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Windfarm Wars – episode 4  

Author:  | England, Noise, Regulations, Videos

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

This is a stress-free place. It’s something to sit and worship at because it is so beautiful.

4.5 miles from the northern edge of Dartmoor lies the Den Brook Valley. But for seven years a battle has been fought over plans to build a windfarm here.

Morning, Mr Tucker.

Farmer Martin Tucker will have five turbines on his land and it will make him serious money.

If we get it, it’s a result.

The windfarm is being planned by Renewable Energy Systems or RES. They were set up as the renewables arm of the huge Sir Robert McAlpine Group, which built shopping centres to a nuclear power station.

We’ve had a lot of different designs.

The Den Brook windfarm is the dream of project manager Rachel Ruffle.

I want everyone to love windfarms.

If it’s built, Rachel’s windfarm will be just over 1km from the home of Mike and Bash Hulme.

The climate’s changing. It’s April, but this could be midsummer.

They moved here 35 years ago to live a green, low-impact lifestyle, but they’re worried about turbine noise.

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

They started out in 2005 with a good relationship with Rachel and let RES take background noise recordings on their land.

It was agreed I’d get the data. I feel they’ve fobbed me off.

When the local council turned the windfarm down, it went to a public inquiry.

But Mike still didn’t have access to the noise data.

There’s no persuasive evidence before this inquiry to say it wasn’t professionally made…

When RES got planning permission, he took his battle to the High Court. He lost, but RES was criticised.

The judge couldn’t believe we hadn’t given him the data.

Mike is not about to give up now.

So will you let me have the data?

The story of Den Brook and the nation’s dilemma of how best to react to climate change still has some way to go.

It’s six weeks after Mike’s failed challenge in the High Court.

Can you back it into there?

There’s still time for him to launch an appeal against the result, but Rachel and a colleague have said they’re coming down to hand over the missing data.

It’s like waiting for the bloody Queen!

Nearby neighbour Claire joins him to give moral support.

She’s a fellow campaigner and a member of his Den Brook Judicial Review Group.

We’re stood out here like dumpties!

All smiles.

Where shall I park, Mike?

In there. So you found us all right?

Rachel hasn’t been to Mike and Bash’s for three years, but now she’s come to deliver what he wants.

Where is it, then?

The data! That’s each item that I asked for?

It should be all that’s required.

Mike Stigwood will look at it. He’s an acoustician and planning specialist who, like those of us down here, feels there’s an injustice going on about the noise.

I think it’s the opposite. We want to make sure we don’t create a noise problem. It’s not in our interests to create noise problems, clearly.

Of course it’s not. Are you familiar with noise graphs? Take a look at that. That’s amplitude modulation in Jane Davis’s bedroom.

10 months earlier, Mike and Bash made a journey to Lincolnshire to Jane and Julian Davis’s property.

Get the tears over and done with then I won’t cry again.

Their story made the national press. I just warn you I get upset.

They claim that in certain weather conditions, turbines near their home make a disruptive noise called amplitude modulation. They abandoned their house to sleep elsewhere.

Noise expert Mike Stigwood recorded the actual sound in their daughter’s bedroom. On this graph, the amplitude modulation or AM, the noise Mike is very concerned about, can be seen and heard. When it’s loudest, the Davises say they can be woken up by the sound, but the industry noise guidelines average out the peaks, so the windfarm may not be in violation.

This is a recording of amplitude modulation at an actual home next to a windfarm. It’s not something I’ve drawn or made up. It was recorded…

Did your noise expert record it?

Absolutely, yes. There has been a lot of discussion at recent inquiries about this.

There is an element in the country that just use it to stop windfarms.

I don’t care about that! That’s not what I’m worried about.

I’m worried about our situation here. I’m concerned about the situation for myself and all my neighbours. Now I want to know if there is a risk of that kind of noise problem occurring at my house.

In the really unlikely event of a problem, we will sort it out. Mike, you used to say to me “You’re just a little nothing. Your directors are just using you.” But…

I never said that.

You did. You said that quite a lot to me.

I did not.

I’d say, “They’re OK.” Now I AM a director and I do have control over what happens and that’s not what is going to happen.

To protect him and his neighbours, Mike suggests a special planning condition.

If we could show that amplitude modulation is a peak to trough of, say six decibels, there should be a four-decibel penalty put on the noise limits?

Absolutely not, no way. You’ll have to see that we are not going to… threaten our planning permission by attempting to change the noise condition.

I don’t see anything inadequate about the noise condition.

I truly believe it will offer you the appropriate protection. So…

That’s neither here nor there. Your assurances simply are not enough, Rachel. Not enough. They haven’t been enough for three years. But you… Just carrying on with that line is not going to resolve the situation. OK?

After she’d gone, I loaded it up onto the computer and emailed the files to Dr Moroney, who’s an experienced, very competent data analyst.

Mike has only 10 days left within which he can seek permission to appeal the High Court decision.

And I emailed it to the noise expert that we had been using for the whole of the court case. And they started to find all sorts of anomalies in the data. And as we went on, we became more and more astonished at what we were finding.

50, 39.8…

90, 32.2…

On the whole, it’s made the background noise measurements actually appear greater, relative to the wind speed, than they really are. So that means the noise limits are high. And that is material prejudice against me.

We should have been challenging this. If RES had given me this, it could’ve been dealt with and there wouldn’t have been all this hassle. Maybe it IS a mistake. I’m still in shock, I suppose!

Within just a few days, Mike submits a witness statement outlining what the data revealed and giving an assessment by his noise expert.

My purpose in being here is to apply government policy to this case.

He also submits a skeleton argument that the way the inquiry inspector balanced the windfarm’s benefit against its harm and the way he handled the noise data were wrong.

If you, sir, are to rely on data only available to the appellant…

Three weeks later, the application is allowed by Lord Justice Laws, who is critical that the data has been withheld for so long, and allows that there is a case for both points, balance and noise issues, to be reheard.

Mike calls a meeting of his campaign group.

A couple of things came through from the court. The appeal is listed for some time between… the 10th September and 10th December.

And it’s going to be before three Lord Justices.

So it’s the big time.

LAUGHTER

It would appear!

They plan how to raise yet more money to fight the next round.

It could be anything from 20 to 35.

But instead of having several weeks to plan and raise funds, they learn the appeal is going to be heard in just one month’s time.

RES do admit the data error.

They argue, however, that the effect on its noise assessment is insignificant.

Basically, what they did is they had all this data and they used the wrong bloomin’ data!

The argument is beginning to surface in the press.

“The error is minuscule in noise terms, but we will correct it.” You know, how competent are they if they can make such an elementary error?

Planning inspectors are appointed by the Secretary of State, who is therefore the main defendant. But with just a week to go before the High Court appeal, Mike’s had no response from them. And as the High Court judge concluded, both points Mike’s appealed on are arguable. It’s not just the noise issue at stake. It’s also whether the inspector misdirected in balancing the benefit of the windfarm against harm it could cause to the environment of Den Brook.

There are only five working days before the court’s due to sit. Mike’s lawyers have just heard from the barrister representing the Secretary of State. Mikes passes the word around the team.

Hi, Mike.

How are you doing?

I’m all right. I’m at work.

Have you got a minute?

Yes.

They’ve conceded. The Secretary of State has withdrawn.

No! We need the champagne!

Don’t get too excited.

In fact, when Mike learns the full details, it becomes clear the offer to settle is on noise issues alone, not the balance argument. If Mike consents, his costs will be paid by the Secretary of State and RES. If he refuses, he’ll have to take his chances in court. In the end, the majority of Mike’s group are in agreement.

It’s a nightmare situation. Some people were saying, “We’ve come this far, we ought to take this through to a conclusion in the courts. And run the balance argument in court.” So we then tried to negotiate some movement on the terms, but RES wouldn’t agree to that. If we’d taken it forward and lost the case, we would have lost everything and ended up in debt.

Lastly, we come to the subject of noise conditions. The order states that the inspector had erred in law. In his decision to grant planning permission, he’d passed the noise conditions without access to the noise data and failed to give the reasons why.

On July 23rd, the agreement is finally signed. The planning permission is now quashed. The matter is sent back to the Planning Inspectorate for a new public inquiry. The story of Den Brook is not over yet.

Ladies and gentlemen, today we are celebrating 30 years of green energy…

At London’s ExCel Centre, RES are joint sponsors of the wind industry’s major conference. Despite their global success, RES haven’t constructed a single windfarm in England for 15 years. Dr Ian Mays is their CEO. In effect, the minority are using our democratic and legal system to prevent the majority of society from avoiding the worst impacts of the challenges we face. Is this fair? Is this really what we want? I’m not suggesting that we remove these rights, just redress the balance.

The Planning Inspectorate or PINS as it’s called has now got to decide how to proceed. We’re waiting to hear from PINS how they will redetermine the application. They’ve consulted and sent out a letter to all interested parties saying, “We propose a new inquiry. It’s the same inspector, but it focuses on the noise issue and anything else that has changed. What do you think?” We’ve said we think that’s good.

I guess that Mike Hulme and other people would probably be saying, “We don’t want the same inspector.” I don’t see why we should have to go through the same arguments again. It’s costly and time-wasting. We’ve already had the arguments. The windfarm isn’t built or producing any green energy. It could be built by now.

The first item is progress since the last meeting.

We’ve news from PINS…

Despite consistent written protests from Mike’s group, PINS goes ahead with its plan and suggests the next public inquiry will be in March, 2009.

We’re now at the point of considering some sort of protocol letter.

Mike’s solicitor is instructed to issue a protocol letter which threatens legal action against PINS if it fails to change its decision on how to run the inquiry.

It’s nearly five years since plans for the windfarm became public.

I don’t want covered with sawdust.

Mike’s now got his own wind and weather data recording system set up.

Put your back into it.

Following the protocol letter, PINS is reviewing its decision and the March date for the inquiry has been postponed.

I’m struggling with it.

It’s all right. I’ll get it. I resent that it’s interrupted my life for… the best part of four years now.

We used to be fairly on top of things, most of the time.

These days it’s… You know.

Nature doesn’t back off. It just keeps going.

They brought it home to us very much this week. When we first came here, we were part of a group of people.

One of the people died last week.

So, you know, it does bring it home to you that… it’s not a rehearsal, basically.

Mike’s been waiting since November for some new wind speed data from RES to go with his own measurements.

We’ve asked for some more information from them which is absolutely crucial to our case. In fact, RES have implied they will provide the data, but at the start of the consultation period. That’s when the date for a new inquiry is set.

Everything’s going to pot, isn’t it? My chair snapped the other day. I could have broken my neck.

In his field, Mike’s even erected his own 10-metre anemometer mast. The wind speed readings are already being logged alongside background noise recordings.

This monitor is showing us what’s going on out in the field.

The government brought in guidelines 14 years ago to control windfarm noise, known as ETSU R97. But new turbines can now be three times the height of older ones. As wind speed increases with height and can change very rapidly across the arc of the blades, an effect known as wind shear, some experts say more blade noise can be created. Mike’s worry is that the air at ground level may have less movement, making less background noise, so noise from the turbines may impact more on his property. Stable atmospheric conditions exist here that show high wind shears, exceptionally high probably, and that has a significant bearing on the noise situation.

Today Mike’s expecting to get the result of another windfarm inquiry. It’s been fought by someone who will be one of his key expert witnesses.

Hello!

Are you Mike?

Mike first met Lee Moroney as he prepared for his own High Court challenge. She helped him discover the flaws in RES’s data.

It was contaminated.

Ecotricity want to site two turbines, the nearest just 450 metres from her boundary.

About that distance from us and a little bit to the left.

To fight her inquiry, she’s done her own background noise readings and, like Mike, she’s worried about AM coming from the turbines.

Wind at the top is different…

Just a few months ago, Mike actually attended the inquiry. Many of the participants he’ll be coming face-to-face with in his own forthcoming one.

We have something. Wow. That is a bit of a surprise. “I dismiss the appeal.” Lee is going to be over the moon.

The inspector found that the residents’ own background noise recordings were the most representative. She accepted their arguments that high wind shear meant turbine noise would be unpredictable. She also found that conditions to control it were unworkable.

I hoped for that, but it’s still a bit of a shock.

This is now putting it into a sort of concrete format, what I’d intuitively thought for years, ever since I started really thinking about this. I think Rachel needs to be a bit more realistic about the possibilities. When we get the data, IF we get the data that we’ve asked for, we’ll be able to then show the massive difference between the wind speeds on-site at height and the wind speeds here.

Does Rachel know you’re doing all this?

When she came down to give me the data that we found was flawed, she suggested, if I remember correctly, that I could well have done my own monitoring. We are! Look out!

And the next day Mike’s group get the other piece of news they’ve been waiting for.

PINS writes, “We now accept it would be beneficial to appoint a new Inspector and allow evidence to be brought on all the issues.”

There’s a sub-station shown as cross-hatching. It’s that one.

It’s such a fine cross-hatch. It’s exactly the same as that.

In Lincolnshire, Rachel is introducing a new community to her company’s plans for a windfarm that RES hope to build.

Do you feel apprehensive?

No, I enjoy it. I quite like to speak to people and find out what they’re really worrying about. Also, it’s really quite motivating to meet people who are supportive.

Where’s it going to connect up to the mains? Alongside the sub-station. Very good.

Do you think now there’s an increased amount of anxiety about noise?

Yeah. I think there is increased anxiety. There are some cases where people have got noise problems, but they’re few and far between.

Have you been to have a listen?

I have and I could hear it.

Watching you today, I presume such events attract people with concerns?

I don’t know. I don’t think so. We’ll see. At the end of the day, we’ll look at the chart and see the blue dots either side. The last time I glanced, it looked pretty even. Some people want to find out what the scheme’s about and maybe they’re undecided at this stage.

Now the Planning Inspectorate has appointed a new inspector, RES have published their updated Den Brook information and released much of the data Mike’s been waiting for.

The new assessment confirms the old assessment.

It shows that the windfarm is within planning guidelines for noise and won’t cause an unacceptable noise impact.

Hello. Did you hear Ed Miliband today?

We only got the information yesterday.

At Mike’s, there’s a meeting.

It takes five minutes to download it on broadband!

Has anyone approached Lee Moroney?

She’s got the data already.

So… so I’m putting it on the table in front of her and hoping it will encourage her. If we go on to the funding position first….

You’ve got experts required. I want to put a bid in for landscaping.

Susan said we’d be absolutely mad not to look at that.

She said, “I cannot believe you are not going to look at landscape again. You’ve gone this far. You’d be completely mad not to.”

I have a bit of a worry about ETSU. I think the only way to challenge ETSU is through the courts.

I don’t think you will get ETSU challenged in a public inquiry.

That’s never been in my mind. There’s no way we’ll overturn ETSU and we’re not going to get rid of it.

What we’re going to… What we are achieving already is going beyond ETSU.

The conference is at one o’clock. It would be a good idea to get there early and have a chat in the lobby.

Mike’s on his way to London for a case conference with his new lawyer.

Mounting a full landscape case will be expensive and all his group’s funds will now be committed, but Mike’s spent so much time preparing the noise case, he’s had to borrow against the house.

At the end of this, I’m going to be so broke I’ll have to sell the house. And then what?

The reality dawns.

There are three days to go before the inquiry starts.

Farmer Martin Tucker has a vested interest. If they’re built, five turbines will be on his farm, giving him a substantial income.

Just waiting for the inquiry now next week. Hopefully, the inspector will make his decision soon enough. And we’ll get the right decision and can kick on.

RES’s options on Martin’s land run out in November, but he says he’s renegotiated a new, even more lucrative deal IF the inquiry goes RES’s way.

Yeah… I’m very frustrated, really. We thought we’d got it. One silly mistake and they dragged it up again. If we don’t get a move on and get these things up and working, it isn’t going to be there. But there seems to be a few minority that want to hold it up.

The second Den Brook Inquiry starts in a nearby sports hall, two years and eight months after the first. The inspector who will make the final decision, Andrew Pykett, has eight days scheduled.

The renewable energy strategy before this inquiry has now been issued.

RES emphasise that since the first inquiry, there’s now a legally-binding 2020 target of 15% of energy coming from renewable sources, but the inquiry will hear claims that CO2 savings from the windfarm will be just half RES’s original estimate. The council’s position is that the benefits of the scheme are not sufficiently quantified by the appellant.

AM will arise from the proposals…

The appellant uses an unrealistically high capacity factor to calculate what each turbine…

But the first day is hardly through when Mike hears a rumour that the inquiry is likely to run out of its allocated time and the noise section may have to be delayed for several weeks.

I’m almost thinking I’m packed up now. Who knows where it’ll go?

Right. Good morning. The four principal parties have agreed not to try to fit the noise evidence into the time which we’ve been allocated, but to delay or rather to postpone the consideration of that evidence until the latter part of September. The agreement to this is with extreme reluctance.

I’m incredibly frustrated about it because it was last August that we were happy to concede in the Court of Appeal on this technicality of a noise issue. Here we are, a year later, eight days of a new inquiry, and we’re not discussing noise at all.

One of the distinctive qualities of Dartmoor…

The delay there has been in getting this scheme consented is incredible. What kind of response is that as a country that we’re having to climate change? Procrastination.

One appreciates the landscape is a wide-open panorama…

Dartmoor hasn’t moved. It’s incredibly frustrating.

But RES could still have a problem with landscape. Sarah Reynolds is the new expert hired by Mike Hulme’s group and she’s examined the area from new viewpoints.

The proposals would result in the loss of natural beauty and integrity and be entirely unacceptable.

RES’s new landscape expert is Colin Goodrum. Sarah Reynolds disagrees with his assessment of the turbines’ impact.

The turbines here are significant in scale. I believe the magnitude is understated by Mr Goodrum.

So a wind turbine that is twice the height of the relevant valley, that is not out of scale with it. Is that your answer?

In terms of the scale of the valley, the valley will still read very much as a valley. The turbines will be perceived as large objects in the valley. I don’t believe they compete in the sense of suddenly the valley looks tiny, for instance.

Are they out of scale?

I don’t believe in those terms they are, no.

I see. Do they not appear in various views over the ridges?

Yes.

And they’re still not out of scale?

No. A tree appears above a ridge. Is that out of scale?

At the end of the cross-examination, members of the public opposed to the expert witness are allowed to put questions.

If we put several tall telegraph poles in front of Buckingham Palace, would we say it would have no impact?

Well, I think… Buckingham Palace would still be there.

Yes, indeed.

There are views in this landscape where telegraph poles are in the foreground. I mean, that’s the product of modern life, really.

Thanks very much, Mr Goodrum. Thank you.

As the inquiry hears the remaining expert witnesses, the inspector’s final examinations of cultural heritage issues, planning policies and targets and ecological safeguards are debated in exhaustive detail.

In this context, absolutely, yes…

What we’ve decided to do is to set aside this evening…

Towards the end of the inquiry, members of the public can make their own statements.

In my view, these nine turbines would substantially change the character of the area. I live less than one mile from the boundary of the proposed windfarm. The Davises in Deeping St Nicholas were driven from their house by noise from a windfarm 930 metres away.

The sheer scale of the development and the lack of proper consultation…

If it goes ahead, our company will not bring tourists to stay in the areas around the site.

As at the first inquiry, it appears the majority of speakers are opposing the windfarm.

And, um, John Vincent?

Mr Vincent, are you a supporter or an objector?

I’m a supporter.

Right.

Perhaps it’s the word “developer” which creates the sort of animosity which will lead to the level of aggressive protest, to bring us to new debate, and these developers are actually caring scientists and engineers, wanting to help us and our world with clean energy.

To the point – now, this debate is supposedly based on what? Important new evidence? Do you know what the important new evidence was? It was an error. I asked a scientist, “How will this error in the sound figures affect the local populace?” “It is unmeasurable scientifically. It’s inaudible to any creature.” Yet to many people here today, it’s an excuse to abuse our taxpayer in order to thrust forward a small group’s own protests. It in no way reflects the will of the majority of people who would never believe that they would have to protest FOR wind. “Who would protest against it?” they might well ask.

Rather than try and persuade people who were already persuaded, the best thing is to talk to the people who I think don’t understand the situation, so I made my mind up that I would have a quiet word with them, so I turned round and introduced myself to them and told them what I’d done and it just developed into something really quite bizarre.

And he knows Rachel.

As soon as we got talking about it, he said, “Do you mind if I go over and bring the acousticians over from the developers?” I said, “No, great.”

I’m stunned to see people objecting.

I generally agree with you, but there are specific times when these problems can arise, under certain conditions. So normally if you’re standing a kilometre away, 800 metres or any distance, you can’t hear them?

Absolutely. More than likely the case.

We have identified from the data that Rachel has provided us that there are specific conditions, atmospheric conditions that apply to the Den Brook area…

We would disagree with that identification. We’ve analysed our data as well.

If you can prove us wrong, that’s fine, but you’re refusing to respond to us.

We have responded in evidence.

You won’t address amplitude modulation.

We have our meteorological witness…

Rachel, I got a letter from your solicitor, saying you will not be addressing amplitude modulation and you won’t be addressing that in the noise conditions. It’s like a denial that this stuff happens.

So the High Court case costs how much? How much has it cost you?

It’s cost me a fortune. It’s cost me £70,000 personally.

Couldn’t you have spent that money on double glazing?

If double glazing sorted the issue…

When I stand by one of these turbines, I can’t hear anything. Can I just finish?

There is a problem out there. I’ve been there. I’ve experienced it.

It can be irritating and noisy, so a great solution would be to put it somewhere quiet where it won’t upset too many people. They’ve found that place, haven’t they?

Just a minute. What are you saying?

I’ve just said, “Sod you, there aren’t many people around it. Go ahead.”

If it was going to affect thousands of people…

You are joking!

What makes you think you’re so important? You’ve got to be joking. I don’t believe you’re so important.

You believe that all the people who live near windfarms aren’t important, they’re sacrificial?

I believe some things are good on this planet and some things are bad. A bit of noise pollution from a wind turbine… People live near motorways, they live in cities. They live in blocks of flats. You’ve got a lovely, ideal life set in the heart of Devon in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Enjoy it and stop whinging. The only people here today were from near Little Whinging or whatever it’s called. Not all the people in the rest of the planet saying, “Build us some renewable energy.”

Sticks and stones will not get us anywhere forward on this.

I think that Sizewell power station…

It’s no good calling people names.

Throwing names at people…

Good morning.

Good morning.

My name is Eva Ritchie. I’m 13 years old.

My mother is Rachel Ruffle, but this is my opinion.

I am here today to speak in favour of the Den Brook Windfarm. Looking at the bigger picture…

The next day, more supporters of the windfarm are making statements.

My name is Dr Steve Ritchie and I’m the life partner of Rachel Ruffle. I met with the main complainant, Mike Hulme, early in RES’s development process of Den Brook. At that stage, he showed some concern over noise. I had no idea what he was going to say. I just said, “Don’t make it personal. Just be objective.” Since then, I observed this level of concern to increase out of all proportion. I presume this is due to it becoming an obsession, not helped by the media attention, encouragement from the Renewable Energy Foundation and a highly networked group of anti-wind activists across the UK…

I had no idea what he was going to say, but he probably resents the amount of time it’s taken to get this scheme through.

I do have sympathy for the state of mind Mike Hulme is now in, but I believe that Den Brook needs to be built and should not be delayed any further by the unfounded worries of a tiny minority.

Please consent this application.

My name is Anne Ramsey and I have lived at Eastbrook in the parish of Bow for 26 years. I have been in contact with several householders suffering from increased noise levels at their homes, following the construction and operation of wind turbines close by. At Askam Windfarm in Cumbria, the developer was Wind Prospect for E.ON. It came online in 1999. Seven best practices were promised by the developers to the judge at a court case brought by the residents in 2004. There have been a further 130 registered complaints up until May 2005 from people living up to two kilometres away…

As with the first inquiry, Inspector Pykett visits all the viewpoints raised by the parties.

I suggest we look at that at the viewpoint.

They’re due to visit Nichols Nymet House Hotel which overlooks the windfarm site.

What’s her name, Audrey?

Owner Muriel Goodman says she’ll probably sell it if the windfarm gets planning permission.

I think he was very nice. You feel that he’s actually listening, he’s actually taking notice of us.

Can you order what species and say, “Can we have Friesians this week?” Right. Thanks very much.

I think he’s open.

You probably won’t hear now until the new year.

It’ll either be a really awful Christmas present or a really good one, if it’s beforehand. Otherwise, it’ll be a bad new year or a good new year, won’t it?

But first, in two months’ time, there is still the delayed noise inquiry to go through.

There’s only five days to go.

Despite the increase in cost that the delay has incurred, Mike still believes in the strength of his case.

The whole thing is very much in the balance. In most of the inquiries up until recently, noise has probably been dealt with in a couple of hours. We’ve now got four days allocated for noise evidence. That just shows the nature of the situation.

People might say it shows the nature of your obsession.

Yes! I have no doubt. I can certainly think of one or two people who would be quite happy to think that. Irrational obsession.

Irrational obsession. And you’ve been seduced by the media.

Yeah.

Surely, it’s only reasonable to be obsessed about something if you see something is seriously wrong.

What’s going to happen if, in eight weeks’, ten weeks’ time, you get the news you don’t want?

If the windfarm has permission and there is a planning condition applied to it which is protective of the neighbours … I won’t find it a major problem. But the reality of the situation is I don’t believe it’s possible to actually … construct a planning condition that is protective of the neighbours.

Good morning. In the next four days…

Mike’s group will need to convince the inspector that AM is likely to be experienced by windfarm neighbours at Den Brook if it gets the go-ahead.

Rachel Ruffle isn’t there, though, as she’s ill. Project manager Helen Hall is representing RES which means Rachel will miss all the evidence, including Jane Davis’s.

I’ll start by calling Mrs Jane Davis. Right, Mrs Davis?

Good morning to the inquiry. The windfarm became operational in June 2006 and within three days, we became aware of problems with noise and hum emanating from the windfarm.

HUMMING

These noise issues and the apparent failure of any organisation to be able to ameliorate the distress we’ve suffered as a result have devastated our lives. I am determined to ensure the failures of the planning system to protect me and my family are not repeated elsewhere. We know we suffer from something called aerodynamic modulation – AM, which is not fully understood.

In her proof of evidence, Jane Davis lists a number of illnesses she claims are now experienced by members of her family since the windfarm began operation.

You contend that all these illnesses are certainly because of the windfarm. Is that right?

I make no judgment. What I do is say we know that noise can create ill health. These are the ill health things that have happened. There may well be a relationship.

Going on to paragraph 27…

Marcus Trinick and Jane Davis have met at a number of windfarm inquiries. There is no specific AM noise condition for the tall turbines at Deeping St Nicholas, so he is keen to establish that despite her claims about AM, there is no evidence at the inquiry of any breaches of noise conditions.

We’re used to hearing conspiracy theories. I assume, this is a question, that is why the local authority haven’t said to the developer, “We’d like you to turn off the turbines to evaluate what is happening with background noise and the contribution it may make,” because they have not determined a breach which they wish to enforce against?

They have asked the developer to do that. The local government ombudsman made that a specific request.

Is that in writing?

It is.

Is that before this inquiry?

It is not… yet.

And nothing has happened to date. I see.

Finally, do you wish this inspector to visit your house to listen to the turbine noise?

Many other inspectors have found this quite a useful exercise.

Well, I would concur. I think it’s a very good idea.

So you should have from Dr Hoare her proof of evidence and a rebuttal.

Dr Lee Hoare, or Lee Moroney as Mike knows her, has also met Marcus Trinick before at inquiries, both as home owner and as a director of the Renewable Energy Foundation. They are an organisation critical of onshore windfarms. In her proof of evidence using RES’s own wind data that was eventually released to Mike’s group, Dr Lee Hoare addresses the likely incidence of AM at Den Brook.

She claims RES have refused to address the issue, relying instead on the government’s research commissioned from the University of Salford.

The brief of this research was not to take measurements in the field, but to ask local authorities how many complaints they had received sounded like AM concerns. They deduced that only four windfarms out of the 133 at the time were affected.

She feels Den Brook is a prime candidate for AM. She claims the worst affected property is likely to be Mike’s own house.

And instead of going and actually measuring the AM noise, they tried to figure out if the complaints were down to AM noise on the basis of the adjectives used by the complainant.

From material released under the Freedom of Information Act and her own further researches, Dr Hoare comes to a different conclusion to Salford.

On the data in front of me, I consider that 16% of existing windfarms have neighbours who complain of AM noise. A bit like Mrs Davis’s evidence, “I can tell you this, but I have no evidence of it.”

You’ve seen no measurements from these sites.

No. One of the criticisms of the Salford report was that they refused to do any measurements.

Let’s get away from the “sting in the tail” answer about Salford. I’m simply looking at the evidence you’ve produced today. Salford can stand by itself… or not.

You’ve simply read some of these reports and said, “Sounds like AM. We’ll call it AM.” That’s all you’ve done. You’ve got no evidence beyond that.

I have exactly the data before me that the Salford investigators had.

Could you answer my question, please?

I have no measurements for these windfarms, correct. No.

Sorry, 33, you say van den Berg show the authors of ETSU-R-97…

As the inquiry goes through four days of witness cross-examination, it becomes clear that much confusion is being caused by the limitations of the government’s ETSU guidelines.

To be fair to your point, ETSU didn’t discuss atmospheric considerations at all.

But as the inquiry began, Marcus Trinick introduced a letter, clarifying the government’s position on windfarm noise.

The minister says they have “no plans to revise the guidelines” and that there’s “no evidence to suggest the small incidence of AM is as a result of turbine size”.

The inquiry hears, though, that currently the guidelines struggle to cope with turbines that are now so much taller.

At the time of ETSU, the highest hub pipe was 32 metres, so the error factor was not great. And now when you get up to 70, 80 metres, you’re into a much larger error factor. ETSU isn’t flawed. What has happened could maybe have been anticipated by ETSU at the time, but it wasn’t. It was a creature of its time.

The inquiry examines every aspect – noise limits, background noise measurements, the locations, methods, equipment used.

You’re quite clearly wrong. No, ETSU deals with that. It talks about those situations… I drafted the thing, so there we are.

Unarranged and extraneous data, atmospheric conditions…

That’s the point. That IS the point. And of course, AM.

Last point, Dr McKenzie – AM.

Have you ever visited a windfarm and witnessed AM yourself?

I’ve heard variation in turbine noise, yes.

Would you characterise that as AM?

It is amplitude modulation. Variation in noise level is what it means.

Yeah, OK, so you’ve heard small variations in amplitude?

I’ve heard variation in turbine noise level.

Have you heard excessive?

I’m not sure what’s meant by excessive amplitude modulations.

I think it’s a term that’s been coined by others, not by ourselves.

If we could formulate a condition that might protect the residents of Den Brook from AM, if heaven forbid it should exist, in a way in which the conditions imposed on the planning permission that at Deeping St Nicholas did not protect Mrs Davis…

There’s been no evidence that the planning conditions are not being complied with at Deeping St Nicholas and of any statutory nuisance. We have Mrs Davis’s logs and word and evidence which show that she’s upset by her situation, but no material evidence to show whether… what… whether that’s related to planning conditions or statutory nuisance.

Right. Dr McKenzie, thank you very much indeed. Thank you.

And no wind turbine shall generate electricity to the grid until…

On the final day of evidence, the inquiry discusses planning conditions that could be imposed if the windfarm is given permission.

Final matter for today. Mr Taylor, your alternative noise conditions and your suggested amplitude modulation…

They’ve been under discussion for some time, but at the last minute, Mike’s team put forward a new noise condition.

We’re not able at such short notice to respond to this condition. That may not seem helpful to you, sir, but it’s quite wrong to ask us at zero notice, effectively, to comment on a brand-new noise condition delivered on the last evidential day of the inquiry. I’m not going to deal with it now.

Over the weekend, we can prepare something in writing for Monday and that’s as good as it gets.

As promised, the following Monday, RES put in their response to Mike’s team’s AM noise condition. They argue that a condition is unnecessary as excessive AM is rare and it’s not recommended in ETSU guidelines. They also say stable atmospheric conditions at the appeal site are rare too, and in their view, conditioning AM would cause profound damage to the UK wind industry.

It’s like waiting for the results from your exams.

It’s decision day once again for the nine Den Brook turbines.

At her home, Jenny Rosser is dreading the inspector’s verdict.

I’ll miss looking out on my beautiful views of Dartmoor.

We could sit up in bed and look across all the tors and… all the changing seasons. It’s just beautiful. We’re absolutely head-on to all nine of them. They’ll just open up in a vista in front of us. I’m feeling really anxious and really nervous. I haven’t thought about anything else all week. People say, “No point in worrying about it. There’s nothing you can do to change it now.”

How long to go? I don’t know. It must be half an hour, is it?

Oh, God!

OK, we’ll see you there then.

For Mike, the decision comes on a busy day. Apparently, they’ve got a full house tonight. There’s a carol service tonight at Muriel’s to raise funds to cover their outstanding bills.

Come on. Are you taking him upstairs?

Yeah, he can come up and see the decision.

But first, there’s the inspector’s decision to be dealt with.

SHE SIGHS

Anxious moments.

Where is Mike today?

He’s done a very good job getting us to where we are and I don’t think he’s finished yet.

No, no e-mail yet.

It’s almost unbearable. Yeah.

Bash?

Yeah?

Do you want to come up? It’s in.

PHONE RINGS

Hello…?

Do we? Oh, fantastic!

Oh, Marcus, thanks.

So democracy, people power doesn’t work.

It’s so disappointing. After all this time!

Oh, Marcus… Well done. Well done. Thank you for all your help.

“I allow the appeal.”

Rachel will be pleased.

Well done, Marcus.

Congratulations. Yeah, exactly. I didn’t expect it, to be honest. I didn’t expect the “yes”.

LAUGHTER

Claire has summed it up in one word – “Bugger!”

The delay that the Action Group has caused us has done us no harm financially. Let’s put it like that.

And the pounds coming into your pocket will have increased a bit?

They will have increased a bit.

In his 55-page decision letter, Inspector Pykett concludes the windfarm “would make a limited but valuable contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions.”

On landscape, while noting the impact on many locations, he adds that, “Ironically, the presence and scale of Dartmoor “would allow the comparatively smaller mass of the windfarm “to provide a landscape context for the development. The conflict with the landscape policies is sufficiently limited…”

One of the greatest national parks in the world! “..to be outweighed by Structure Plan Policy CO12…”

As for the noise guidelines, while accepting some of RES’s arguments that lay outside them, he includes his opinion that “a review of ETSU-R-97 is overdue”.

And on the question of further research beyond the Salford report, he says, “Such research would be prudent to improve understanding.”

On AM itself he says, “On the basis of the evidence I have received, “I conclude that a greater than expected impact from AM would be possible” and he doesn’t see its rarity as a valid reason for RES’s objection.

He imposes an AM condition.

It’s going to be a day or two before we’ve digested all this lot, but this is an initial reaction from somebody who is on the case and they’re saying they’ve never seen conditions this tight and they suspect the developer will maybe even appeal it.

I mean, that would be a first, wouldn’t it, for the developer to appeal an approval on the grounds that the condition is too tight, so if that’s the case, there is some success here.

It does concern me quite a lot – the measurement of amplitude modulation is far too tight. If we measure greater than expected amplitude modulation, it doesn’t say what to do. It just says you have to carry on measuring it. I’ll also need a legal opinion on what the remedy is.

# We wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas, we wish you a Merry Christmas # And a Happy New Year # Good tidings we bring… #

Whilst I’m really happy to get the decision, also in the back of my mind I’m thinking about him. He must be really sad. I know that he genuinely is concerned about the noise impact of this scheme. It is a real concern.

# …and bring some out here. #

What is really concerning is whether or not this decision will be challenged.

We have to wait six weeks to find that out, so I’m sort of expecting that it will be, although I’m really hoping that it won’t.

Six weeks later, Mike Hulme launches an appeal against Inspector Pykett’s decision.

The first ground of ten claims that Inspector Pykett erred in law as his AM condition fails to achieve the purpose it intended and contains no requirement on the operator to take steps to prevent AM, should it occur.

As the parties head once more back to the High Court, after six years, the war of words over Den Brook still continues.

I want everyone to love windfarms.

Six years when hopes and fears…

After all this time!

…divided a community, turned family members against each other.

A lot of NIMBYs in my opinion.

Six years when families’ lives stood still.

To be forced out of my home, my business, the lot… It’s awful.

They don’t believe it will generate any electricity.

And six years during which a global windfarm developer had still not achieved its mission to have Den Brook be the first windfarm they had built in England for 17 years.

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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