Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my belief, following the experiences of the last 5 years, that the realities of living alongside a wind power station bear little (or no) resemblance to the cosy images, so falsely, so blatantly, so criminally, portrayed by the wind industry, the “greens” and assorted Government departments and agencies.
The image they would have the public believe, is one of a soft focus, pastel coloured scene, possibly showing children running through a flower-strewn meadow. This picture is intended to portray an image of an undisturbed, utopian, rural, idyll, (with possibly, - but far from mandatory,) - a barely discernible wind turbine in the far distance.
There is always, apparently, a complete symphony orchestra playing soothing, relaxing music, camouflaged and discreetly concealed somewhere in every field adjacent to every wind power station, but – elusively - always just out of camera.
I have so far failed to find them! The noise of the turbines is quite sufficient, thank you very much. Being forced to endure Beethoven’s “Pastoral”, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” or Pachelbel’s “Canon” every time I see a rotating turbine is just too horrendous to contemplate! (as much as I might appreciate those particular pieces, in other circumstances!)
One is inevitably, - I believe deliberately, - subliminally led to the belief that this industry champions wind power stations existing unobtrusively in dreamy, peaceful, tranquil locations reminiscent of an impressionist painting, one, possibly signed by, or ascribed to, Claude Monet. However, the reality is totally different.
The European and British Wind Energy Associations both proudly and very publicly, proclaim, (in their Best Practice Guidelines,) the following:- “WIND TURBINES SHOULD NOT BE LOCATED SO CLOSE TO DOMESTIC DWELLINGS THAT THEY UNREASONABLY AFFECT THE AMENITY OF SUCH PROPERTIES THROUGH NOISE, SHADOW FLICKER, VISUAL DOMINANCE OR REFLECTED LIGHT”
How I wish that this were true!
We, the residents of South West Cumbria, have all of these phenomena at one location.
We reported this to the BWEA, but basically they weren’t interested. Neither (apparently) do they ever criticise, investigate or punish any developer affiliated to this industry body, who fails to comply with these grand sounding sentiments.
These are only guidelines and they are not mandatory. Therefore, ANY “cowboy” developers (of which I believe there may be many) can choose to comply with those that suit them and those that don’t are then conveniently ignored, apparently with the backing of the BWEA, to the detriment of the “quality of life” of residents. I believe “minimal cost” is the Industry’s driving criteria.
Further, there is no health and safety or any other legislation in this country that specifically covers wind power stations.
This, I feel, is one of the main problems which leads to the situations we, (and others), are now experiencing. This lunatic “dash for wind” guarantees that more and more residents of our once peaceful countryside are likely to be adversely affected, when they too, inevitably, become “the neighbours of wind turbines.” The “industry speak”, which amounts to misinformation, lies, and deceit, will begin long before any planning application is entered to the local authority. It is usual for some (but not necessarily all!) residents to receive a “Dear Householder” letter, laying out the developers reasons for having selected your area, and how he proposes to deal with any of the problems that he assesses may arise.
DO NOT BE MISLED!
It is my experience that these letters either:-
A) Don’t get circulated to all the residents who are likely to be affected. Or, as has happened locally, they are circulated to residents who are never likely to be affected, because they live several kilometres away from the proposed site.
B) They contain statements that later turn out to be at the least misleading and in several known instances- out and out lies!!
Examples – and these are direct quotes.
1 “The turbines will be 40 metres in height.” – FALSE. We ended up with 63.5 metres - because the developer had failed, for some inexplicable reason, to inform the residents that he had not included the size of the blades (which incidentally are similar dimensions to a jumbo jet)
2 “The development is small in scale and the site has been carefully designed to minimise any visual impact.” – FALSE. How on earth, can anyone, (honestly), declare that seven, 200 ft structures, painted brilliant white and with a blue “go faster” stripe on the turbine housing, – located at the summit of the highest hill overlooking three villages, (rising from sea level to 180 metres in just over 2 kilometres,) with blades the size of a jumbo jet’s wing span, revolving at 26 rpm, flashing in the sunshine and making a noise like a broken down washing machine in its death throes, have been “carefully designed to minimise any visual impact.”(?) Furthermore, this particular project was so “carefully designed” that they managed to miss-locate these turbines up to 900-ft (in total) away from the site where they were given planning permission. (What, then, is the validity of any safety cases, soil samples, ground integrity and noise surveys carried out on these spurious locations – NO ONE BUT US SEEMS CONCERNED!) Can I suggest that if any of you were to try building a house extension, a conservatory, a garage etc., 9 INCHES. away from where you were given permission, you would then see exactly who would be concerned! Everyone and his Uncle would pursue you unmercifully, with threats of sanctions and legal action unless you pulled down your project and build it exactly as permitted. BUT NOT A WIND FARM - APPARENTLY. (Could this be why PPS 22 is so important to the wind industry, the Government and Mr. Prescott personally?)
3 “The design and control system will ensure that there will be no noise nuisance or effect on TV or radio at any property in the area.” – FALSE. We have noise reported AND in several instances logged (by local authority environmental health officers) up to 2 kilometres away from the site. We have a verbal report, made in front of witnesses, by an independent acoustics engineer, of his identifying noise from “our” turbines 5 kilometres away, and across a wide river estuary. (He eventually declined to give a witness statement or to appear on our behalf at court, as he had just been offered employment at a nearby wind farm and would therefore have a “conflict of interest”). Funnily enough, this “conflict” excuse cropped up several times whilst we were attempting to compile our witness list!) We have a location that cannot see any of the 7 turbines, where these residents have to leave their premises, sometimes for days on end, in a desperate attempt to gain some respite from the incessant noise that keeps them awake and continually stops them enjoying their house and gardens. We have houses where residents are obliged to attempt sleep by means of playing a radio all night long, in an effort to drown out the noise of the turbines. We have another location where a young student is forced to attempt sleep (and studying for crucial examinations which would dictate her future), with a “walkman” and earphones, continually playing her type of music, to obliterate/break up the noise from the turbines. We have a location where the occupants regularly have to play “musical bedrooms”, changing from one room to another several times during the night in a vain attempt to get some relief from the noise from the turbines. A noise which has been variously described as “a clog in a tumble drier”, “a train continually passing though the room”, “a c130 Hercules flying outside your window”, “distant pile driving”, and “someone mixing concrete in the sky” – CONTINUOUSLY - FOR DAYS (AND NIGHTS) ON END.
4 “It is our intention, as far as possible, to place the major construction contracts with local contractors to ensure maximum benefit to the area.” - This one beats cock fighting, the major construction contracts amounted to £700,000; the amount placed with “local contractors” - a mere £60,000.
Once “our” wind power station began operation we very quickly found that promises made in pursuit of securing planning permission (and to a public inquiry), disappeared totally in a somewhat “Brigadoon” type scenario. Safety margins of “no turbines being placed less than their own fall over distance from any public access” were compromised. Developers rationalised these unauthorised changes by stating – “But they were only self imposed, we don’t have to adhere to them”.
Noise levels breached the planning condition and caused (and continue to cause - almost five years later) severe disruption and annoyance to residents. Several residents believe the noise is making them ill. Lack of sleep, anxiety, headaches, earaches, upset stomachs and a general feeling of malaise are reported by residents of all ages, all around the site. Unfortunately, none of these symptoms have (as yet) been corroborated (by a medical practitioner) as ill - effects originating from the presence of wind turbines.
Shadow flicker and glinting are experienced at properties up to 2.5 k away from the site. – When the developers were informed of these phenomena their reaction, as always, was immediate denial.
But these dreadful adverse effects are fact. They are very real. They have been witnessed by hundreds of people. They are still being suffered by many of our residents.
These ill - effects have also been witnessed by councillors and council officials. (Some of whom also declined to give statements or to be witnesses in our court case.)
Eventually the developers admitted everything that we had claimed – BUT STILL NOTHING HAS BEEN DONE TO RESOLVE THESE PROBLEMS TO THE SATISFACTION OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO MATTER.
THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING. THE RESIDENTS, THE “NEIGHBOURS OF WIND TURBINES.” The developers (and the industry in general) claim it is difficult to predict shadow flicker, glinting and reflection – we totally disagree. The Egyptians, The Mayans, The Incas and Aztecs were all capable of building whole cities based on the movement of the sun.
In this country Stonehenge is a perfect example of prediction of the movement of the sun. If stone-age man was capable of this technology, why should the wind industry find it so difficult? Could it be another unwelcome cost eating into their profits?
Noise is another issue the industry finds “difficulty” with, they state that it is “impracticable” to measure noise lower than 30 dB. So they request, at planning, a noise condition based on 5 dB over this notional background level of 30 making 35 dB. The background noise level in our location – prior to the wind farm - was recorded as low as 16.5 dB. (Somebody therefore found it “practicable” enough to take these readings.) Our night - time average would be about 19 dB. We now have readings regularly recorded in the middle to high 40’s.
This (dB) scale is exponential. Every increase of 10dB means a doubling of the previous level of noise – so now we have an actual noise level of between 4 and 8 times that which we experienced prior to the development. The local authority claims that because of the court case of “Gillingham v Medway Council,” the classification of “our” area changed with the passing of the planning permission for this, “our”, wind power station. Consequently (in our once rural location,) we now find, as if transformed by a miracle, that we live in a mixed rural/industrial area and therefore our “expectations of noise” or should I say expectations of quiet -- should be in line with this industrialisation and are now “unrealistically” high.
Unrealistic for whom?
We are the residents. We notice and live with this difference. We have lived here for years. We point it out. Nothing happens. WE SUFFER!
The World Health Organisation states that the minimum required noise level for uninterrupted, restorative, sleep should be 30 dB. So why do we have to suffer a much higher level? Is this another of those “unwelcome costs” for the wind industry?
It is not necessarily the noise level – as measured in dB - that is the problem. It is the nature of that noise. People report that this is a noise they “feel” rather than “hear”. They report that their heart appears to be trying to keep in sync with the beat from the blades and they experience great discomfort should that beat change. Especially during the night - time hours – as is now totally exposed in the recent report by Van den Burg from Groningen University.
My wife is an asthmatic and has experienced, on several occasions, whilst suffering an attack, similar symptoms whereby her breathing wanted to keep in synch with the beat. She, (and I,) find this an extremely distressing situation.
People report tinnitus - like symptoms, sickness and dizziness, all of which they attribute to the “noise” from the wind farm. Because, when the “noise” ceases, for whatever reason – so do their symptoms. (Animals, too, show signs of stress at the “noise” and shadow flicker.)
Farmers working in adjacent fields cannot stand the “feelings” for more than two hours at a time because, quote, – “it does my head in”. I believe medical research is in progress, along exactly these lines, in another area of the country.
People are continually forced out of the enjoyment of their gardens on days when the wind direction is such that the “noise” invades every corner of their properties. Some have been forced out of their houses for longer periods for exactly this reason. The developers deny this ever occurs – or rather they did deny it. They now reluctantly admit it, but add - “Lets face it, if you live near a wind farm you’ve got to expect noise.”
A quote from one of the defendants, at our recent court case, on oath, in the witness box, was, “The inevitable consequence of living next to a wind farm is………… NOISE!” This same man, who currently holds a (relatively) high position of responsibility within Powergen Renewables, has previously stated, at another venue, and under far less “judicial” circumstances, that “Wind Turbines are inaudible.”
Which of his versions is the truth? I suggest that it is the former. The latter presumably being another example of “industry speak.”
This “noise” is not a new phenomenon. It has been widely reported all over the world. About 3 years ago – Defra commissioned a report by Casella Stanger, into the sources of Low Frequency Noise. Within this report every one of the symptoms affecting our residents are described. We were totally unaware of it’s existence and this report positively identifies wind farms as a source of nuisance (and states that health can suffer).
What is being done about this report? Apparently nothing.
We located this following a chance remark and we placed it with our MP the Rt. Hon John Hutton, Minister of State for Health. We believe, from his reactions, that his department was totally unaware of its existence. We had (initially) received support from Mr Hutton. He had been made aware of all of our problems. He was apparently at first, extremely sympathetic. He offered assistance, until , for some inexplicable reason, he felt that, despite organising a meeting with Lord Rooker within John Prescott’s Office, which was suddenly, mysteriously abandoned - he could assist us no longer. I found this most peculiar and somewhat sinister. But not totally unexpected!
Subsequently, our diabolical situation has now dragged on for over five years and, in all honesty, we are no nearer to a resolution than we were when we first began.
We have actually achieved nothing!
There is no point denying that the result of the court case was a body blow to all of us. We believed that we were right. (We still believe that we are right). We were shattered.
We believed that by presenting, 6 complainants, 7 other residents, 3 council officials and producing in evidence certified local authority Environmental Health Officers records proving:-
26 noise nuisances, 14 border line noise nuisances and , at least, 1 breach of planning conditions, in the 22 months immediately prior to appearing in the court, that we had done sufficient work to convince a district judge that a nuisance situation had existed, still existed or was likely to recur, under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
I (personally) persuaded MAIWAG members that if we were patient, if we did our work thoroughly, if we collated all the evidence, if we then presented it correctly and if we worked to the highest burden of proof – the criminal burden of proof, that of beyond reasonable doubt, - WE WOULD WIN. I believed it was so simple, so painfully obvious! This I based on 30 years experience in the police force, where I genuinely believed in the due process of law and justice. Whereby, - if something was obviously wrong, - against public decency, - against commonly held beliefs and standards, - common law, - or against an act of parliament, and that complainants were able to prove it, they would obtain the correct verdict. Then the prescribed punishment for that particular crime, would inevitably follow.
THIS WAS THE SYSTEM. THE ENGLISH LEGAL SYSTEM. IT WAS SO GOOD THAT OTHER COUNTRIES BASED THEIR OWN LEGAL SYSTEMS ON OURS.
I forcefully, (perhaps sometimes too forcefully,) persuaded MAIWAG members to believe in, and adhere to, this maxim. I committed them to 5 years extremely hard and time- consuming work, and not least, to an extremely large financial debt. I thought that the system of justice that I believed in would always support “the wronged” against “the wrong doer.”
I couldn’t have been more wrong! And now - I couldn’t be more disillusioned!
In our case the judge decided that the evidence we presented “lacked detail and specificity” and that “audibility and annoyance are not to be equated with nuisance”. PARDON?
Immediately following the trial verdict, (and within minutes of returning to my home), I was phoned by a well- known, well respected, television journalist from London. He told me something which, at the time I had doubts about, but which I am now thoroughly convinced of, - that was, we “could not be allowed” to win this test case. Like us, he was shattered when the decision was made public. He didn’t know how we could have failed. He informed me that right up to the verdict being made public, his information was that the wind industry believed WE had won. BUT WE FAILED! Two days afterwards he and a colleague travelled from London and interviewed both Les and I, and he there repeated his belief that we had been – to use his very explicit expression – “SHAFTED.”
I now harbour grave doubts that the “holy grail” of “justice” exists, in any shape or form. Particularly in connection with our case against this industry. I now doubt that it has ever existed, or that under the current regime, it will ever be allowed to exist in the future. I was so shattered by this revelation that I resigned from MAIWAG - I just couldn’t see any way forward.
I now believe that in matters where the financial interests of large corporate bodies and their interest rate, or monetary return to their share holders, or where government departments promoting dubious ministerial “sound bites”, have become far more important than the human rights of “common or garden” residents. The individual HAS to be sacrificed.
AND ALL UNDER THE VOTE WINNING BANNER OF “GREEN ASPIRATIONS”
I’m actually a very simple man, with quite simple aspirations. One of my wishes is (or was) to retain my family’s “quality of life.” Something I believe, that I, and doubtless many of you, have aspired towards all our working lives and have already made huge, largely hidden, sacrifices in an attempt to achieve a better future for ourselves, which we then hope to pass down to our descendants.
The arguments from “greens” that they want to save the world for their grand children, are mine too, EXACTLY. However, achieving this by replacing one form of pollution with several others and then inflicted these on unsuspecting residents by stealth is NOT the way to achieve it.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. However, now, I’m (hopefully) wiser.
I am /and MAIWAG are, continuing to gather, collate and disperse, information and evidence, to whoever requires it. Because no–one should have to go through what we have had to endure. We are all worn out. We are all totally disillusioned. We are also considerably poorer financially, but,
WE WILL NOT GIVE IN!
WE CANNOT GIVE IN - BECAUSE THIS SITUATION IS SO OBVIOUSLY, PATENTLY, CRIMINALLY - WRONG!
WE CONTINUE TO FIGHT THESE APPALLING INJUSTICES WITH JUST AS MUCH COMMITMENT AS WE HAD BEFORE OUR (VERY PUBLIC) DEFEAT.
BECAUSE WE KNOW………, NO MATTER WHAT DECEIT IS EMPLOYED………… OR WHAT OBSTACLES ARE PLACED IN OUR WAY……….., WE ARE RIGHT!
We will continue in our attempt to achieve a legal redress to a situation that the Local Planning Authority, the Local Authority Environmental Health Department, The Government Office of the North West, The North West Development Agency, Defra, The Ministry for the Environment, The Health Ministry, and the several secretaries of state of innumerable government departments, are either incapable of resolving, reluctant to address, or deliberately, in the best traditions of one of Britains best known heroes, (Nelson) “turn a blind eye to.”
(I wish that even half of these more often than not faceless people had small percentage of HIS backbone, whilst continually availing themselves of his ocular disability!) Despite letters from Government departments telling us that Barrow Council have “all the powers necessary to deal with this situation speedily, efficiently and effectively” (now dated some 4 years ago), and a planning committee who have on 3 occasions voted to enforce planning breaches, ……………we still await an outcome………………Consequently,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I believe that if MAIWAG’s experiences are any yardstick, anyone facing the prospect of this desperate, diabolical, dash for wind, would be advised to fight any similar applications from the outset wherever possible. Don’t even consider commencing your objections….., your resistance……, your fight……, once the problems associated with actually living close to a wind power station, have become - all to painfully - obvious. Apathy and lethargy are your worst enemies.
This industry with all its’ hype, with all its’ deliberately misleading claims, with all its’ “industry speak”, is not as “green” as they would have you believe. People must realise this.
Only then can anyone appreciate, that the painting I had alluded to, at the start of this presentation, could never, by any stretch of the imagination, have been ascribed to “Monet”. The signature at the bottom of this “impressionist image,” was always, (and who knows, in light of what we have learned, was perhaps deliberately) blurred, but, it finally falls into focus and now, so obviously, reads :-
Take the letter “N” from the end of the word “green” and substitute if with a “D” and I think that the result is nearer the mark.
In the same vein, remove the letter “F” from the word “JUSTICE”…………………….
Now…………., I can see some puzzled looks. One or two of you are nudging your neighbours. “Take the “F” out of justice?” “He’s got that wrong!” “The man’s crazy.” “It’s all been too much for him poor soul.” “What a shame!”
But…………, if you remember nothing else of what I have just said, remember exactly this last point.
You have just recognised,…….. in a few short seconds , something it took me 5 years to discover!
You have reached exactly the same conclusion that I did.
That is ……….
in anything pertaining to the wind industry,
There’s no “eff-in” justice!
Thank you for your attention. Can I now hand you over to MAIWAG’s chairman, LES NICHOLS.