Editor’s comment: January 2020
PUBLISHED: 10:55 03 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:55 03 January 2020
Mike Lowe discusses his soft spot for Dale Vince and the departure of columnist Clare Mackintosh
As dawn broke in the Cotswold valley, the rising sun crested the brow of the hill. Small animals stirred and birdsong rang out. Emerging from his hide, half Teletubby house, half Bilbo Baggins burrow, the occupant stretched, scratched and sniffed the air. Dale Vince was ready for the new day.
Now you might not think it, but I have a soft spot for Dale Vince. I like the way he winds up other football clubs who see him as a millionaire benefactor and a major irritant. I also like the way he force-feeds vegetables to gravy-spattered Northerners from Scunthorpe and Bradford. ("You'll never guess what he fed us, Mother. Summat called Quorn.")
I like his eco-friendly sports ground (although the top of a hill in Nailsworth might not be an ideal location) and I like his shin pads made of bamboo, the solar-powered stadium and the rainwater-irrigated pitch. And I particularly like his latest revolutionary plan for Gloucestershire - a string of 100 wind turbines running from Stow in the north down to my back garden in the south, which would provide all of the county's energy requirements. Yes, all of our electricity; every last amp.
It's a bold and daring plan, and quite rightly challenges us to consider whether or not our tourism-friendly hillside views are more important than the future of the planet. After all, there's not much point in spending money renovating luxurious country hotels if your guests can't fill their roll-top bath.
Now, you might think that 100 wind turbines sounds excessive or unachievable. Surely our risk-averse councils involved will run away in a panic at just the very thought of such an ambitious scheme? It'll never get past the planners, residents will be up in arms, etc… But Mr Vince is a wily old fox. Not for him the self-aggrandising egomania of the Extinction Rebellion crusties, for whom fairies and unicorns take the place of solid, thought-out policies. Mr Vince actually knows what he's doing and is smart enough to keep the planners on the back foot.
When his application for a new 5,000-seater ground and science park just off the M5 at Eastington was predictably refused, he simply moved the planned ground to the north side of the motorway and scrapped the green technology hub element of the scheme. The ground now looks set to get planning permission very soon (perhaps even by the time you read this) while Stroud District Council is left to explain to residents why it feels able to turn away 4,200 jobs and £300 million in business rates.
"The Eco Park as proposed was just a bit too much for the council to get their heads round right now," says Mr Vince. Yes, well I'm willing to wager a tenner that they'll get their heads around it a lot quicker now that the moral and economic ball has been punted into their penalty area by Mr Vince.
So I trust Mr Vince and I'm prepared to back the 100-turbine scheme and take responsibility for my own energy needs. Just call me Windy Miller and pass the Camberwick Green music box.
One of the joys of this job is doing a bit of talent-spotting - coming across those unexpected superstars and giving them a platform on which to perform. One of my first signings as editor of Cotswold Life - many, many years ago - was that of a young mother who had been doing a blog in the further reaches of the internet. I'd been looking for a Mummy Blogger for a while, but not one who was too predictable or saccharine. Emily Carlisle seemed to fit the bill.
Except that she wasn't actually Emily Carlisle (a genteel-sounding Jane Austen name) at all. She was actually Clare Mackintosh, a rather less genteel inspector with Thames Valley Police, specialising in crowd control at rowdy demonstrations. We gave Clare/Emily a column and the rest, as they say, is history.
Clare is now a full-time author working on her fourth novel, having already topped the Sunday Times bestseller list and enthralled the Richard and Judy TV book club. I like to think that we had a small role to play in her success. The truth of the matter is that talent will out, eventually. And Clare is a huge talent. We will miss her now that she's decided that her monthly contributions have run their course. Thanks for everything, Clare. And good luck for the future.