Sunday, April 29, 2007

What To Do About Noisy Neighbours

In all the rhetoric that we hear from companies and landowners, wanting to put up wind turbines, about saving the planet from global warming we naturally hear very little about how they are also ruining people's lives. On one infamous occasion the chief executive of Scottish Renewables called those who opposed wind farms "people with a Brigadoon mentality". Developers and councils are fond of using the term "robust plan guidelines." They say this to indicate that all the factors will be taken into consideration and no decision will be made unless it's clearly in everyone's best interests. According to the Oxford English dictionary 'Robust' is defined as 'sturdy and strong', it is also defined as, "designating a process where the result is largely independent of certain aspects of the input." That happens frequently when dealing with wind farm applications and is precisely what has happened to one couple in the fens of Lincolnshire.

Julian and Jane Davis have a farm on the Lincolnshire fens and next to them are 8 turbines, the nearest just 900 metres from the Davis' farmhouse. The couple, unlike many others didn't object to the wind farm unaware of what it was going to mean to their lives. However, for the past eight months the repetitive thumping of air and humming of electric has ruined their lives.

"It's very hard to describe how I'm feeling after nearly a year of living next to the turbines," says Mr Davis, 42. "The biggest problem is the low frequency noise these things produce. "It is not immediately noticeable, but once you hear it and feel the vibration, it begins to drive you mad. "It's just that little bit faster than the noise of a heartbeat, so your body is constantly racing to catch up. We've had friends who come to stay with us who don't notice the noise and vibration at first, and think we're exaggerating. "It's always there in your head, and on the few occasions when it isn't noticeable, your mind begins to search for it."

If the wind is blowing from the south, there's yet another acoustic effect. "It's like the roar of traffic on the M62," Mr Davis says. "Sometimes it sounds like a train coming, but which never arrives." A log they have kept since the installation records that in the first 243 days of the wind farm's operation, 231 nights have been disturbed. They say that the effect on their lives is so bad that they have given up trying to sleep at the farmhouse. They say they have resorted to friends' sofas, and a local hotel which, despite being next to a motorway, gave them their first proper night's rest in many months. But a longer-term solution has now been found - at a cost of £600 a month, they are renting a second home, simply to sleep in.

Both the local authority and the site operators say they are monitoring the situation. Independent analysts have been brought in to assess the noise impact, but the council says that no breach of conditions is evident at this time. In the meantime, however, new proposals have come to the fore - for 16 more wind turbines in Deeping St Nicholas. The proposals, made by Spanish renewable energy giant Iberdrola, would add to the existing eight turbines, taking the number in the village to 24.

For the Davis' it's all too late. "It's almost cost us our sanity," says Mr Davis. "Our home is practically worthless, and to go on living like this would be unbearable. Life here has become a total nightmare."

The ability for wind farms to be sited away from homes and people is becoming less and less - there's only so much space on our islands. No developer recognises that there is a noise issue - they wouldn't would they? Of course the need to produce electricity is of vital importance but developers, councils and everyone else associated with the robust development of wind farms should recognise what they are doing and not just try to get away with it. Developers and landowners are making millions out of this subsidised scandal and the government stands idle, not doing anything about it; other than Tony Blair who opposed the wind farm to be built near his constituency. In Scotland the Lib Dems talk of an energy revolution and how good it is for the economy. They fail to point out that the turbines are manufactured in Europe, the majority of the developers are foreign owned and in Scotland's case many of the landowners are absentee landlords.

Because of the excellent job done by the green police in alarming us all to the dangers of climate change we've been hoodwinked into accepting that these ultimate examples of gesture politics are what we need. I’m beginning to sound like a broken record but on shore wind farms are about making money, not saving the planet. Until we wake up to this fact the problem will get worse, as land for building them becomes more scare. Of course no one suggests siting the turbines close to the areas where the majority of the electricity is being consumed, but then again they wouldn’t would they. The neighbours would be complaining about the noise.


Anonymous said...

But you could slap an ASBO on a noisy neighbor who plays loud music, has a crowing Cockerel or a barking dog!

Richard Havers said...

Maybe a wind farm would wear its ASBO with pride, which is what some young people are reported to be doing.

Fitaloon said...

Having moved from the city to the country about 3 years ago I am always constantly surprised by the quietness out here, not so much during the day but at night when if you go outside it is absolutely silent. In the city even at 4-5 in the morning the sounds were amazing and always behind it all a very deep low frequency hum. But now we here about a "test" for a Turbine near us. We keep seeing them springing up on the Landscape with no apparent attempt to hide them. If you put up a house in our area that doesn't have the right materials it would have to be redone but because these are "green" they are allowed to be a blot on the landscape. Offshore farms might be the answer if they were over the sightline

Colin Campbell said...

Wind farms are a growing issue here in Australia. One of the benefits here is that there is still a lot of land. My client builds them and I was surprised, just how huge they are. No wonder people in the vicinity have issues.