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BBC TwoNewsnight
Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 13:07 GMT 14:07 UK
Diary of an Ethical Man - July
By Justin Rowlatt
Ethical Man, BBC Newsnight

Newsnight's Justin Rowlatt has agreed to take part in an experiment for the programme - to live as ethical a lifestyle as possible for a whole year...



Wind turbine trouble

Wind turbine: Camden Council response

Energy Minster Malcolm Wicks has been given his and word is that Tory leader David Cameron will have his by Tuesday - meanwhile I am still waiting.

Justin Rowlatt stands outside his home with an electric light
A bit dim - when it comes to Camden Council, Justin is powerless
My planning application to put a wind turbine on top of my home seems to have been sucked into the maw of local authority bureaucracy.

It is a measure of how new this technology is - that mine is the first application Camden received for a domestic property.

The Council recently awarded itself permission to put a couple of turbines on the roof of the Town Hall, but my application appears to be proving a little more problematic.


Malcolm Wicks, over in Croydon, and David Cameron, in Kensington and Chelsea, don't seem to have had as much trouble as I have. I can't help wondering if the problem is that, as a humble Newsnight reporter, I simply don't have the same clout as these two senior politicians.

Two engineers perform an "acoustic survey" of Justin's home
Two nice young men called round to perform an "acoustic survey"
I submitted my application back in late March. A couple of weeks later a poster went up on the lamppost outside my house, and consultation letters were sent to my neighbours.

Now, neighbours can be a real nuisance for turbine-enthusiasts. I know that a number of Cameron and Wicks's neighbours mounted strong opposition to their plans, yet in both cases they were ignored by their local authorities.

One of Mr Cameron's neighbours, Barbara Want, told the Daily Mail she believes his plans for a wind turbine are not in keeping with the area.

"Yet," Miss Want says, "when we wanted to convert our loft, which is not visible from the road, we were laughed at by the planners. I'm not anti-David Cameron, or anti-Green, but if he's getting some kind of special treatment because of who he is then it is wrong."


By contrast my neighbours seem pretty supportive. Of course people are likely to tell me that they like the idea, whatever their real views, but everyone I have spoken to genuinely seems to endorse the idea of a wind turbine.

Two engineers perform an "acoustic survey" of Justin's home
The engineers were entranced by the beauty of Justin's garden...
In fact, I was stopped in the street only last week by an elderly woman who wanted to tell me how much she's looking forward to seeing a "wind chime" on our house.

My impression is confirmed by Adele, the planning officer dealing with our case.

She tells me the council has received a number of letters of support, though she says there was one response expressing concern about the noise.

Enough to prompt Camden - which boasts of its green credentials - to request that I arrange an 1,800 "acoustic survey" of my home. That's why I had a couple of acoustic engineers round last week, who installed some high-tech recording equipment in the garden, including a microphone on a long pole.

But it would have saved a lot of time if the Council had asked for the survey when I submitted my application three months ago.

Noise levels

So is Camden being fair? Well it is easy to see why they are concerned: turbines can run for 24 hours a day, and who'd want a rattlely old windmill for a neighbour?

The next chapter in the Ethical Man series will be shown on Newsnight on Monday, 24 July
The Windsave device I hope to put up is said to be pretty quiet by industry standards - about 40 decibels at full speed. We submitted statistics with the application that show how much noise it makes under different conditions.

What Camden wants to know is how noisy my street is - they want to see if the hubbub of the area will be enough to cover the sound of the turbine.

It sounds sensible, doesn't it? But hold on a second: how will measuring the noise level on my street on a still summer night help? The turbine will only make a noise when it is spinning and the turbine will only spin when the wind is blowing and - as everyone knows - wind creates noise.


So Camden is asking for an expensive survey that will not help answer their question. I'm lucky because Windsave has agreed to pick up the tab. For most people the cost of the survey would be enough to put them off the entire project.

David Cameron
The Tory leadership wasn't the only race to see Cameron come first
And while I am on the subject, I want to know why Camden is making such a fuss about what is, after all, an application for temporary planning permission.

I understand that Croydon and Kensington and Chelsea used special powers to override the numerous objections to the politicians' permanent turbines.

I have only asked to be allowed to erect the turbine for six months as a way of testing out the technology. If I wanted it permanently I would have to reapply, by which time my neighbours would know if the thing is a nuisance or not.

The only consolation for me is that the logistics of actually installing the turbine on Mr Wicks's home are proving problematic - something to do with the type of tiles on his roof, apparently.

So, it looks like Mr Cameron may beat me to a turbine but I may yet best the Energy Minister.


Mozzies in my butts

This has been a fantastic summer; day after scorching day of blue skies and bright sun.

The only way to keep cool in our house these sultry evenings is to wedge the front door ajar and then throw open the double doors into the garden.

Justin's daughters in front of the Rowlatt's water butts
Justin's daughters aren't very impressed by the infestation
That way you get a gentle breeze through the house as you relax on the sofa - wonderful.

But in the last couple of weeks we've had to shut up the house at twilight because we are being plagued by an unwelcome nocturnal visitor.

The first I knew about it was when Bee told me she'd been bitten on the foot. She showed me her injury: a telltale pink wheal surrounded by a huge angry swelling. "I've been bitten by a mosquito," she told me firmly.

I'll admit that I have seen the odd mozzie drift in on the warm evening breezes but haven't really given them any thought.

Mosquitoes aren't particularly interested in me and the English variety seem particularly innocuous. They rarely bite me and even when they do I don't suffer much.

It is a different story for Bee. She is to mosquitoes what Heston Blumental is to foodies - they can't get enough of her. And when they bite her she knows about it. She's still got a couple of pink scars on her arm from mosquito bites she suffered last summer.

Inside Justin's water butt
There's something naaaaasty in the water butt
No surprise then that Bee has taken action again her assailants. Now, as twilight falls, she insists that all the doors are shut and locked.

Instead of luxuriating in impudent summer breezes we swelter in festering - but mozzie free - heat. It is a far from satisfactory situation but what else can we do?

Then, last weekend we discovered the source of Bee's tormentors: our water butts have become invested with mosquito larvae. Bee was the first to notice them. She filled a watering can and spotted the twisting, curling little blighters in the water.

She lifted the lid of one of the butts to investigate further and five - yes five! - mosquitoes flew out.

It turns out both butts are alive with the things. Clearly radical action was needed. On Sunday evening we drained both butts - filling countless watering cans and giving the garden a good soaking. Problem solved, I thought. We had cleared the butts of larvae.

Mosquito larvae in Justin Rowlatt's water butt
That one's called Jeremy, that one's Gavin....
Bee opened the lid to give my butts a final once over. She turned to me in horror: because the taps are not quite at the bottom of the butts two little pools of warm rainwater remain in each. Bee is convinced that these will spawn hungry armies of mozzies.

I suggested adding a little bleach to kill them off but Bee was worried it might poison the garden. So here's a question for all you ethical men and women out there: how do you get mosquitoes out of your butts?

And while we are on the subject of insect infestations, can anybody tell me how to get rid of the swarms of fruit flies that are feasting in our compost bin?

One aim of those who strive to live ethically is to get back to a more natural way of life. My family is finding that the Ethical Man project is bringing us uncomfortably close to nature.

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