When Richard and Lynne Lethbridge thought about retirement, they imagined sitting back to enjoy the beautiful sunset views from their bungalow. But now that dream has been marred by plans to erect three wind turbines just 540 metres from their Devon home, writes Christine Webb.
Fearing that the 100m-high turbines near Goveton would get the go-ahead, the couple asked two estate agents to value their home. They were devastated to learn that it had dropped £165,000 from the £500,000 it might have fetched without the Beech Tree wind farm plans.
“The blades of these particular turbines are 80ft wide,” says Richard. “We couldn’t live here with those things towering over us. The turbines would be west of us, so we’d get shadowing from the sun and a strobing effect when the blades rotated. And we have no background traffic hum here to drown out the sound of the turbines. We went to see some smaller ones in Cornwall and heard them before we saw them.”
The turbine site is close to an area of outstanding natural beauty and, says Richard, would be visible from Salcombe, Dartmoor, Start Point and almost as far as Plymouth.
“I built the bungalow myself in the 1970s. I’ve got no alternative but to sell up and move out of the area where I was born. We can’t look across our valley now without feeling horror. We live in a lovely landscape, and they’re raping it.”
Mike Pederick, an estate agent with Rendells, confirms that the plans have wiped 20-30 per cent off the value of the Lethbridges’ home. “It’s not going to help many properties within a mile of it,” he adds. “People move to the area for its beauty.”
The Lethbridges are not alone in their protest. The South Hams Opposed to Unsuitable Turbines has joined at least 74 action groups fighting plans for wind farms, many of which would affect beautiful parts of Britain. Even Tony Blair is reported to object to proposals for a wind farm near his constituency home in County Durham.
The company behind the plans, Npower, says that the Beech Farm turbines would supply clean energy to about 2,000 homes and cut the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by more than 7,500 tonnes per year.
Chris Lloyd, who is managing the project, says: “It seems a very difficult situation for the Lethbridges. They built their bungalow 30 years ago, and I’m sure that they never expected this form of development on their doorstep. However, the dangers of climate change are now upon us and wind power remains one of the quickest and best ways to meet our rising energy needs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
“There is a perception that certain property values may be affected. However, recent events such as the floods in Carlisle demonstrate that the effect of climate change is a far greater threat than possible impacts on house prices. A recent survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors stated that there had been no conclusive proof about any effect on prices from the 1,184 wind turbines installed in the UK to date.”
* Geoffrey Sinclair, a planning consultant who has been involved in 36 public inquiries into wind power projects (firstname.lastname@example.org), comments:
“Wind turbines have been labelled ‘green’, so people think, ‘Wonderful, they’ll save the planet.’ But onshore turbines offer small gain because of the intermittency of wind and, worse, the future now appears to lie in 100m-high machines such as these, which were mainly designed for use offshore where the wind is better.
“Wind-farm objectors should budget up to £10,000 to fight in a public inquiry. Meanwhile, I can offer some do’s and don’ts:
• Do form a group, give it a clear identity, and establish good media relations. Focus on the proposal and its effects rather than just criticising the technology. Research planning policies and form arguments within their terms.
• Don’t be afraid of being labelled a nimby – you should not feel ashamed of protecting your interests. But avoid acrimony, and don’t feel offended or ridiculed if you are misrepresented. And, finally, don’t despair: onshore wind power is the flavour of the decade and proposals are difficult to fight – but organisation, determination and integrity can and do win.”
• Send your property stories to House & Home, The Sunday Telegraph, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DT or e-mail email@example.com.
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