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Windfarm Wars – episode 2  

Author:  | Aesthetics, England, Noise, Property values, Regulations, Siting, Tourism, Videos

Transcript of Windfarm Wars, episode 2 (of 4), BBC2:

This is our best bedroom here. We have people who just literally sit here in the day and look at the view. From that tree there, all the way across the top of those trees, well above the skyline, is where the turbines will be.

Hotel owner Muriel Goodman first learnt six years ago that developers were planning to build a windfarm in the shallow Devon valley below her hotel.

If they go up, there’s no way we’ll stay.

That is a hell of a sign. Yeah, it is, isn’t it?

Farmer Martin Tucker wants the windfarm.

He’ll get five turbines on his land.

Morning, Mr Tucker.

He’s keen to help the environment and he’ll get a chance to retire on the proceeds.

So if we get it, it’s a result.

But there’s been fierce opposition.

Look. Can you believe it?

A few turbines around is not going to affect it that much.

Who’d like one of these in their garden?

The windfarm is the dream of project manager Rachel Ruffle.

I want everyone to love windfarms. And there not to be protesters.

But Rachel’s plans fell apart as the local council voted on the proposal.

That is carried. The application is refused.

But it’s not over yet.

If we decide we’re going to go to appeal then I’ll revisit it.

It’s a story of the biggest dilemma facing the modern world.

We’ve got a serious global warming issue at the moment. And if we don’t do something about it, we are going to leave a dreadful legacy for the next generation. It’s about the sacrifices we’re asked to make.

There’s 3,000 years of continuous human settlement in that valley. And after which, it’s as beautiful as it is today.

And it’s about how the battle for our future played out in one Devon valley.

Is it the same as usual? It is, yeah.

SHE LAUGHS

Oh, dear.

Muriel Goodman bought her hotel for its outstanding position and views.

They won’t even admit that it will affect our business because the company’s saying it’s a tourist attraction.

If the developers do appeal and win, she’s worried her business will go under.

The view is going to be completely ruined for absolutely nothing.

Here we go. Thank you. It’s very hot.

That landscape… It would be like a blot, wouldn’t it? Terrible.

There is a possibility they might not appeal. We’ve heard nothing from them. They still, as far as we’re aware, have made no decision.

The first thing we did when we came here was to plough all the ground up. Cos we were going to be self-sufficient, weren’t we?

Mike and Bashum’s cottage on the other side of the valley will be just over a kilometre from the nearest turbine.

They moved to Devon 30 years ago to live a low-impact lifestyle.

Their retirement plan before the windfarm was suggested was to sell the cottage, pay off the mortgage and move into the adjacent barn. The barn that now overlooks the windfarm site.

The view is more important to Bash than it is to me. My main concern is the noise.

BIRDS TWEET

I enclose this press release announcing our decision to appeal West Devon Borough Council’s refusal for planning permission for the Den Brook Windfarm proposal.

OK, gone.

From her office nearby, the developer’s project manager, Rachel Ruffle, is at last breaking the news that her company, RES, Renewable Energy Systems, is challenging the council’s decision.

I sent that email out this morning.

I’ve got lots of messages back saying, “Well done,” “Glad you’re appealing”.

If it goes through, I’m moving. I have no choice. Business has gone. You know, to be forced out of my home, my business, the lot, it’s just awful.

One from Mike Hulme, who lives near the project. He’s very worried that it’s going to a cause noise nuisance. As much as you can explain, until it’s there and happening, he’s not going to believe it.

I really do wonder if they’ve actually experienced a windfarm for more than a close-up visit.

Rachel also sends out the press release to the Den Brook Valley Action Group, who vigorously oppose the windfarm.

The only thing this is going to do is generate profit for a large company at very, very little benefit to anybody who’s actually paying for all this lot.

Everything’s been quiet in the area at the moment but obviously when they realise the appeal’s gone in, I’m sure things will kick off again.

Now there will be a public inquiry.

Go on, shoo! Shoo! Come here, you wicked girls.

The date for the public inquiry has not been set yet but the council have written to see who’ll wish to be what’s called a Rule Six party and be represented by a barrister.

For individuals like Muriel and Mike, it’s a difficult issue.

RES, big company, got plenty of money, you think, “What hope have I got?” They are one of the biggest developers in the country. They are going to have the best barrister. They’re not going to have someone who’s just come in off the street. They’ll have someone who really knows their stuff. It is a bit like a court. It’s going to be obviously quite nerve-racking. Big money against no money, it’s that sort of thing. We haven’t got a hope.

Developing the Den Brook windfarm has been expensive for RES. But the government promotes the growth of renewable energy by making it a lucrative business. And each county has ambitious government targets to meet. Devon has had to plan for 151 megawatts of renewable energy by 2010.

They don’t look like they’re generating to me.

So far, they’ve only reached 20 percent of their target.

Three megawatts of it are from this small windfarm run by another company 30 miles from Den Brook.

When he first came here more than a year ago, Mike was very worried by what he heard.

WHIRRING

Anybody who says they can’t hear that is hard of hearing.

We trade…

Mike had started with a good relationship with Rachel. No, no.

It’s just… I use…

And he gave RES permission to record background noise levels at his home, as long as they let him have the data. But when the time came for him to hand in his submissions to the council, they hadn’t let him have the data.

I was waiting for some information from RES and I get the feeling they’ve fobbed me off.

There’s another three being proposed on the other side of the village.

He’d like to tackle RES about his noise concerns at the inquiry. But he’s nervous about performing in public.

If I try and put myself up as an expert witness, their high-powered barristers and experts will just tear me to shreds.

I’ll undermine my own credibility and that’s what their intention will be.

RES say the windfarm will supply electricity for up to 13,000 homes and bring jobs and investment to the area. But before everything can be examined at the inquiry, Rachel has work to do. She’s bringing in contractors to test-excavate the top layers of soil at the windfarm site. The area’s rich in archaeological history and she has to show the turbine bases won’t disturb any remains. Each turbine will stand on 270 cubic metres of concrete.

Nice bit of wind today. Yeah. A lot cooler today, isn’t it? Yeah. There’s a lot of opposition. It’s not masses of people but it’s a group of people who are quite vociferous and quite rich. Yeah. We’ll build them far enough that they’re not going to create a noise nuisance. You’ll be able to see them.

Do you do them all over the country? Yeah.

Rachel’s excavation work finds no evidence of remains on site.

Hi, Maureen. All right?

Matters arising. Most of them are on the agenda.

The action group are meeting to prepare for the inquiry.

We agreed that we would appoint a junior barrister rather than a QC and a particular barrister was proposed.

They’re fundraising, but some are acting as guarantors to legal costs.

So if they lose, they could be individually liable for thousands of pounds.

We’ll pass on to the next item which is registration as a charity.

They’re wondering if becoming a charity could protect them.

And I don’t mind if it then takes another year but I would get my money back.

Remember, if we defeat RES, the next power company will be right on their heels making the same sort of application. I don’t think this is the end of the day.

I think we may find our charitable status…

The inquiry date’s been set for just six weeks’ time.

I know I would be apprehensive in that situation.

I’m sure you would. I’m sure most people are. Yeah.

Mike’s still trying to decide whether to open himself up to cross-examination.

The legal profession that does these planning inquiries would generally say an appearance is going to make more impact than simply a written document.

Could you ask the parties…

His friend Adam has a lot of experience of planning procedures.

I mean, you’ve written a letter which sets out things that you think the inspectors should explore?

I’ve basically written a letter pointing to what I see as being flaws in the assessment that’s been done.

Mike’s been doing his own research.

One type of turbine noise, something like this blade swish…

WHIRRING

…is called amplitude modulation, or AM. And some experts say it’s not fully taken into account in the industry guidelines.

It isn’t mentioned in RES’s noise assessment, either.

Mike’s concerned that while it may be windy on the windfarm site, he’s often noticed still air conditions around his property, so he’s worried AM noise could easily travel that far.

So Mike asked the inspector to make certain that suitable planning conditions would be put in place to protect living conditions at neighbouring properties.

I’ve made suggestions as to what I think I would like to see done if the development is going to be approved.

So the other side are going to say these are not flaws.

I would think so, yeah. Almost certainly.

So the cross-examination is going to, among other things, include, “Mr Hulme, this is not a flaw, is it?

“Because our expert, who unlike you has actually used a noise meter…”

And is qualified and has got 15 years’ experience.

I think that’s the point where you just say, “Mr Inspector, I’m not an expert.

“I’ve got these doubts. They seem to me doubts.

“I can’t answer this question but I would like you to make sure that I’m not…”

None if this is significant. Significance level, not significant.

Action group member John Welsby and his wife Jill have their set of RES’s environmental statement documents for just 24 hours.

The group have only one copy, so it’s circulating around committee members.

What they’ve actually said in the documentation is that they’ve enumerated the properties that are within a three-kilometre radius of the site. I see.

The windmills are not in the centre of the site, they’re spread out all over, and therefore, as a consequence, all these things get left out.

So if you take the three kilometres from where the windmills are, surprise, surprise, it encompasses all Bow, it encompasses all North Tawton and it encompasses Spreyton, which on their diagram here are all shown as being outside that three-kilometre area. It’s carefully designed to put the best possible slant on what they’re proposing. Mm. It’s a good job we didn’t have to rely on these people to put somebody on the moon is all I can say.

A month before the full inquiry, the inspector calls a pre-meeting.

My name is David Lavender and I’m the inspector that’s been appointed to determine the appeal.

But I do need to know who else is present today and the nature of their interest.

RES’s case will be advocated by Marcus Trinick, a veteran of some 350 public inquiries.

He’s a windfarm specialist and a board member of industry body The British Wind Energy Association.

It seems to me that the principle issues in this appeal would be the need for sustainable energy generation, secondly…

Inspector Lavender reminds everyone that he has to conduct the inquiry within the boundaries of government guidance.

I guess that you don’t mean that we’re going to be debating the merits of government policy. Presumably that means that the interpretation of what existing policy does say is a relevant matter.

It is relevant, what is says at the moment, yes. The interpretation of what it says. The interpretation of what it says is a de facto matter.

Thank you.

The question of government policy and its interpretation is not going to go away.

All sides now have just over a month to finalise their key witnesses and circulate their arguments, their proofs of evidence.

Before the meeting, Mike had been apprehensive.

I spoke to the inspector yesterday briefly and he knew who I was, although he didn’t really know what I’d written in my letter, but at least he knew who I was, so I’m certainly more inclined now to speak at the inquiry.

I’d feel a little bit more confident about it and so it’s given me a boost in confidence to be able to get up there and tell them what for at the inquiry. But we’ll see.

Ten days later, Rachel has a local PR problem to deal with.

RHONE RINGS

Hello, Rachel Ruffle. ‘A critical article has appeared in a local paper by journalist Zoe Kenyon.

Yeah, Chris was almost thinking about a letter to ask for a right of reply or just a letter of complaint, really. This is the article. It’s shockingly extreme. It’s saying that we’re not keen to tell them how dangerous the turbines are to birds, bats, or worse, to children. That’s just ridiculous.

On the Den Brook site, farmer Martin Tucker has seen it, too.

“There’ll be many thousands of tonnes of concrete poured into rich and fertile Devon soil.”

Well, it’s not on rich and fertile Devon soil, it’s on marginal land. She’s really just trying to make us out to be some kind of evil, devil companies. It’s ridiculous. “It’s a view unrivalled by anything I’ve seen.” You want to get a life and travel, missus. I’d like to know where she lived, I really would. I hope they come and knock on her door and give her an open invitation.

Myrtle, here! Myrtle!

I just really can’t imagine it.

When Zoe Kenyon moved with her family from London two years ago, she knew the turbines were a possibility.

This one likes being outside, too.

But that was before they became 120 metres high.

As far as I’m concerned, they’ll become the focus of the landscape. It won’t be Dartmoor and Bow and Spreyton and fields and hills and trees and birds, it’ll be turbines, it’ll just be enormous blades. All I’ve had is people saying, “What a great article.” People have written in saying, “Brilliant, give me a ring, I’ll fill you in on more stuff.”

She’s not happy to hear about Martin Tucker’s invitation to visit his farm.

Oh, he wants me to go down, does he?

He’d love you to.

I’m a bit scared of him. He’s not everybody’s favourite person at the moment. I’m a bit scared about waiting for them to come knocking on my door at night.

They’re running away from us. Well, just stand your ground if they come at us.

I’ll get the camera ready.

He’s seen me doing that.

It’d be good to have a stick or two, wouldn’t it?

It’s just days before the inquiry. RES have given Mike a copy of their noise expert’s evidence. In its highly detailed 42 pages, Dr Andrew Bullmore also responds specifically to Mike’s concerns. He reviews in detail the previous findings and noise modelling that RES have undertaken and concludes that close properties are not likely to suffer from enhanced AM.

That’s really nice, that little bridge.

He also appears to classify the terrain as undulating with moderate tree cover.

Our house is somewhere beyond those trees. You certainly can’t call that undulating. It’s not undulating. There’s no way that’s undulating. Not even insignificantly… I would say this is definitely flat. Yeah. Our field is more or less flat. The only… And that is just a slight slope up to where the turbine would be.

Oh, look out, the bulls are coming.

They’re curious. They’ve sussed us. Will we make it to the gate?

Mike has put these new concerns in a final letter submitted to the planning inspectorate. Rachel is reading her copy of it.

Maybe we haven’t explained properly what roughness classification means.

It’s not really applying to the nature of the undulating land, whether it’s flat or undulating, it’s applying to the ground cover. Whether it’s trees or a smooth surface.

Do you model right down towards his house or do you just model around the site?

The whole area’s included in the noise model. Maybe that’s not made clear enough in our evidence.

You see? They’d make mincemeat out of me if they wanted.

Now it’s starting to become undulating. Exactly. You can see. There’s a big drop beyond that hedgerow. Sure. But the nearest turbine, I think, is just going to be the other side of this hedge here.

Mike’s just not convinced by RES’s evidence.

In his final letter, he says that as RES have withheld access to both their recorded noise and wind data, he’s unable in independently verify the true situation.

Originally, I was told they wouldn’t give us the data because it was commercially confidential.

But recently I’ve been told that the reason they won’t release it is because the opposition, or the objectors, will distort the figures and so they’re not going to release it for that reason alone. Who do you believe? What do you believe? I’m not going to be able to live with the constant whoosh, whoosh, whoomp, whoomp in the background for the rest of my life.

I found out where Zoe Kenyon lived, visited her yesterday afternoon. We had a bit of discussion on the doorstep. I was putting my point of view and most of the things she wouldn’t agree with.

I was holding a screaming baby and the door was that far open to stop these guys running out. I was going, “Stay back, vicious dogs”.

So I was sort of peering round the thing and I just felt myself start to cry so I came in here and said, “I’ll take your number.”

As she was holding her baby, I said to her, “How does it affect children?” And she said, “It was only what I read.” I said, “What have you read?” and she couldn’t quantify that.

He was just angry with me, obviously, and then his main argument was, “I’ve been here for generations, “what right have you got to say that after you’ve only been here for a couple of years?”

At which point I burst into tears. Cos you can’t really say anything to that. What can you say?

I was angry at one stage, I admit. She was determined to have her way and wouldn’t sort of listen to facts.

Maybe if someone approached me and asked if they could put up a windfarm in my garden for thousands of pounds, I might go, “Yeah, OK, sod the neighbours, just stick it up as quickly as you can.”

If you look at the perimeter there…

It’s the eve of the inquiry.

Every time I think about it, I feel wobbly in the knees. I feel a sense of concern that I might not be able to do what I would like to do. If my adrenaline or whatever takes over at the time, there’s not a lot I can do about it. Cos I used to have quite a few up at that top end and they’re not there now, there’s nothing there. I guess this is D Day. Very much so. I think this is going to go on for about seven or eight days. I didn’t realise I was on camera.

What’s it about? It’s about a windfarm in North Tawton. Are we going to get it? We don’t know. There’s an inquiry. We do. Do you? OK. It is right, we should have it!

The inquiry is scheduled for seven days. The Rule Six parties will call witnesses and are represented by lawyers who will cross-examine the other side’s experts. Barrister Saira Kabir Sheikh is a planning specialist and will represent the coalition of opposers, the Den Brook Valley Action Group, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Dartmoor Preservation Association. West Devon Borough Council are represented by barrister Philip Drinkwater.

I’ll now begin by formally opening the inquiry.

This is an appeal by Renewable Energy Systems UK Limited against the decision of the West Devon Borough Council. My purpose in being here as a planning inspector is to apply government policy to this case.

The government states its policy is to cut carbon dioxide emissions while maintaining reliable and competitive energy supplies, two objectives that the coalition are hoping to argue a windfarm just can’t deliver.

As the inquiry starts, RES aren’t yet certain whether they’ll choose to call their noise expert.

I may, I don’t know yet, call Dr Andrew Bullmore, whose proof you already heard. Thank you.

In their opening statement, they seek to remind the inquiry of the severe need for the Den Brook windfarm.

The whole international and more local response to climate change is predicated on the accumulation of many individual steps, each of which is essential to the effectiveness of the whole.

Next on my list, Miss Kabir Sheikh.

The group questioned the accuracy of the figures for the level of energy generation, the development’s impact on tourism…

The coalition of objectors intend to question just how much actual energy will be produced and immediately draw attention to RES’s reluctance to provide data.

The refusal to disclose this evidence is surprising, as the only apparent benefit of the proposal is the physical amount of electricity generated.

But for the coalition, there’s a problem.

The government targets are, of course, expressed in terms of installed capacity. This means RES only have to establish how much energy could come from the turbines if the wind blew all the time, the installed capacity.

The reasons for a refusal are that there would be a severely adverse impact on the local landscape, be detrimental to the residents…

For the rest of the day, the council begins evidence on archaeological and landscape issues.

With that, I’m finished for this evening and we’ll resume tomorrow at ten o’clock.

But as the inquiry breaks up, Mike Hulme has a surprise. RES’s advocate, Marcus Trinick, has approached Mike and given him the phone number for RES’s noise expert, Dr Andrew Bullmore.

Have you got any idea why Andrew Bullmore wants to speak to me?

To… He’s supposed to be sending you a response to your letters that you wrote to the inspector. I think there’s certain misunderstandings that you’ve got about… I’m sure there are. So he was just going to talk to you about them because we knew you’d probably have further questions. And you’ve got his mobile number.

I’ll phone him.

I think it’s the best thing to do.

Right. OK.

When Mike goes home that night, he doesn’t phone Dr Bullmore.

Good morning, everybody. It’s ten o’clock and this inquiry is now resumed.

It’s an inquiry into a planning appeal by Renewable Energy Systems…

On the second day, an anxious Rachel once again has to ask Mike if he’s made contact yet.

I just didn’t phone him last night because I didn’t feel I’d understood what he’d said.

Yeah.

I needed to… I’m not an expert in this stuff, as you well know.

HE LAUGHS

I’m in a weird position now, I really am.

I came home and there’s an email from Andrew Bullmore and a message on the phone.

With the email was Andrew Bullmore’s six-page rebuttal argument.

Part of it explains how, in his view, Mike has confused much of the science.

This is definitely flat.

And that if Mike had been an independent experienced acoustic professional, RES would have made the data available to him as, indeed, they had to himself.

You can’t call that undulating.

I mean, he’s reasonably polite, but he’s telling me I’m confused. The fact that he’d rebutted my letter has now enlightened me as to where I effectively asked the wrong question. But I now think I know what the right question is.

I briefly spoke to the coalition and they are trying to persuade me that, if he comes to the inquiry, his evidence carries more weight, because he will be questioned, than if he doesn’t come to the inquiry. And they see that as being an advantage to them. But then, thinking it through, it seemed to me, well, if that works that way, it equally well works for RES. So if RES bring Bullmore in for questioning, it adds a little bit of extra weight to his evidence, so why don’t RES want to bring him in? The way I see it is, they’re trying to suss out if I have got anything else of any possible strength to present to the inquiry.

This inquiry is resumed. It’s the next day.

The inspector’s keen to see where RES and Mike are at.

I did actually try phoning Mr Bullmore last night and he was out.

Yes.

So I feel perhaps, if it’s acceptable, I would like to maybe put a brief written response to Mr Bullmore’s rebuttal hopefully before the end of the weekend.

May I suggest you try him during the day. That’s when you’re going to get hold of him.

I agree, but I wish to be here during the day.

You’ve got a choice. Thank you, Mr Hulme. As soon as possible, please.

On the third day, the coalition move on to examine RES’s claims for Den Brook’s energy output.

Mr Constable, can I introduce you, please? You are John Constable.

John Constable is from the Renewable Energy Foundation, who argue the government is over-reliant on on-shore wind. He says RES’s claims for the capacity factor are overstated and cannot be verified as they are withholding site-specific wind data.

RES say they wouldn’t be building it if it was uneconomic and they have released data to an independent expert for verification.

I have read that, yes. It doesn’t provide data. It asserts the capacity factor rather than providing data.

But, of course, it’s academic. The inspector is not required to provide a capacity factor, how much electricity the Den Brook turbines will really generate just the installed capacity.

It would be possible in theory, would it not, to be able to meet that capacity as an installed capacity with turbines which didn’t actually generate any electricity at all.

That would be the reduction ad absurdum argument.

Yes.

Yes, it is conceivable, you could meet the target. Obviously, the point is to generate energy.

Yes.

The Den Brook Valley Action Group are next to put their case.

I think the problem with a lot of politicians is that they actually mean well.

Leading for them is John Welsby, CBE, a former chief executive of British Rail and at one time a member of the government’s Economic Service. He knows the captains of industry.

Look at the aeroplane.

Yes.

That’s about the height that those turbines will be.

I happened to ask a nameless person who’s fairly big in all this lot, what did he think about these windfarms? His reaction was, “Well, we all know the future is nuclear. But there’s some real good money to be made on these windfarms.” And that’s what’s actually happening.

John believes policies should deliver results and that the Den Brook proposal won’t deliver the government’s objectives of secure and competitive energy supplies.

And because of that, it’s not worth impacting on the landscape.

To put it there is just sacrilege, I think.

DBVAC contend that the impact on landscape character is clearly adverse and to a very major degree.

After 3,000 years… I’m sorry. It gets to me that badly, this. There’s 3,000 years of continuous human settlement in that valley. And after which, it’s as beautiful as it is today. The current proposal, involving as it does the construction of huge industrial structures, will destroy that character entirely. I always get emotional about it. Landscape is very dear. They ain’t creating any more of it, And what we’ve got is all we’re ever going to have. Certain things get me, you know? Cruelty to animals, desecration of landscapes, all of which are things that need not happen. And it did get me just momentarily.

But our analysis shows that not only will the performance of the turbines be poor… What on earth are we sacrificing this beautiful environment for? You won’t tell us! And if you spend all of your 151 megawatts in building power stations that are not going to deliver any electricity, you’re in, as the Americans would say, pretty deep doo-doo.

The inquiry adjourns for the weekend.

Mike Hulme goes to write his submission and he finally speaks, several times, to RES’s noise expert Dr Bullmore.

What irritates me a little bit about all this is that I’ve been batting on to Rachel about this for over a year and suddenly, at the last minute, someone’s actually talking to me about it.

And I’m grateful to you for talking to me about it but it’s pushing me very hard.

Whoa. He is totally satisfied that that noise assessment is good.

In fact, he’s more that way today than he was last night.

Because I was much more challenging today than I was last night.

I’ve got a long night ahead of me.

Mike now knows the three questions he wants to ask RES.

Would they give residents more protection through increased monitoring and stronger penalties if noise levels were breached?

Could he have access to their wind data?

And would they undertake further background noise recordings to properly reflect seasonal changes?

Day four and Mike Hulme hasn’t completed his final submission yet as he’s waiting for RES’s answers to his questions.

I was expecting to be contacted yesterday by Dr Bullmore.

Yes.

And he said he was going to speak with RES. And he hasn’t got back to me.

Yes.

Please do continue making the efforts if you can and Mr Trinick, if you could ask Dr Bullmore…

I will ask.

Yes. Thank you. So we’ve put down the marker…

Later in the morning, Rachel speaks with Mike in the lobby outside and gives him answers to his questions. He claims Rachel replied no to all three.

Inspector Lavender is also going to have to make a ruling on a matter that could potentially result in a costly adjournment of the inquiry.

What they’ve actually done is enumerated properties that are within three kilometres of the centre of the site.

The coalition’s landscape witness, Fiona Fife, has been able to put her evidence in late and has criticised RES’s approach. She claims 1,000 properties that could be affected have not been assessed. So over the weekend, Rebecca Rylet for RES has done extra field work and examined a number of the additional properties.

It strictly a rebuttal. It’s not a supplementary.

If her work is classified as supplementary evidence rather than evidence re-evaluation, there will need to be an adjournment while a process of consultation and publicity allows all those affected to respond.

What it looks like is that, having received Fiona Fife’s evidence, recognised that there are errors which would lead to a greater impact on a larger number of properties, they’ve now gone behind the ES at this late stage and sought to downgrade, through some justification or other, the findings of that ES. That’s simply unfair and wrong. I object to this even going in, frankly.

Inspector Lavender delivers his verdict. He’s taken into account that he’s going to be hearing from many affected residents very shortly.

It’s my conclusion that I will treat the submission as evidence, not further environmental information, evidence that it is useful to have placed before me. And as such, it would not be my intention to adjourn the inquiry while statutory consultation processes were invoked.

The inspector’s decision may mean that some homeowners that could be affected may not be at the inquiry to give their views.

Nevertheless, Rebecca Rylet for RES is now free to start her detailed evidence.

The windfarm proposal is of an appropriate scale and number of turbines for this location and will offer the opportunity of an exciting sculptural and architectural landmark to this landscape where there is none existing, whilst providing a striking counterpoint…

But Mike and Bash have to go home.

If I don’t have it there by tomorrow lunchtime, I’m going to get my backside smacked. Yeah, I’ve got a long night ahead of me, I fear.

Beechtree. I considered that this property was under-assessed and would have a view of the windfarm with limited screening.

Elmridge. This property was missed out of the previous assessment, one explanation being the minibuses parked in front of the property.

Hi! Mike didn’t make it, then? No, he’s busy.

Oh, he’s busy. You all right? Yeah. Lovely for you to come over, anyway. Thank you.

At least you can update me on everything.

She’s obviously put the cat among the pigeons in RES’s camp, which is good. Yes.

You couldn’t really get much higher than Trinick, I don’t think, secretary to the BWEA. He set it all up, really. Him and a few other people. Recommended to the government how to go about all the recommendations and stuff. So he’s been doing it for ten-plus years. Yeah. He’s part of the policy-making team, I would think. Yeah. I think what they’re wanting to do is to pump Mike to see if he’s got anything. Mike does everything to his limit. Am I worried about him? Oh, yes. He stresses himself out and he’s been known to pass out. Really? When he gets stressed, yes. Oh, dear. We’ll be glad at the end of the week. Yeah. It’s not finishing on Friday, though, is it? There’s still Monday and Tuesday. Is there? I don’t know.

How long did it take? Well, I was up till about half past three this morning and I’ve just been doing it for three hours. It’s pathetic. It’s only three pages.

As Mike arrives back, the inquiry is turning again to the vexed issue of interpretation of government guidance. Appearing for RES is their planning expert David Stewart.

The question is whether, as the deadline draws closer without meeting renewable energy targets, shouldn’t less weight be given to environmental concerns? I think the simplest answer is to say, if you have a look at the Knabs Ridge decision…

If you have a look at what?

The Knabs Ridge decision.

Is that a planning appeal decision?

It is in my proof. It is one of the core documents.

That’s not government guidance. Hang on a minute.

I’ll answer questions the way I like. If you don’t like the answer… Mr Stewart, I must insist… I… Mr Stewart, the question is quite specific.

If you later want to go into that document, you may, but I’m asking the question, where is government guidance, does it have that requirement?

The requirement in government guidance is to deliver the targets.

Paragraph two of the energy white paper indicates the government will be looking to work with regions to deliver the government’s objectives.

Yes, all right.

No planning authority, no interest group, can say that doesn’t matter. The whole essence of this is to make it clear there has to be a step change in the delivery of schemes.

Mr Stewart…

I can’t read it any other way than that.

Tonight, local residents will have the opportunity to address the inquiry.

The majority present are against the turbines.

There may be a case for windfarms, there may be a place for windfarms. That place is not Den Brook.

We knew that we had found… Sorry. There’s some water on the table. It’s not that, it’s just this means a lot to me. I can understand. We knew that we had found a place that our guests would be able to relax in. Indeed, I rarely see my visitors’ faces on arrival. They ring the doorbell and then turn around and face the beauty of the landscape.

Thank you.

Mr Emmanuel, my understanding is that you’re a supporter of the windfarm.

When you’re ready, thank you.

I practise as a chartered architect. I’m not qualified to comment on the technical aspects of the proposal but I can speak about its visual impact. As a piece of engineering, I think many people would find them to be objects of beauty. They have an inspiring directness of purpose on a par with other great icons of civil or mechanical engineering. In this extensive landscape, in my opinion, there could not be a more appropriate place to site it. This is a small but significant, vital and urgent contribution to the national requirement for sustainable energy. Without it, those cherished views which we are talking about could terribly soon dry up or be covered with ice as a result of climate change. I would ask, if not here at Den Brook, where? If not now, when? Thank you.

Thank you, Mr Emmanuel.

I will keep this part very brief, as there isn’t enough paper in the world…

…to say what I want to say.

Would you like to stop for a moment?

Or call someone else forward if you want to gather yourself?

The first ten years living here were a delight. We have a summer house is our garden and we often partake of meals there. And yes, you have guessed it, it also faces the valley. This is an industrial site that doesn’t belong in our valley.

Thank you.

Mike Hulme’s moment has come.

You’ve produced a short proof. Can you begin by reading it?

I object to the proposed development on the following grounds. The background noise measurements were carried out without due consideration and are unrepresentative for the area. Data from the noise measurements has not been made available for third parties to test the claims.

Rather than sway with emotion, Mike Hulme just wants to get his detailed concerns on record.

This begs the question as to whether information has been purposefully withheld. But not being allowed access to the data, I have been unable to seek the opinion of an expert of my choice. Surely this is not an unreasonable request.

Inspector Lavender hasn’t had access to the noise data, either, and he doesn’t ask RES for it.

I don’t think, in all honesty, I can give anybody any cast-iron guarantee that they will not be affected by noise to the extent that a condition is not necessary.

A condition would be necessary…

He urges Mike to attend the forthcoming conditions session.

But Mike still hasn’t finished all he wants to say.

Along with many others, I have already suffered significant impact from this scheme. If you, sir, are to rely on data only available to the appellant, it appears to me contrary to the principles of natural justice for a decision to be made on the basis of assertions made by one party that cannot be tested by the other.

Did you wish to ask any questions?

Maybe just a couple for clarification.

This is the moment Mike has been dreading.

Marcus Trinick takes him through the noise data that has been published.

The mean curve or the derived curve?

Rather than alleviate Mike’s concerns, it seems to accentuate the gulf between them.

If you look at the bottom of the night-time plot, you’ve got basically a straight line.

It’s straight compared with the daytime one.

Sure. I’m anxious to avoid getting into evidence…

Mike doesn’t know it now, but everything he has just said will severely hinder RES’s advancement with the Den Brook proposal.

Is there anybody else who wishes to address the inquiry? We’ve reached the time of 20 to 11. So thank you very much, everybody. We’re not finished. Good evening.

After an emotionally-charged evening, Marcus Trinick offers round sweets. Tomorrow is the final day of the inquiry. The last session before the site meeting is to discuss the planning conditions that would be imposed were the windfarm to be built. It’s what Mike Hulme sees as his last chance to have a say on protecting his future peace and quiet.

The intention is that the guidance in terms of decibel levels…

The regulations allow noise up to set levels above the disputed background noise measurements RES had taken 12 months previously at his property.

There’s higher levels here.

What, of ambient?

Yep. Background noise. So it’s not the quietest place in the world.

Yes, Mr Hulme? As you well know, sir, I believe background noise measurements were not as good as they may have been and as it seems to depend on those, I can’t see how this is a satisfactory solution.

So you would suggest, presumably, there would be some mechanism to revisit the background noise levels? Mr Trinick, any comments on that?

There’s absolutely no persuasive evidence before this inquiry that the measurements are anything other than professionally made, robust and reliable and representative of all relevant conditions. That would be very strongly resisted by us.

Mr Hulme, you’ve heard the robust response from the appellant.

I don’t think we’re going to gain anything by debating it further.

I have your position, I have Mr Trinick’s position, I’ll need to make a judgement on it. I’ll accept that.

As appellants, RES have the final summing up at the inquiry.

A small price to pay for assisting in combating the worst effects of climate change and if you feel that I am gilding the point, please look no further than the July 2006 government publication The Energy Challenge. Annex D includes this text.

“New renewables projects may not always appear to convey any particular local benefit, but they provide crucial national benefits. These wider benefits are not always immediately visible to the specific locality in which the project is sited. However, benefits to the society and the wider economy as a whole are significant and this must be reflected in the weight given to these considerations by decision-makers in reaching decisions.”

And I ask you to grant planning permission for this development. Thank you.

Only tomorrow’s site visit remains before a decision.

I don’t know whether I’m allowed to say anything. If I’m not, I won’t.

Only if you want to point something out to me to look at, not to express any opinions.

The site visit begins on Martin Tucker’s farm.

The objectors are flying a balloon at blade-tip height. But visibility is poor.

The balloon is at the right height. It’s also flying at an angle so one can’t be precisely sure.

That property there is Redlands. Yep. Right on the hill.

So effectively I can’t see Nichols Nymet House or Hotel from here.

It’s behind that group of trees.

They’re due at Muriel’s hotel about 11.

It’s my business, my livelihood, my children’s home.

It could all hang on the next half hour.

There are several sites to be visited before Muriel’s.

If you want to join me, please do. Otherwise I’ll pop over there and back by myself.

OK, I think I’ve seen what I need to from here.

So, the balloon position is approximately here.

You can see the traffic moving on the A road over there that goes past the site.

OK.

They were probably late so they thought, “We can leave her out, she’s only a business that’s going to go bust.”

So I can see the anemometer mast over there. So there’d be a spread of turbines across on that side.

That’s right.

Can you remind me of the lady’s name here?

Here they come.

Muriel hopes the driver won’t park the minibus where it’ll obscure the view.

Go on, keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going, keep going.

Hi, Mrs Goodman. Welcome to Nichols Nymet House.

Thank you.

Hi, Rebecca. Hello. Are you coming in, John?

I’d like to see a representative view from a bedroom and if you have a main sitting area where your guests sit, I’d like to see that, as well. I’ll take you upstairs.

I can see the balloon over there. The first turbine will be… On the map, it’s directly in front of us.

That tree… There’s that tree on the horizon.

It would mean that the turbine is in view to the right of that tree.

And then the rest of the turbines are spread around the horizon in that direction.

If I can just stand a little bit back and take a general view.

Most of my guests pick that chair first.

Right, well, let’s sit in the chair.

THEY LAUGH

Thank you very much indeed for that.

OK, thank you.

We’re going up to…

Most of the turbines will lie off to the right, between the hotel and its view of the moor.

OK, I think I’ve seen and heard what I need to. Thank you very much.

Very kind of you to let us see.

Well, he didn’t want to look at me directly is all I can say.

Who?

The inspector.

Didn’t he? No. As we said goodbye, he didn’t want to look at me directly.

Oh, he was very pleasant. But he didn’t… It was that sort of look and go away. It’s… It’s guilt.

SHE LAUGHS

It’s guilt.

And all Rebecca Rylet could do was say, “That’s Bow over there and that’s the lake” taking his eyes completely off up this way.

He’s not stupid. He’s not stupid at all.

No, he’s very astute, I think. You’d have to be in that job.

Something to hold onto!

Try and open your viewpoint nine. I’ll take a bit of shelter.

So that’s the cheese factory there. Yes.

OK, I think I’ve seen as best we can.

Thank you very much. Very helpful.

The site visit closes the inquiry.

Inspector Lavender will be announcing his verdict in the new year.

I couldn’t have believed it was so much windier up there than it was down in the valley today.

There’s plenty of worse jobs to do. You do get to see places in the countryside.

It’s decision day.

Muriel’s not at home, but her husband Paul is, waiting for word.

I don’t really want to live here if those turbines are built because the reasons we bought the house are for its position and its view and its proximity to Dartmoor.

Inspector Lavender’s decision will first be communicated by email.

Right. Shall we check?

Rachel Ruffle’s ready and waiting, too, in her office nearby.

At RES’s HQ beside London’s M25 motorway, no-one’s predicting the result.

This is not the first of their windfarm applications to go to public inquiry.

I’ve just got the decision notice here.

I can’t read it. My God. I’m not sure what it means, cos I’m too sort of… I don’t want to go off the deep end. I’ve had… I’ve been having… I’m not looking because I just want to explain it. Because I keep having this dream where I see it but I can’t actually make out what it’s saying. You know, I don’t know which bit to look at first.

Shall I read it to you, what it says, and you can tell me what it means?

“Summary of decision: The appeal” … “is allowed and planning permission granted subject to the conditions set out below.” So that’s it.

Oh, dear.

Well, I… did expect that.

Permission granted subject to the conditions set out. Yes! Fantastic. I can’t believe it! Oh, thank you, Marcus.

Yeah. Right, I suppose I’d better phone Muriel.

I can’t believe it. I don’t know who to phone first!

Hello. “Hi.” The appeal is allowed.

I thought it would be. “…subject to conditions set out below.”

Hiya. Yeah, hi!

Congratulations! Well done! Yeah, good!

I can’t believe it! We’ve got it! Fantastic, isn’t it?

Well done. Fantastic achievement.

He thinks only one turbine will be visible from room one.

What? “And if you take two steps back from the window, you won’t see any.”

Very well constructed conclusions, just from a very quick skim. Yeah.

Indeed, within Devon, he has little doubt that this location would, “because of rather than in spite of its inherent topographical characteristics, rank highly amongst the landscapes most able to accommodate development of this type, scale and extent proposed.” Well, I disagree with him totally.

There you are, he’s made his decision, he’s ruined our lives and the lives of other people and I’d like to know where he lives and whether he’s got turbines near him.

Well…

SHE LAUGHS

He’d soon move. I said he’d soon move, I suspect, if he had that threat.

There’s just not enough room to do a cartwheel.

I need to go outside and run. Do you know what I mean?

I do, I just need to…

Perhaps we should put the house on the market.

There’s no chance, is there, now?

I’m disappointed, but I kind of expected the worst.

What’s going to happen to us now?

There’s been this thing in the back of our minds all the way along, this is the end of our pension. Cos our pension is in our property and is our property going to be saleable? We have to go to the next stage now, I suppose, and work out… We’ve got to keep on the game as far as the noise is concerned because I believe there is going to be a noise issue. The developers have not been fully open with their assessment as far as I’m concerned, they’ve withheld information. Morally, we have a right to have that information, I believe. And for them to not let me have the information on the basis that I won’t understand it … it’s insulting.

I’d never imagine… This is just surreal, the situation.

What am I doing stood here in a suit outside the main court of the country?

My rightful place is in a field down in Devon.

The judge said he couldn’t believe our attitude in our approach to Mike.

Are you going to let me have the data?

Cos I really would like to see what is going on.

Subtitles by Red Bee Media subtitling@bbc.co.uk

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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