there was a higher level of affordable, say 30 per cent, it would be a percentage of a lower figure and therefore the city wouldn’t get any more affordable than they do now.”

Now the argument is reversed. Because the developer has to pay for the transport infrastructure, they can’t afford to build as much affordable housing. Smart hey?

It’s not entirely hopeless. Wandsworth may yet reject the plan, while the developers say they hope to restore the missing 250 units at the end of the build.

But I wouldn’t hold your breath.

This is a version of a blog post which originally appeared here.

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