Nichols Nymet House Hotel in the heart of Devon.
It’s four weeks after a planning enquiry has decided to allow a windfarm to be built in the valley below.
This is encouraging, isn’t it?
A meeting’s been called at short notice.
Hi, I’m Muriel. We’re from Spreyton.
Hotel owner Muriel Goodman is praying for a good turnout.
She fears the windfarm will ruin her business.
Thanks for coming. Lovely to see you.
It’s a last-ditch attempt to stop the windfarm that’s divided the community.
I’ve been rattling chains…
It’s a battle that’s been going on for the last three years.
I’ll put two up for now and leave it at that.
There’s benefits to the farmers. The rental’s going to give them a stable, regular income. The windfarm is the dream of project developer Rachel Ruffle.
I want everyone to love windfarms and there not to be protesters.
So who’d like one of these in their garden?
At the public inquiry, the Den Brook Valley Action Group opposed the plans.
But one man took on the developers over his fears about windfarm noise.
They’re nicking our tranquillity. It’s highway robbery.
Absolutely no persuasive evidence that the noise measurements are anything other than professionally made, robust and reliable.
When the decision came through…
Rachel’s dream became reality. The windfarm would be built.
There’s not enough room to do a cartwheel!
But this story of how the battle for our future played out in one Devon valley is not over yet. An appeal could still be launched.
I’m really sorry.
Don’t worry! He got home about ten past six. Come in.
Muriel’s called her meeting with fellow campaigner Mike Hulme.
Here we go again. What we’re doing is, we’ve found what we see as a flaw in the noise condition.
Right. So we’re into the nitty-gritty.
RES say the windfarm will supply electricity for up to 1,300 homes. Hi! And bring jobs and investment.
Don’t know who I’m saying hello to! But they haven’t convinced the campaigners.
We need commitment on money tonight. Basically, it seems to me we’ve got one opportunity left if we want to do anything other than sit back and let this windfarm go ahead, and that is to make a challenge to this decision. There’s a case happened in Shipdham in Norfolk where a doctor challenged the appeal decision on the noise condition and has just won it. The dilemma is there’s no time. We’ve got 27 days to actually get it laid on the developers. John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation has effectively been nurturing me along this road because it needs people who are affected to make the challenge. It’s no good an outside organisation doing it. And he certainly recommends Susan Ring, the solicitor. She’s been there and done it before. I don’t really want to take this on on my own. I haven’t got the time and the expertise. I would like for everybody, as much as possible, to be involved. So if someone’s got a particular area they want looking at…
I think the noise issue is the one that we go with possibly, if we go with it, purely and simply because it is a way of making a judicial review or whatever.
It may not affect all of us noise-wise. Some of us may live miles away, some of us do, but it’s just a means to an end, I suppose.
You think there’s anyone in the area who’d be willing to underwrite the whole thing?
So you’re looking for people to sign up… To raise some money.
Really, to be honest with you, yes.
I actually brought my chequebook.
Oh, Quentin, you are wonderful.
To launch the challenge, Mike must instruct solicitors very soon.
This will initially cost about £3,000.
Is that something everyone can sign? Yeah. Well, separately.
I pledge to give the Den Brook…
They’ll need to launch an official fund, have a treasurer and give receipts for any pledges given.
Have you got pens? Take one and pass it on.
Bit by bit, what was to be called the Den Brook Judicial Review Fund comes into being.
Who would like to be the chairman? I don’t want to be.
Mike and Muriel had invited the former campaigners, the Den Brook Valley Action Group Committee, but at this stage, no-one was able to attend.
Who’s the treasurer?
They’ve said that they’re not interested in following this noise condition approach.
The implication is that they are considering alternative approaches. I think they are.
In fact, the Den Brook Valley Action Group had taken legal advice that told them there is only a 20 percent chance any judicial review would succeed and a judge would be likely to act with benevolence towards the planning inspector’s decisions. As a group, they may well decide not to pursue further action.
And that doesn’t include the 1,000…
This leaves Mike and his new group very much on their own.
Did everybody hear there? No. Could our assistant…
Plus the 1,000 that’s already been pledged by… That’s brilliant.
2295. Plus 1,000. 3295. So we are nearly there. We’re close. There are a lot of other people who couldn’t come.
Can I just thank you all very much for coming.
Coffee is available when I go and make it if you’d like to stay for that, otherwise I’m closing the meeting.
Mike and Bashum’s cottage would be one of the closest to the Den Brook windfarm. They moved to Devon 30 years ago to live a low-impact lifestyle.
Mike’s earnings from his car maintenance business have plunged since he devoted time to fighting the development.
Their pension plan before the windfarm was to sell their home and move into the adjacent barn. The barn that would now have the full view and sound from the turbines.
We’ve got a serious global warming issue going on and if we don’t do something about it….
Mike had always struggled with his conscience about the need for the turbines and initially his relationship with the windfarm developer, Rachel Ruffle, had been friendly.
They just put it up for us special.
He allowed RES to do background noise readings on his property as long as he could have the data. But he became disillusioned by their actions.
I get the feeling they’ve just fobbed me off.
He questioned what he was being told by their noise expert, Dr Bullmore.
He was totally satisfied that that noise assessment was good.
Background noise measurements were carried out without due consideration and are unrepresentative for the area.
At the inquiry, he made his full concerns very public.
But his claims were strongly rebutted by RES’s lawyer.
Mr Trinick, any comments on that? Absolutely no persuasive evidence that background noise measurements are not professionally made, robust and reliable and representative of all relevant conditions. That would be very strongly resisted by us.
Yeah. There’s a control panel and a ladder.
Three weeks after Mike and Muriel’s meeting, Rachel is at a RES windfarm in Cornwall.
There’s a big red button. This is just a transformer housing that transforms it into a windfarm.
She’s with a BBC film crew from a regional news programme doing an item on windfarms.
Where else have you been?
These turbines are 45 metres to blade tip.
The Den Brook ones will be nearly three times as tall.
These will be turning at about 33rpm.
And the faster they go, the more noisy they are.
The new ones will be about 18 to 20rpm. They’re quieter.
There’s just two days to go before the deadline for a legal challenge to Rachel’s Den Brook windfarm. She doesn’t yet know there’s a judicial review in the offing, but she’s well aware it could be a possibility. There is a slight risk that the people who are against the windfarm will want to take the appeal to judicial review.
OK, that’s fine. But I can’t see that there is an obvious gap in the process where they could bring that kind of case.
They have six weeks after the decision date to do that so I think that might be coming up at the end of this week.
Will they be noisier? No, they won’t. In fact, they’ll be quieter. So I’m quite looking forward to the end of this week cos if they are going to do it, it’ll probably be at the last minute. I can’t see why they would. It would be a waste of everyone’s time and money and effort and resources. We also make sure much more now that the gearbox and the generator doesn’t produce mechanical noise. Unless there’s something that I’ve missed or our solicitors have missed, which is unlikely because they’re very experienced, I can’t see that they’re going to have a case and it’ll just end up wasting more time and money.
It’s the next day and with time running out, Mike and his colleagues are on a mission.
I’m just going up to the parish council meeting at Spreyton village hall to see if I can encourage them to help us financially with this little quest that we’re on.
The Den Brook Judicial Review Fund has grown to £16,500 in just over three weeks.
Mike’s had cheques in from a number of people whose cars he services and from friends all around the country.
They’re people I know and are keen to support and back us up and give us the opportunity to take this thing forward because there’s an injustice here.
And I think the parish council will probably be able to dip in, I don’t know, 500, 1,000 maybe.
Any particular place you’d want me to park?
Mike, Nick Jewell, the fund’s treasurer, and local resident Ruth are asked to wait outside while the parish council votes.
When they come out, the fund is £1,000 better off.
There is almost certainly an injustice.
It’s now their last chance to decide whether to go ahead.
Some members of the original protest group are supporting Mike’s challenge but the committee have confirmed tonight that they still think the chances are not good enough, so he and his group must go it alone.
That was a result, definitely.
His solicitor needs a decision by the morning so she has time to serve papers on the Secretary of State before the end of the week.
How do you feel about what she said? She said to me today, if we pull out after the first week, we’ve made the first stage, we get the reply from the Secretary of State and we panic and pull out, that’s £15,000. In total. That’s what she said to me.
We have enough to go that first stage.
Yeah. I’m keen to go for the first stage, certainly.
I mean, I don’t know what… I think Muriel’s emailed everyone and said she’s up for going, as well.
But if you decide that you don’t want me to go on the basis of what we’ve done, I’m still prepared to go with it.
They’re going to try and beat us, without a doubt.
Would she give you a percentage possibility? No. She wouldn’t.
She said to me yesterday better than 50.
And I said, “70 would be nice.”
And she said, “If it was 70, that would be a dead cert.”
We’re going to do it. Yeah, come on. Oh, you’ve done it. What would you say? What do you think I ought to say to Susan? Give me a clue. Well, we’ve got to instruct her. But do I say something very formal and proper? Yeah. Or do I say something like, “OK, Susan, let’s go for it”? Is that appropriate for a solicitor in a sort of challenge the government situation, do you reckon?
I don’t know, I just like to think people aren’t so cold and matter-of-fact about everything, that there is some humanity still out there.
Well, there is, without a doubt.
I think just, “Please proceed to the next stage”.
Yep. Yeah? That sounds nice.
God, I’m just stumped for words.
Request the challenge, not a challenge, is probably better, isn’t it? The challenge on my behalf.
That’s good enough, isn’t it?
There’s nothing else we want to say, is there? Do you want to say anything? Send your best wishes?
Bonk! Take that, RES!
This could be a major impact on my life, you realise this? You know? I shouldn’t be so flippant about it all.
And this is an appeal by Renewable Energy…
Mike’s claim argues that, as in the Shipdham case, the planning conditions imposed by the inspector at the Den Brook inquiry were imprecise, uncertain and unenforceable.
There’s 3,000 years of continuous human settlement in that valley.
He also argues the inspector failed to strike the right planning balance between the need for renewable energy developments and their effect on the special qualities of the landscape and of the conditions of those living and working nearby.
Data from the noise measurements have not been made available…
And finally, that the inspector relied on background noise levels provided by RES without ensuring that Mike had proper access to, and opportunity to comment on, the monitoring data that formed their basis.
Congratulations. Well done.
Rachel now knows about Mike’s challenge.
She’s on her way to see her partner, Steve, who, like her, works in Moretonhampstead, about 15 miles from the windfarm site.
When it came, we didn’t actually know what it was, what the challenge was.
But once I’ve seen the challenge, it was quite a shock that it was Mike doing the challenge.
It’s a real shame it’s come down to these two sides. Yeah. It’s gone from discussing it on a really open level to now, where we’d like to see the documentary just to see how it all came about. You never know. Initially, I was really concerned about the advice he was getting and wanted to go and see him and say, “Mike, are you sure about this, “cos these are the risks that you’re taking and this is what I think is going to happen” and just try and make him go and get some different advice.
You could do that now.
I could, but the advice I’ve got about doing that is that it would be perceived as intimidation.
Which is laughable, really, cos I don’t think Mike’s going to think I’m intimidating him, but maybe he does, maybe I’ve got the wrong idea.
The other obvious concern is that it’s going to cost him quite a lot of money to do this and what if we…
The win on the first defendant, the first defendant is the Secretary of State, and if they choose to go for costs, a claim for their costs, then Mike’s going to be liable for that.
It’s not money that’s going to stop us doing this. We’re doing something that’s real. People need to stand up to this sort of thing, because we’ve got right on our side, that’s the best way I can put it. We’re doing something that needs to be done. And if I was religious, I would say we’ve got God on our side, but I’m not particularly religious. Whoops. Steady on.
Does every windfarm have a challenge around the UK? Is it a common…
Yeah, it’s totally common and it’s totally common for this particular solicitor to make the challenge. There was a challenge at Shipdham on the same grounds. The grounds look suspiciously similar. But the condition is completely different.
Now Mike’s claim is in, it could be several months before he knows what sort of defence, if any, the Secretary of State will put forward.
He’s decided to get on the road and meet some of the people behind the stories that have inspired him to fight on. First stop, Norfolk.
This is Shipdham. Look at all this. This is manicured, isn’t it?
Hello! You must be Leigh. Yes. Hi!
How do you do? Nice to meet you. Yes. Don’t worry.
The whole experience is so horrible, isn’t it?
It is. It’s overwhelming.
We were told in 2002 by a noise expert, he said the standard noise condition that is dished out with windfarm applications is not enforceable. He said, “You must fight it, because once they’re up, “there is no way that you can do anything about preventing noise.” I’ll take you to show you the windfarm site.
Windfarm company Ecotricity probably didn’t know what they were taking on when they decided to build two turbines near to Leigh Maroney’s home.
Leigh is a science statistician. Her group have now fought two public inquiries to stop the Shipdham windfarm from being built and are awaiting a third to start. The turbines will be 100 metres high, the closest being 450 metres from her boundary.
That’s the anemometer. Is that where the nearest turbine would be?
No. They’ve put the anemometer, I guess, 100 or more metres back.
You see there’s a tree that’s actually ivy growing up through an old stump?
It would be about that distance from us and a little bit to the left of that and 100 metres high.
So the anemometer, which is further back, is 50 metres high. Right. So it’s twice that height.
The developers did no noise measurements at all. But they just said straight up, “Our turbines are good neighbours, “they will be inaudible at any property.”
They said they’d be inaudible? Inaudible. Really?
At our place, they said there would be no noise nuisance, which at least is a half-truth.
But to say they’d be inaudible, I mean, that is just outrageous.
They’d taken no measurements and the council took no measurements. We took measurements.
One of Mike’s main concerns is a noise phenomenon called amplitude modulation.
It’s something like this blade swish he heard from the turbines he visited several miles from his home in Devon. If the Den Brook turbines are built, he fears he and Bash could well suffer from it.
Cos the actual noise is coming from the shuddering of the blade, I believe.
The fact that the wind at the top of the blade is at a different speed to the wind at the bottom. And they can’t trim the blade to cope with the wind all the way along.
Unless they come up with some multi-section blade, I suppose.
People say to us, “How have you managed to hold them back for six years?”
We haven’t held them back for six years because we have no power. The only reason it’s taken six years for them not to build two poxy turbines is that they have been utterly inept about doing the very simple things they’re supposed to do. And it sounds like you’ve had a much better relationship with RES.
Well, I’ve had a good relationship with the project manager. I never argued with Rachel. Whenever I spoke to her or emailed her… If she said something which outraged me, I would just let it go. I didn’t go back at her. I mean, she did say things at times like, “You don’t own the view” and you want to get hold of her and throttle her. But you don’t. You just let it go and then once she’s gone it’s, “How dare she?” She’s a scientist at the end of the day. She’s not a sales person. I don’t think she could knowingly tell a lie. So did you have an official or some qualified acoustician involved in that?
I took the measurements. I am a scientist and that was the sort of thing that I used to do.
So if you were given raw noise data, would you understand what it was?
We did get given raw noise data. We did our own raw noise data and the developers gave us their raw noise data.
If I do ever get this data, you would possibly be able to sort of… Absolutely.
It would mean something to you, when it wouldn’t mean anything to me.
It certainly would. If you ever get any, I would very much like to see it. We have access to vast computer resources, so we’ve got the machinery that can analyse this.
Eventually, Leigh’s fight with Ecotricity put her in contact with the charity REF, the Renewable Energy Foundation. She’s now a director of this research organisation. REF campaign for what they argue are efficient renewable energy sources. They are deeply critical of the government’s reliance on on-shore windfarm technology.
In Lincolnshire, Mike’s arranged to meet a couple who were perfectly happy with the prospect of having turbines near their home. Until, that is, they were actually operating.
Same crop in the field here as next to Leigh Maroney’s. Rapeseed oil, wasn’t it?
They are not the first to arrive.
Sound expert Mike Stigwood is setting up his recording equipment. He’s been invited there by the property’s owner.
Hi, I’m Mike Hulme.
Nice to meet you. Long journey?
I stayed with Leigh Maroney overnight.
She’s pretty switched on.
She certainly is. She knows her stuff, I think.
She does and she’s been following the topic.
Jane Davis doesn’t spend much time at her house. She and her husband Julian made the national press with the story that they’d had to move out of their home to rented accommodation because they claim that in certain weather conditions, the noise from the nearby turbines was so disturbing, they couldn’t sleep.
Hi, good to meet you. And you.
Jane and Julian have put their plans to develop their house on hold as they struggle to find a solution to their dilemma.
Have you shown them the sad things in the workshop?
Shall we get the tears over and done with, then I don’t have to cry again? Bits and pieces for our new house. The rest of the showers and the Rayburn. That’s the thing that always makes me wobble.
Because it’s on hold?
Well, we’ve been told not to proceed with any…
There’s no point because we can’t sleep here, there’s not much point redeveloping if you’re not going to be able to sleep in it.
So I get upset at this point.
Do you mind us coming?
No, I don’t. Just to warn you, I get upset.
The Davises knew the turbines were being built but had no reason to be concerned as they went away on holiday.
But when they came back, they were deeply shocked.
We thought that there must be something wrong with them.
We couldn’t believe that anybody would put something up that could make such a noise, that they would be allowed to do that. The government wouldn’t let them put something up that was going to damage us in that way. Surely. Well, we know better now.
In fact, the government have shown concern about AM noise from turbines.
They’ve commissioned Salford University to do a report to find out exactly what the problem with AM is.
As Mike visits Lincolnshire, the report is expected very soon.
This is the bit I find really, really upsetting. I don’t think we’re ever going to be able to do what we wanted to do. This has been Julian’s home for 30 years. It’s really quite hard to be deprived of your home by a policy that’s supposed to be really green. There is noise from them. There is. We’ve got some nice music for you.
This is the recording that Julian’s done.
And if that’s the level they’re getting, that’s awful.
That really is dreadful.
Of course, the sound is magnified through the speakers. But Jane and Julian think it best represents the feel of what it’s like to live with the turbines. In her struggle to get help, Jane feels she’s just been passed from pillar to post.
DEFRA. “Information available on the DTI website. We suggest you contact the DTI.”
Communities and Local Government. “Thank you for your letter. I’m sure you weren’t satisfied by the reply and we’d advise what action you might take…”
Windfarm noise is regulated by agreed industry guidelines. But AM often falls outside these restrictions. So the turbines by Jane’s property are not necessarily breaking any rules.
The planning inspectors I know aren’t happy. Both the local authority and site operators say they are monitoring the situation and independent analysts have assessed the noise impact. But so far, no breach of conditions is evident.
The Davises claim that these turbines make their worst noise only during certain weather conditions, high winds from the south. Today they’re relatively quiet, but windier weather is expected. Jane and Julian’s daughter Emily has the bedroom that’s most affected. Over the coming months, Mike Stigwood plans to record the full range of noise frequencies with his sophisticated equipment.
This is brand new. So in a way, we’re at the cutting edge of what we’re doing here, as opposed to what we might have done a year or so ago.
The next day and the weather is set to change.
The agency have advised that we wouldn’t be able to sell it because of the noise problems.
So it’s not worth anything at all. So all this should’ve started last July when we came back from holiday.
It’s about eight o’clock in the evening. The conditions change as expected. But they’ll probably only be about two thirds as bad as Jane and Julian have told Mike it can get.
That is pretty much what we heard…
What we’re hearing as Mike and Bash listen is sound taken from the camera.
The recordings from Mike Stigwood’s more sophisticated equipment show what’s actually happening. In this graphic of variations in noise levels recorded in the same bedroom one year later, the erratic woomph of the turbines can be clearly seen. It’s a sound with clear characteristics. But to cut out noises like passing cars, the guidelines that govern windfarm noise ignore all but the quietest ten percent of noise in each ten-minute period, which has the effect of removing any noise peaks, so the woomphs may not be an infringement. But of course, the Davises may have been woken up by the woomphs of the amplitude modulation. And if so, it seems there’s very little they can do about it. And because it happens erratically, only in certain conditions, Jane can’t call out the council at short notice to take readings. For her, it’s the regulations that are the problem. They were agreed many years ago with the development of what were then much smaller turbines.
But there’s possibly another problem, too. Low-frequency noise. Mostly it’s below our hearing range. But if it’s also penetrating this bedroom then it could be a cause for concern. On the left of this section of Mike Stigwood’s graph, you can see the low-frequency noise in the Davis’ bedroom. Most of the low-frequency noise goes off the scale. Mike believes that the AM that the Davises claim disrupts their sleep contains excess low-frequency noise. But experts disagree as to whether there’s evidence that it has any detrimental effects.
It doesn’t really matter if there is or isn’t, but low-frequency noise is something that, for some people, is a problem and that’s the end of it.
It’s the age-old problem. We don’t do enough research. We just plough on.
We never thought about having a full structural survey done on our house before the windfarm went up. There are cracks that have been there for years that are now bigger cracks. Things fall off shelves that never did before. I’m satisfied in my own mind that there is a real problem with noise. I’ve now experienced it for real and that convinces me that what we’re doing is valid and we need to continue with it. We’re challenging a major injustice. They should be upfront and addressing this problem and not trying to brush it under the carpet and pretend it’s not an issue.
One month later, after meeting at Jane Davis’s, Mike Stigwood has come to see Den Brook for himself.
I’m surprised. I wouldn’t expect a location like this to be used because it is a very quiet location. The alarm bells are definitely sounding on this particular one at this stage. The way they’ve laid them out, seems to me they’re asking for a bit of turbulence. Yes, through them. Through a wake effect. Now, I suspect… And that’s going to… Absolutely. That’s my worry.
The government report into AM has just been published. Instead of taking measurements, they asked Salford University to look at how many complaints about AM noise had been logged with local authorities. They found that over the past 15 years, they were a very small percentage.
But as AM mostly affects the new generation of turbines built more recently, Mike’s got his doubts about the methodology.
The government are telling us that there isn’t a problem. Yes. But what we need is… We need a peer review of that. But every page you turn, every line you read, it’s, “Why did you do that? Surely what about this?” That’s another major pitfall with that thing, it’s looking at two different technologies.
In fact, they aren’t the only sceptics.
Shortly after the Salford publication, it is reported that one of the top acousticians advising the government resigns.
It says Dick Bowdler disagrees with the government’s conclusions.
In a press release, they say: But he claims more research was expected to identify up to ten potential sites at which further objective measurements could be carried out.
The government has just accepted the report’s findings and doesn’t intend to do further research.
Even I can see the way they’ve shifted the ground to prove their point.
I think it’s absolutely wonderful the way he’s got the energy to continue with this. It’s wonderful. I’m trying to support him as much as I can all the time.
Hey, you! There’s still no indication of when the high court challenge will be heard.
Come on, then, this way.
But as Mike’s spending so much time preparing for it, his earnings from his car maintenance business are even worse than before.
We’re basically living off our capital, which is not a good idea, but as far as I’m concerned, we’ve got no choice.
Yeah, we’ve done about 300 or 400.
Oh, wow! How long have you been at it?
If the Secretary of State defends the challenge, Mike’s group will need deep pockets. But they now have the former campaign group’s list of supporters to target.
Yeah, that’s just right. Amazingly, we’ve actually raised quite a lot.
Nearly 30,000, yes, in a year is not bad going. People have come from far and wide, actually. I mean, the Lake District, all over. Amazing! It very much says to RES that this isn’t NIMBYs at all, it’s not just local people, other people are…
But 30,000 might not be enough.
It could totally wipe me out financially, I suspect.
If things don’t… If they choose to… I mean, it’s stupidity if you think about trying to take on Robert McApline. That’s what we’re doing.
Have you rung anybody up yet?
I’ll come back half past one, two o’clock, I’ll call in again then.
Thanks. See you later. Cheers. Thank you!
I feel I’ve got to do this, you know? If I don’t do this, I won’t be able to live with myself.
A court hearing date has now been set for just three months’ time.
But with no defence yet from the Secretary of State, Mike’s side have asked for a delay while the court decides how the case will proceed.
For farmer Martin Tucker, it can’t come quick enough. He hopes to have five of RES’s turbines on his land.
Oh, bloody trailer.
RES are bringing in some specialist equipment to take further readings up in the windfarm site.
Are they here? They’re here.
Rachel Ruffle has been project-managing the Den Brook windfarm for over three years. RES have just promoted her to development director UK and Ireland so she’s now a director of the company, too. But she’ll remain managing Den Brook, which means seeing it through the high court process as well as taking on her new responsibilities.
Oh, hi. I forgot to tell you something. I asked Dominic to set up the company and he was umming and ahhing a bit but I think we should just set it up anyway, don’t you?
Ladies are walking to warm up. I think it’s good for us to walk.
Yeah. It is windy.
The LiDAR laser equipment they’re bringing in will give them a full picture of wind data at all the different heights of the turbine’s operation.
There’s a slightly unusual sheer pattern to the northwest and we think it might be to do with those trees.
It’s called wind sheer uncertainty. So the vertical wind speed is called wind sheer and we’re trying to reduce the wind sheer uncertainty.
Wind sheer seems a common concern.
It’s Mike Hulme’s worry that if the turbines are built, different wind speeds between the top and the bottom of the blades, wind sheer, could be the cause of AM noise, from which he might suffer.
It’s been impossible for him to check that as RES has never given out the wind speed data nor the raw noise data Mike says they promised him.
If we release all the data into the public domain, I don’t think that would change anything.
The argument would just move on to, “We’ve done our analysis and we come out with 7.27 and you’ve said 7.16.” That’s what’s happened before.
We’re measuring five different heights…
RES are keen to get on and build the windfarm. They want the court hearing out of the way. But they’ve heard Mike’s side want a delay.
We’ve already been waiting over a year for this day and we’re not happy for it to be moved back any more. We’re quite looking forward to the day. Wish it was sooner.
Trinick is likely to be the one that we are facing at the high court.
In the new year, Mike’s group have an update meeting. The court has now set a timetable and the Secretary of State will put forward a defence.
Mike’s group now have £35,000 in the bank.
But their costs are rising.
Ideally, they should attend a case conference in London with their barrister who’ll be representing them in court.
Do you think it’s important?
To go for this conference?
Yeah. It’d be nice to meet the guy but to pay five grand to meet a guy…
In the long run… I mean, basically, you’ve got to meet them.
Both Ruth and Claire have legal backgrounds and they’ll also be living close to the turbines.
You don’t want them leaving it till the eleventh hour, doing it the night before.
So let’s go for it, then. Yep. Thanks ever so much. Thank for coming.
Mike’s group have to have their skeleton evidence in in just 15 days’ time. The Secretary of State will then respond and all parties must be ready for court on or before March 19th. So the London case conference is now very necessary.
What if your barrister says your prospects are no good?
I won’t believe him.
You’re spending dangerously, aren’t you?
Well, I’m spending a lot of money for some duff advice as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I believe what we’re doing is right.
It’s got to be at least 30 years since I’ve been into the centre of London, I would guess. I would think this is where your 80 percent of people who support windfarms live. I came here originally because I couldn’t stand the hustle and bustle of the city. And I’ve lived there. And I feel that a lot of people on this planet miss out on this. You know, you live in a place like this, you’re going to think, “Brilliant, windfarms, wonderful idea. Architecturally with merit for many and it allows us to carry on living like this. Brilliant. But let’s stick them down in the sticks in Cornwall and Devon.” Which is fair enough, as long as they don’t stick them right outside your back door and ruin the lives that we’ve created for ourselves.
The bulk of this is the stuff that Trinick sent me with his witness statement. Oh, I’ve never seen this.
Mike stops off to brief Leigh Maroney, who he met previously at her house in Shipdham.
She’ll be coming to lend support at the meeting, together with Ruth and Claire.
Is this the courts? Yes. This is where we’ll be in a months’ time.
I’ll come up with my shepherd’s crook. Thanks.
Their case conference is with environmental planner specialist barrister David Forsdick. Susan Ring, Mike’s solicitor, has arranged the meeting.
First of all, did you understand the limited role of judicial review in these sorts of challenges?
The inspector’s made the decision on merits and we’ve got to find a legal flaw in the way either the inspector’s approached it or the condition to deal with the noise problem. What I need to understand is, what precisely was the data you said you needed?
There was the background noise measurements that were taken using the monitoring microphone devices.
Fine. OK. And the reason you say you need that is because this scattergraph was prepared by RES, not by Dr Bullmore.
And Dr Bullmore worked on the assumption that it was accurate and sufficient without allowing you to analyse the data behind it.
Right. I mean, as I became more knowledgeable, the developer became more and more resistant to giving me information, as you might well expect.
We’ve got to work with the evidence that was before the inspector…
The fact-finding continues for most of the afternoon as David Forsdick gathers the material for his skeleton argument, due in in a few days’ time.
In a quiet area, they tend to drop down towards 15 decibels.
Once the meeting turns to giving advice, we’ve agreed to stop filming.
Are you all OK, then? Yep. Thank you very much. Thank you.
I was expecting walking out of here with, “Yeah, we’re going to get them!”
I think we just need to mull it over for a day and get a feel for him.
Cos it’s a whole new idea. I wasn’t anticipating this at all.
The meeting has been more complicated than Mike expected.
I like the way he didn’t mince his words. Absolutely.
And concentrating largely on his particular noise issues, Mike worries it could compromise his neighbours’ and supporters’ allegiance.
But as sole claimant, Mike could be liable for all costs if he lost.
I’ve got to weigh up, are they going to put me on the cross and burn me if I go down the route which is possibly in my best interests and not in everybody else’s?
They being all your neighbours.
They being the neighbours.
I’ve got to live where I live and I don’t want my neighbours thinking, “The bastard sold out!”
So this is how it normally is up here, is it? God, what a nightmare.
Over the next few days, Mike works with his solicitor bringing together the arguments reflecting his and his supporters’ and neighbours’ concerns.
At the end of the week, he puts in his skeleton argument and witness statement.
Much of it is as it was in his statement of claim regarding the balance arguments, inadequacies in the planning conditions and breach of natural justice.
But in his witness statement, things had to become more personal, too.
Mike has to supply email evidence that he had consistently asked Rachel for the data. Rachel’s now been working as development director UK and Ireland at RES head office for three months. She’s yet to consult her counsel but she’s confident of RES’s case.
Mike Hulme has submitted his skeleton argument and he’s submitted another witness statement, which is this here. Do you think there’s any very awkward things in there from your point of view?
No. No, not at all.
Pretty much, yeah. Yeah. The main thrust is the fact that we didn’t give them the background noise data, which is why I’ve blown these up, cos this has been published since we published the ES in 2004, 2005. This is the background noise data. If it was me and I really wanted that data, that was my whole life, I would just do this and measure it off the graph, it’s all there.
It’s published. It’s been in the public domain years. So I just think…
There is no other data that Mike could’ve had?
This is the data. No, this is the data.
If this was really all the data Mike needed, then some of Rachel’s emails she submitted as exhibits Mike thought were surprising, including one written in May 2006 in which she said, “I don’t think providing you with the noise data will help you as you don’t have a noise propagation model “and I do not have a budget to provide you with hours of technical support to interpret the data.”
They tried to say that it wouldn’t be worth my while having the data because I wouldn’t understand it, which is a bit patronising, to say the least.
In his witness statement, Mike was saying that if he’d been given the data he claimed he was promised, he’d have consulted a noise expert he’d previously conversed with, Dick Bowdler, to examine it.
He said, presumably, that he wanted more data.
Yeah, that’s what he said he wanted.
And then he could’ve given it to an expert to look at.
He’s saying that now, which is the first he’s ever said that.
We’ve always been totally happy to give the data to Dick Bowdler because we know he’s an acoustic expert and he can do it. We wouldn’t have a problem.
Just like we gave the data to Andrew Bullmore.
Dick Bowdler is no great windfarm fan or supporter.
That’s just the counsel trying to bolster up Mike’s case.
It’s ridiculous. It’s just not practical. If Mike Hulme lost this, would he have to pay your costs?
We will be applying for costs, yeah, because we don’t think that he’s the one behind it, we think he’s probably got backers. So far, everything just points to the fact that the Renewable Energy Foundation are behind it. And they have been behind it since the time of the inquiry.
Mike Hulme entirely refutes this.
The consequence is for me, for my team, for my whole life spending defending these ridiculous challenges. And if you do something, then you should accept the consequences.
He says that REF are not funding him at all.
One thing that came up in the conference was the costs.
We hadn’t realised how the costs had been escalating. It’s become apparent that although we’ve raised what was initially estimated to be the required amount to cover the costs of the case, that we’re already well over that amount in terms of what we already owe our solicitors and legal people. If we lose, I will be liable for the costs and we haven’t actually got enough money in the pot now, it appears, to cover those costs. I mean, there will be a point where we’ll say, “No, we can’t risk our home. What are we going to do?” Cos they’ll take it, you know?
Less than a month before the high court hearing, the lawyers for the first defendant, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, lodge their skeleton case. They argued the planning conditions were clear and enforceable and that there was no procedural unfairness against the claimant, Mike Hulme.They said that it had been open to him, if he so wished, to have commissioned his own noise survey to demonstrate that RES’s background noise levels were wrong. They also argued that at the inquiry, Mike Hulme had been able to cross-examine Dr Bullmore but had declined to do so.
It’s so ludicrous, it barely merits consideration because to do a background noise assessment, you have to relate the measurements taken at the property to the wind speed that’s taken on the site. Well, if they’re not going to let me have the background noise data, are they going to let me have the wind speed measurements? I think highly unlikely.
On 29th February, Rachel issues her witness statement.
Part of it refers to her initial discussion with Mike about the data.
Rachel now says there’d been a misunderstanding on his part and that their discussion about what would be provided related not to the raw data but to the results of the assessment of the processed data.
You know, I’m honestly shocked. I know the truth is that we agreed that I would have the data. There’s no question, no question in my mind at all. She’s trying to say that it wasn’t the data, it was what they were going to produce in the ES. Why on earth would I want the stuff that they were going to give me anyway?
I forgot my tape measure. You’ve got it? I’ve forgot it.
What do you want your tape measure for?
To measure you up for your suit.
I think that’s what we’re coming here for, isn’t it, so they can measure me up?
Well, here’s a rare occasion. What is?
I rang up about, I don’t know, just over a week ago about renting a suit.
That’s it, that’s me.
I want something that’s suitable for an appearance in the high court in London.
I want something that turns me from a local yokel into someone who looks half respectable.
Yeah, I think the black one. That’ll look sharper and smarter.
And how much is that going to cost me?
That one is…
Unless you want to donate it to our fund.
Then if we win the case, imagine! You’re going to be inundated.
Right, if I just take your details.
He’s a different assistant to the one that was there last time. It was a different person that served me.
It all helps spread the word, as well.
Yes. And what occurred to me was that he might not be sympathetic and on your side, he might be for this kind of industrialisation. That’s fair enough.
Rachel’s now moved nearer to RES in Hemel Hempstead and has been in her new home for just a few days.
Just moving up here is a big lifestyle change. I’d say my immediate lifestyle’s probably worse. You know, the surroundings are more cramped and noisy and also I work harder, see less of the kids. But the children are older now and I want to do the job well and build more windfarms, it’s like producing things.
It’s the day before the hearing.
Hi, it’s Rach here. I’ve just heard that the exact court where it’s going to be held is on the website.
Suddenly, at nine o’clock this morning, I had to print this lot off. Along with the request for me to print this, I got a request for £17,500 to be sent by today to our legal team.
I think we’ve got quite a strong case, yeah. I’m looking forward to it. Bit nervous, but just because I’ve never been in a court before. I just don’t know what it’s going to be like.
Can you jot this down? Court 65. Justice Mitting. M-I-T-T-I-N-G.
If the challenge succeeds, it’ll just be like, “How many hoops do we have to jump through to get this done?” It would feel like it’s more onerous to build a windfarm than it is to build a nuclear power station. If we can’t build a windfarm there, it’s almost like you can’t build a windfarm anywhere.
London, here we come!
Has he gone in? Hey! Hello!
I’ll take the money.
You take the money.
Oh, my glasses. Yeah, I’ve got them.
You mean your intelligent specs?
We won’t make too much of a crunching sound.
Have you got something to write on?
About 300 pages of documents.
How do you think Rachel will be feeling now?
She’s feeling very bullish, I would imagine.
Actually, come to think of it, I think she’s probably feeling very apprehensive.
We haven’t got any sofas yet.
Are you sitting on the floor?
I bought two old granddad chairs from the auctions.
No-one’s really challenged noise in a big way before, as far as I understand, because they’ve got it so well sewn up.
So it’s straight through here and then up. Up and left.
Do you know the order of things, how they’re going to go? No.
Bit stressful this morning. Nearly missed the train, so that was a bit, “Oh, no!” But yeah, I’m glad I’m here and I’m on time, so yeah.
This is just surreal, the whole situation. Totally surreal. What am I doing stood here in a suit in the middle of a street in London outside the main court of the country? My rightful place is in a field down in Devon.
Inside the court, cameras aren’t allowed.
But initially, as the judge criticised some of RES’s actions, Mike and Bash thought prospects for their future enjoyment of their rural tranquillity seemed promising.
There it is. What’s that?
But they soon diminished.
The judge seemed to be understanding of our situation. And then as he progressed through his judgement, the realisation became clearer and clearer that we weren’t winning.
Lord Justice Mitting felt the planning conditions should be interpreted benevolently, so he ruled they were enforceable. He believed the inquiry inspector had in all respects behaved appropriately and properly. And even if the data was wrong, the expected increase in noise level produced by the turbines would fall well short of the upper limit imposed. So the Den Brook windfarm would be built.
But as Rachel came out, it became apparent that not everything had gone RES’s way.
Very early on in the case, the judge said that he couldn’t believe our attitude and our approach to Mike, that we hadn’t given him the data, and the reasons we’d given him were not good reasons.
I don’t think any developer is going to refuse background noise data again to anyone who asks. And I also think that RES are going to have to think very seriously about what the judge has said about them. They were severely criticised.
And they haven’t even got their costs.
Was it 16,000 RES went for? Yes.
15-something, wasn’t it?
It’s saved me going into serious doo-doo financially.
You could always ask again. Ask for the data?
They can only say no. Actually, that would be an interesting thing to do.
I think you should ask for it. I think it would be well worth a letter.
In fact, the opportunity to ask for the data comes rather earlier than Mike was perhaps anticipating.
So are you going to let me have the data?
Yeah. Would’ve been easier. It would’ve been a lot easier. What a waste of time and money.
Just over a load of data.
So if I write to you and ask for the data… Cos I really would like to see what is going on.
I’m sure that’d be fine. Ultimately, it won’t be my decision.
So at least something came out of it all. The little man can get something from the big company.
I don’t see it like that. I see myself as a little woman against a whole big anti-windfarm campaign.
I hope so.
RES would well know from all their past experience that everything is not over yet. Mike now has 14 days in which he could technically seek leave to appeal.
I’ll put the light on.
What’s that? Oh! Who’s that from, then?
Pippa and Barry next door.
Congratulations or commiserations. Aw, how sweet.
Well, I think it’s congratulations, personally.
We won RES but we didn’t win the inspector.
That’s the top and bottom of it, isn’t it?
So where is it, then? The data? The data!
It’s everything you asked for. Basically, they used the wrong data.
It’s all over. They’ve conceded.
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. This is an inquiry into an appeal by RES… Eight days of a new inquiry and we’re not even going to be discussing noise at all.
If nine 120-metre-high turbines are not visually intrusive, what development would be, please?
The word intrusive is, in my view, slightly pejorative.
You really believe all the people who live near windfarms aren’t important? People live near motorways, in cities, in towns.
I think you’ve got a lovely, ideal life set in the heart of Devon.
Go and enjoy it and stop whinging.
Bash, do you want to come up? It’s in.
Oh, dear. Oh, dear.
My gut feeling is this isn’t the end of the story.
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