Lord Reay: My Lords, in introducing the Bill I should like to declare an interest: I live within one and a half kilometres of a wind farm that is in the pre-planning application stage and which would be disallowed under the provisions in this Bill because of its proximity to my house and, I am told, to about 600 other houses, which would all be within two kilometres of the 110 metre-high turbines.
There are many reasons to be opposed to the Government’s policy towards wind farms and I agree with most of them. But this Bill only concerns itself with one disadvantage of onshore wind turbines – their propensity for making life a misery for those unlucky enough to find themselves forced to live in their shadow.
There is now a well-established body of evidence, collected worldwide, that demonstrates the harmful effect of turbines for at least some of those who live close to them. Complaints are made continuously to the environmental health officers of local authorities. In February 2009 the Renewable Energy Foundation produced a roll, obtained under freedom of information requests, of 27 out of 133 wind farms in the United Kingdom which had given rise to noise complaints. This number subsequently rose to 46 out of 217 wind farms by April 2010, with 285 complaints having been recorded in total.
In her book Wind Turbine Syndrome, Dr Nina Pierpont recorded and analysed the symptoms of a number of families in different parts of the world who had been driven out of their homes by their sufferings from wind farms. Dr Pierpont concludes that a minimum setback distance of two kilometres should be required, also that developers should be obliged to buy out effected families at the pre-turbine value of their homes.
Jane Davis is another famous authority on the subject, and a victim herself. Driven from her Lincolnshire home by a wind farm that appeared within 1,000 metres upwind of her, she has fought for the last five years for recognition and compensation. She goes to the High Court in July in a case expected to last for 12 days. In the very recent BBC2 series “Windfarm Wars”, which chronicled with admirable fair-mindedness the story of a Devon wind farm application, at Den Brook Valley, viewers will have seen Jane Davis’s evidence, together with plenty of other examples of the intolerable consequences for some people of having to live close to such developments.
Only the day before yesterday an account appeared in a local newspaper, the North Devon Gazette, under the heading “Our Sleepless Nights with Wind Turbines”, of a Torrington couple who were being forced to sell their home and business following a planning inspector’s decision to overrule Torridge District Council and allow a wind farm within 500 metres of their home.
“I can hear the turbines through my pillow at night”,
the wife was quoted as saying.
“It’s unbelievable the noise they make sometimes”,
said her husband.
Wind farm noise differs from other continuous forms of noise, for example the noise from a nuclear power station. It has a rhythmic, pulsing quality, with at times a vibrating effect which many have found too invasive and disturbing to live with. It can quite obviously seriously damage people’s health. There are many illustrations of this in Dr Pierpont’s book.
But there is another baleful effect, which is more than visual or aural. This derives from the scale of the turbines. So vast have they become – the largest currently in the planning process being over 600 feet high, twice the height of Big Ben – that the more humane inspectors, those few who have chosen not to be ruthless agents for enforcing the Government’s renewable energy policy, have described them as dominating, intimidating, blighting for a generation the lives of those who have to live under them, and have rejected applications on that score.
So except by hoping to be lucky in the choice of the inspector that is parachuted in on them from Bristol, how can local communities hope to defend themselves against the threat of this nuisance to their lives? …
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