Resource Documents: Scotland (27 items)
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Author: National Health Service Shetland
“It is generally accepted that the primary effect of low frequency noise on people is annoyance. Annoyance is recognised as a critical health effect, and is associated in some people with stress, sleep disturbance, and interference with daily living. There is an increasing body of evidence that noise levels associated with wind farms cause annoyance, in a dose-related response. … A range of symptoms are attributed to the noise of wind turbines in people living close to them, which are those associated with general environmental noise exposure, and are often also described as stress symptoms. They include headache, irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, dizziness, anxiety, and sleep disturbance, and are often described in relation to annoyance. … [I]t is recognised that low level noise from wind turbines is more often found to cause annoyance than similar levels from other sources. Some consider that the common cause of complaints from wind farms is not associated with low frequency noise but with the audible modulation of the aerodynamic noise, especially at night. There is also evidence that some people perceive the low frequency noise components of wind turbine noise, and that these are more significant at night and with large wind turbines. … Regardless of whether the perceived impacts of noise from wind farms are physiological or psychological in nature, they are considered to cause adverse health effects through sleep disturbance, reducing the quality of life and as a source of annoyance which sometimes leads to stress related symptoms. … Conclusions: Wind turbines are known to cause a number of effects that have an impact on health: risks from ice throw and structural failures that are minimised by appropriate setback distances; noise and shadow flicker that are sources of annoyance, sleep disturbance and symptoms of stress in some people. Current mitigations do not entirely deal with the annoyance caused by wind farms, the results of which are a cause of distress and related ill health for a number of people living in the vicinity.”
Download original document: “Report on the Health Impacts of Wind Farms”
Author: World Council for Nature
The fatal impact of a white-throated needletail with a wind turbine in Scotland (1) raises serious concerns, with ramifications far beyond the sad loss of a single, spectacular vagrant. As a rare visitor, this individual bird was being very carefully observed, and thus there was a far higher chance of a turbine impact being detected than is the case for most small birds. Only a minuscule fraction of birds are intensively monitored in this way, and if the movements and fates of many other individual birds were being monitored, then what appears to be a rare event might prove to be frequent – or indeed probable. The death of this needletail should remind us that numerous small birds are being hit by turbines without detection or raising alarm. However, other hirundine deaths have already been documented amongst Europe’s wind turbines (2).
The needletail encountered a small, lone turbine. On the face of it, this is highly unlikely – unless the bird was actively attracted to the vicinity of the turbine. Indeed, some insects are attracted to wind turbines, and some bats are attracted to their deaths by unknown features of the turbines – possibly the food concentration around them (3, 4, 5). Remarkably, there are reports of bats commuting to wind turbines up to 14 km offshore for such food resources, as well as others stopping, perching and feeding around them during migration (4). This attraction exerted by wind turbines extends their ecological footprint to new, unsuspected dimensions.
We hypothesise that hirundines (including swifts, swallows, martins, swiftlets and needletails) might also be attracted to insects flying around these machines – onshore and offshore. Indeed, awareness has already been raised about the potential attraction of insectivorous birds to wind turbines (5). Reports (5, 6) that hirundines can comprise a third of turbine victims in Sweden and are being killed by domestic microturbines in Britain merit further investigation. Another consideration is that certain landscape features and air flows might attract both wind farm developers and hirundines, putting them on a collision course as they do with raptors.
We propose that wind turbines, let alone wind farms, may create extensive population sinks which could deplete and exterminate populations of birds and bats. We doubt the woeful amount of independent monitoring of turbine impacts would be capable of detecting this threat in most regions or for most species.
In the circumstances, a precautionary approach would be particularly appropriate in areas with populations of already threatened endemic hirundines, bats and other species – as in Seychelles or the Mascarenes for instance. For such areas, irreversible global extinction might be caused by wind turbines, yet even the highest standards of monitoring (including videos and radio transmitters) might be insufficient to alert us in time. We predict the extinction legacy of wind turbines will become an increasing source of concern, as ecological traps are set in vast numbers across the planet.
Clive Hambler (Lecturer in Biological and Human Sciences, Hertford College, University of Oxford)
Mark Duchamp (President, Save the Eagles International; Chair, World Council for Nature)
(2) – Photos of a sample of bird fatalities due to wind farms, including hirundines, from the Save the Eagles International website: http://savetheeagles.wordpress.com/birdkill-pictures/
– More pictures of birds killed by wind turbines may be seen here: http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/multimedia/
– And there are many more.
(3) – Video monitoring of bats flying between turbine blades, showing some getting struck: http://www.epaw.org/multimedia.php?article=b6
(4) – “We recorded 11 species (of a community of 18 species) flying over the ocean up to 14 km from the shore.” Ahlén, I. et al. (2009). Behaviour of Scandinavian bats during migration and foraging at sea. Journal of Mammology, 90, 1318-1323
– “The bats did not avoid the turbines. On the contrary they stayed for shorter or longer periods hunting close to the windmills because of the accumulation of flying insects. Hunting close to the blades was observed, why the risk of colliding might be comparable to land-based turbines. Bats also used wind turbines for resting. Insects were collected at places and times when bats were observed feeding.” Ahlén, I. et al. (2007). Bats and offshore wind turbines studied in southern Scandinavia. Swedish Environmental Protection Agency. Report 5571. http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Documents/publikationer/620-5571-2.pdf
(5) – “Increased risks depend on insect hunting (swifts, swallows), carrion search (crows, ravens, some raptors), and hangwind gliding (red kites, eagles, and buzzards).” – Ahlén, I. (2010). Fågelarter funna under vindkraftverk i Sverige. Var Fågelvärld, 4/2010, 8-12 http://www.slu.se/PageFiles/8390/artiklar/BirdsWindPowerVF2010.pdf
– Long, C. V. et al. (2011). Insect attraction to wind turbines: does colour play a role? European Journal of Wildlife Research, 57, 323-331 http://peer.ccsd.cnrs.fr/docs/00/62/51/48/PDF/PEER_stage2_10.1007%252Fs10344-010-0432-7.pdf
(6) – “Almost one third of the birds (killed) were swallows and swifts, species that like bats hunt flying insects”. Ahlén, I. (2002). Wind turbines and bats – a pilot study. Report to Swedish National Energy Association. http://publikationer.slu.se/Filer/08WindBatFinalReport.pdf
Author: Jackson, Aileen
Dear Mr Lang
We are the Jackson Family (Aileen, William, Andrew and Brian). We have lived here for 28 years and always enjoyed excellent relations with our immediate neighbours and other landowners in the area until March 2010 when a Proven 35-2 (15m hub height, 15kw) turbine, the first of three granted planning permission, was erected by our neighbour 300m from our house, 600m from his own property.
Within days we realised we had a problem with noise every time the prevailing wind turned the turbine to face our house (depending on wind speed, it could sound like anything from a diesel engine ticking over to a helicopter or a washing machine on spin). The noise was clearly audible with the windows shut, particularly in two of our bedrooms, conservatory and bathroom. We were unable to sleep, causing us to move to other rooms in the house to gain respite from the noise. In warm weather, forced to keep our windows shut, we overheated. We informed our neighbours who agreed the noise was much worse than they had anticipated but unfortunately no help from them was forthcoming and in desperation we contacted Environmental Health which led to a deterioration in our previous excellent relationship.
Environmental Health were very sympathetic. Our EHO installed a Matron* to record the noise in our bedroom, made frequent visits to our home and confirmed the noise was audible in our house with our double glazed windows firmly shut. Unfortunately EH did not have the equipment or the expertise to confirm whether it was breaking the planning condition of 35dB or background +5db (whichever is the greater) but they were certain that it was.
East Renfrewshire Council put pressure on the Agents to commission noise testing, by refusing to accept any further applications for that particular type of turbine and 7 months after installation we were visited by a consultancy of noise experts (allegedly) on behalf of the turbine manufacturer. They tested for only 2 hours in the wrong location at the wrong time of day and tied a plastic carrier bag around the noise testing equipment. This rustled in the wind raising background noise levels and as a result they arrived at the conclusion that “the turbine made little or no noise”. Having taken pictures of the aforementioned “plastic bag” and consulted our own acoustician Dick Bowler regarding their methodology, he prepared a report which was sent to Environmental Health who refused to accept the outcome of the test. It took a further 4 months for the manufacturers of the turbine to commission another company to monitor the noise at our property. The consultant was only available to attend on four occasions, none of which being when the noise was at its worst. He concluded in his report that the noise was 4.4dB above background, 0.6dB below the condition (9 dB above background at low wind speeds when it did not quite reach the 35dB limit) and therefore although the two other turbines with planning consent could not be erected, this one would be allowed to remain.
We were distraught. Two members of the family were on medication and one moved out.
As planning applications were resubmitted, there was a great increase in the number of objections as many local residents were now aware of the noise from this one erected turbine. It was at this time we began to experience some disturbing incidents ranging from vandalism to threats. We discovered that other objectors were suffering the same kind of treatment and as a result a number reluctantly gave up submitting objections as they feared for their family’s safety as well as the effect on their businesses/careers/friendships.
The flurry of applications were all refused again on noise grounds but after further resubmission with different, quieter models of turbines, repositioning and appeals, most were eventually consented. An appeal by neighbours against the refusal of planning permission
for three P35-2s, 500m from our house, which was refused by Councillors on noise grounds was allowed by a Reporter after a public hearing, despite us already suffering a noise nuisance, neighbours giving evidence that the one already erected beside our house could be heard at up to 1250m and the acoustic consultant who assessed the noise at our house admitting that the Matron in our bedroom failed to record , the data had been flawed by the noise from the cows in our neighbour’s cow sheds, he had not managed to attend to test the noise by turning the turbine on/off when the noise was at its worst despite my emails and texts and there was no accurate assessment of background noise at our property on which to base his conclusions! None of this had been mentioned in his report which had already been accepted by the Council. The Reporter informed us that he wished to hear the noise in our bedroom himself and that he would return on a day when the wind direction was favourable. He failed to return despite my phone call to DPEA. He concluded in his Decision that a further 2.5dB from the proposed development would not have a further adverse effect on our residential amenity.
We were left in a desperate situation where greatly against our will, we had no option but to take our neighbours to court to force the removal of the turbine which was causing us most problems. After seeking legal advice, we first of all approached our neighbours in an attempt to come to a compromise. After seeking advice themselves, they are cooperating with us and we are in the process of identifying an alternative site for the turbine which will be of benefit to us noise wise and not too costly for both ourselves and our neighbours.
Since the outcome of the appeal, landowners in the area have grown in confidence, with the certainty that even if their applications are refused by POs and Councillors, they will be allowed at Appeal. The number of applications has increased so dramatically that the local authority cannot cope. Landowners, not happy with one turbine are submitting applications for up to three at a time and singularly thereafter as this increases their chance of approval and lessens the likelihood of needing a full EIA assessment. With those already consented, there is no window in our house which will not have a view of turbines. More applications arrive on a weekly basis and shortly it will not just be Uplawmoor which disappears under turbines but the whole of East Renfrewshire as ERC has outlined 34.7% of ER’s greenbelt for windfarm development. The rest of the greenbelt appears to be earmarked for vast housing developments in Newton Mearns.
Our once peaceful and happy family life has been destroyed, our health and financial situation has deteriorated and good neighbourly relationships are a thing of the past. It has split the community apart, putting strain on once firm friendships and dividing families and I see no respite from the misery inflicted upon us and other communities in similar positions.
*A Matron is a noise nuisance measuring instrument that records sound but does not measure noise levels in decibels. It is used by Environmental Health to establish if there is a justified complaint.
Author: Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Summary and introduction
The mountains and wild places of Scotland are a national asset beyond price, yet they risk being irrevocably damaged by commercial wind farm developments.
This document reflects the determination of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) to defend this precious resource. It examines some of the issues and proposes practical action to balance the need for clean energy with the need to conserve our natural heritage.
As the recognised representative body for Scottish mountaineers and hill walkers we believe our uplands and wild places are at risk from climate change. They are also in danger from our response to climate change – industrial-scale wind farms in landscapes which should remain wild. The threat is not just from individual schemes, but from their cumulative impact. With ever-more schemes in the pipeline we need urgent action.
Scotland can achieve its aims for renewable energy without industrialising our most important mountains. We should lead the world in clean energy good practice as well as generation. As a pragmatic response the MCofS is calling for an immediate moratorium on commercial wind farms which encroach on our highest mountains, the Munros (peaks over 3,000ft) and Corbetts (2,500-3,000ft). These are among our finest mountain landscapes and are vital to our cultural and historical identity. They form a clearly identifiable group and are among the last parts of the UK free from obvious, or extensive, human presence.
The MCofS calls for clear policy statements by the Scottish Government, local authorities, political parties and developers that commercial wind farms will not be permitted to impinge on the Munros and Corbetts – or their visual amenity (ensuring the visual quality of these areas remains exceptionally high). Policies must be tightly defined to end the current situation where piecemeal regulation allows varied and subjective interpretation, sometimes putting the interests and profits of energy companies and landowners ahead of our countryside, and ultimately, Scotland’s national interest.
Our mountains are of essential importance for many reasons including:
- Scenic beauty and Scottish culture – they are among our defining features
- Recreation – for activities like hill walking and ski touring
- Employment – sustainable jobs in remote communities
- Tourism – Scotland’s countryside is a leading attraction
- Wildlife – providing habitats for threatened species
- Health – getting people out of doors and active
The MCofS wishes to engage with all those who have an interest in conserving our natural heritage in order to strike a proper balance between the need for clean energy and the conservation of our natural heritage.
Scale of the issue
No technology can be considered truly green if it harms the very environments we seek to conserve. The SNH wind farm footprint map of July 2011, while incomplete, gives some idea of the huge extent of development proposals.
It is claimed that SNH has recorded some 400 wind power projects of 3MW or more, with 130 operational or approved and the rest in the consent process (for Scottish Government figures see also 2020 Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland).
The norm is increasingly for turbines of 100-125m from base to blade tip. Wind farms may also require many kilometres of service tracks, usually 6m wide, to be cut through unspoilt countryside. Transmission cables and pylons can cause further damage. Construction work can harm some bird species and the removal of peat releases carbon into the atmosphere. Large schemes occupy many square miles of land, transforming their character and degrading the visual amenity for miles around.
In 2011 the Scottish Government raised the country’s renewable energy targets to 100% of domestic demand by 2020. Wind power generation is now big business with large profits available to companies and land owners. But a heavy price is being paid – the industrialisation of our countryside. The profit motive must always be constrained by wider public and national interests.
The Scottish Government’s claim that strict planning guidelines are preventing unacceptable harm to the environment looks increasingly questionable. We would cite the RSPB’s concerns about the scale of the Viking development in Shetland, and our own objections to proposals such as those for Sallachy and Dalnessie, which are based on existing planning policies, as examples.
The James Hutton Institute asserts that climate change is having a lasting impact on the Scottish landscape. Much marginal land will become viable for agricultural use – potentially increasing pressure on our wild places. More generally we face an erosion of our natural capital with habitat loss and over-exploitation of land. We strongly agree with the institute’s emphasis on balancing economic, cultural and environmental demands to achieve more sustainable use of land.
In common with the Scottish Government we are impressed by the prospects for renewables in Scotland – with an estimated 10% of Europe’s wave power and 25% of its tidal potential, combined with tremendous offshore wind capacity. We welcome the investments being made to make Scotland a pioneering force in the exploitation of these resources.
So great is Scotland’s renewables potential that it can choose the best way ahead. The MCofS suggests that this opens the way for a new strategy to determine how to reach its renewables targets while keeping onshore wind farm developments away from the Munros and the Corbetts.
A strategic approach
The Scottish Government has been quick to recognise that our planning policies and guidance need updating. We welcome the ongoing process in which local authorities are drafting new local plans.
However, Scotland needs a national strategy to protect its mountains from unwelcome developments and to provide clear guidance on where wind farms will and will not be permitted. In some cases we would be keen to see a distinction drawn between types of project, recognising the value of certain small-scale developments which bring power and some income to local communities. At present there is little consistency about which landscapes are designated for protection. This is despite the admirable work of many planners, and organisations such as SNH, and efforts at standardisation using Special Landscape Areas.
Change is needed urgently, with clear and firm protection for the Munros and Corbetts in particular. Their futures should not depend on factors such as whether they happen to be in a National Park.
Scotland’s Munros and Corbetts form a coherent and internationally-recognised group and are of great worth to the tourism industry. Access is relatively easy yet they provide a real sense of wildness, tranquility, adventure and solitude. They are also places where the local communities are very small, so weight of public opinion cannot be relied on to deter unwelcome development proposals. The Munros and Corbetts hold some of our highest-quality environments and must remain free from further major visual intrusion.
The Scottish Government has a strongly stated belief in the contribution that wind farms can make to our clean energy needs. This can encourage decisions which favour the desires of developers and landowners over the interests of our natural heritage, despite the emphasis on landscape conservation in the National Planning Framework 2 (NPF2) and the 2010 Scottish Planning Policy. Indeed, there are cases where implementation has failed to meet the aspirations of policy.
We also share with SNH, and others, a deep concern that the scenic value of our landscapes can be corroded by an accumulation of wind farms within sensitive areas, or around their edges. With so many proposals going through the planning system the reality of their cumulative impact may only be recognised when it is too late. As a result we are joining the RSPB in its call for an evidence-based strategic energy policy taking a holistic view of all relevant economic, social and environmental factors.
A central plank of such a policy would be the explicit protection of Corbetts and Munros as landscapes which are, to use the words of SNH, ‘recognised as being rare, unusual, highly distinctive or the best or most representative example in a given area’.
In this way Scotland can be even more effective in championing the cause of renewable energy. As WWF says, wind farms must avoid causing environmental harm and need to have public acceptance. It is essential to build and maintain a consensus in favour of renewables, the poor siting of wind farms can undermine public support – which is already showing signs of strain.
The Scottish Government claims that research shows wind farms are not incompatible with tourism. This is probably true, so long as the developments do not encroach on landscapes specifically valued for their openness, wildness and absence of obvious human presence and industrialisation.
But it is a potentially serious error to give too much weight to the findings of reports such as The Economic Impacts of Wind Farms on Scottish Tourism or the VisitScotland survey commissioned in 2011. Such work tells us little as it is being conducted at a time when relatively few wind farms have been built in the locations of key interest to tourists.
The MCofS wants to ensure that wind farm developments do not damage our tourism and recreation industries. The value to the economy, especially in remote and fragile communities, is enormous. Wind farms create few lasting onsite jobs, but Scotland’s reputation as a place for relaxation and adventure leisure pursuits underpins many permanent and sustainable jobs which our rural areas desperately need. These jobs are highly dependent on the fact that visitors enjoy our wild landscapes.
The country attracted 14.7 million visitors in 2010, spending £4.1 billion. The top reason for visiting Scotland was the scenery and landscape (58%). Some 40% of visitors went on longer walks (two miles and above). For 35% of visitors long walks, hikes and rambles were among the most popular activities.
Mountaineers and hill walkers are often young people from the most affluent social groups – a valuable tourism market as HIE’s Economic Impact report of 2003-04 underlined. Scottish Government figures show that 5% of Scots go hill walking on a regular basis.
Our tourism industry has suffered serious and unexpected shocks in the recent past which show that visitor perceptions are sensitive to change. Nowadays Scotland faces tough competition from overseas markets which offer wild mountain areas and superb countryside at lower cost. Scotland has to compete at the premium end of the market on quality of experience. Our international image is of a country offering beautiful and open mountain landscapes. We cannot allow a situation to emerge where visitors are disappointed because the countryside is seen as spoiled by industrialisation.
Most mountaineers see Scotland’s landscape and wildlife as being as important as adventure and physical challenge. The great scenic beauty of our mountains gives them a powerful appeal. Nature-based tourism and recreational activities in the mountains are of immense value to Scotland overall, and to our more rural communities in particular. The Macaulay Institute found that hill walkers and climbers contributed an estimated £245.7 million in expenditure to Scotland’s rural economy in the HIE area in 2002-03. In order for this contribution to be sustained and enhanced, the landscape quality of our mountain areas must be conserved.
What can be done?
The sparsely populated areas we seek to protect from wind farm industrialisation have small or no local populations so weight of local opinion cannot be relied on to resist undesirable change. As the representative body for Scottish mountaineers and hill walkers (with a membership of more than 11,000 and a 40-year track record) the MCofS fights to protect our mountains.
Far from opposing wind farms, we argue that it is in the interests of Scotland and of the renewables sector to get their location right so they are a popular and accepted part of life. In mountain areas we also appreciate that low capacity, small-scale projects sited sensitively (and probably close to existing buildings) may well be more acceptable if their primary role is to generate power and income for the community. In order to balance the need for clean energy with the interests of our natural heritage the MCofS is calling for:
- A halt to all commercial wind farms encroaching on the land of the Munros and Corbetts or having an adverse or significant impact on their visual amenity.
- Clear, unequivocal national and local policy statements declaring that there will be no future commercial wind farm developments in these areas
- A holistic Scottish energy strategy which includes the siting of wind farms
- Firm commitments by parties, politicians, planners and wind farm developers that they will protect Scotland’s mountains from unwelcome change.
The MCofS will be supportive of planning authorities in preparing positive policies and supplementary guidance to protect our upland landscape. It will also seek to influence how such policies are implemented.
Scotland’s upland landscape is under threat from many directions. The proliferation of wind farms is one of them and must be controlled. Our mountains have a scenic, cultural and economic worth which needs to be balanced with their value to renewable energy companies and their marginal contribution to the reduction of Scotland’s carbon footprint. Preventing wind farm developments that encroach on the Munros and Corbetts – among the finest Scottish landscapes – would be a bold step forward.
The mountain landscape provides venues for recreation, exercise and participation in a wide range of outdoor sports – as such is of huge benefit to public health and wellbeing. It is also an asset for the tourism industry, supporting thousands of local jobs.
Scotland’s renewable energy targets can be achieved without recourse to extensive wind farm industrialisation. But urgent action is needed to secure the future of our mountains and wild places so they can be enjoyed for recreation and relaxation.
Scotland needs coherent policies, strategies and implementation to replace the current piecemeal and subjective approach. These must guarantee that the Munros and Corbetts are protected. In doing this, the country can become a leader in renewable energy best-practice, contributing to the long-term success of the switch to clean energy by maintaining public support and by protecting places that are of irreplaceable scenic, cultural, social and natural significance.
For further information please contact David Gibson, Chief Officer