Last summer, eight new neighbours were moved in near Julian and Jane Davis’ farm on the Lincolnshire fens.
The arrival of the 300ft wind turbines at sleepy Deeping St Nicholas came after a war of words and willpower between locals and developers.
South Holland District Council refused the application because of concerns over potential harm caused to the open land and skyscape.
It then went to a full public inquiry – much like the one now looming in Alnwick District, where 18 even bigger towers are planned.
While locals expressed their disapproval, those few voices in favour stressed that the environmental issues were more important than worries about the visual impact.
Applications for the turbines were ultimately granted by the planning inspector, who overruled the council.
For the objectors it spelled crushing defeat, for supporters it was a necessary step to halt global warming.
In 2006 the turbines were finally completed, the nearest just 900 metres from the Davis’ farmhouse.
Throughout the lengthy debate, the couple remained on the fence and were largely untroubled about the prospect of having a wind farm practically on their doorstep.
But for the past eight months, Julian and Jane say the repetitive thumping of air and humming of electric has blown away their peace.
“It’s very hard to describe how I’m feeling after nearly a year of living next to the turbines,” says Mr Davis, 42. “The biggest problem is the low frequency noise these things produce.
“It is not immediately noticeable, but once you hear it and feel the vibration, it begins to drive you mad.
“It’s just that little bit faster than the noise of a heartbeat, so your body is constantly racing to catch up. We’ve had friends who come to stay with us who don’t notice the noise and vibration at first, and think we’re exaggerating.
“It’s only after a couple of days that it becomes a constant irritation which you just can’t shake off.
“It’s always there in your head, and on the few occasions when it isn’t noticeable, your mind begins to search for it.”
Then there’s the second type of noise plaguing the Davises – the idling hum from the electric motor housed in the turbine shaft which starts the rotor and controls the air-conditioning.
It often gives way to what the Davises call “the WD-40 noise” – a grating sound similar to a badly-oiled engine.
And if the wind is blowing from the south, there’s yet another acoustic effect.
“It’s like the roar of traffic on the M62,” Mr Davis says.
“Sometimes it sounds like a train coming, but which never arrives.”
A log they have kept since the installation records that in the first 243 days of the wind farm’s operation, 231 nights have been disturbed.
They say that the effect on their lives is so bad that they have given up trying to sleep at the farmhouse. They say they have resorted to friends’ sofas, and a local hotel which, despite being next to a motorway, gave them their first proper night’s rest in many months.
But a longer-term solution has now been found – at a cost of £600 a month, the Davises are renting a second home, simply to sleep in.
“We’ve had to take drastic measures, but it’s a desperate situation,” Mr Davis says.
Both the local authority and the site operators say they are monitoring the situation.
Independent analysts have been brought in to assess the noise impact, but the council says that no breach of conditions is evident at this time.
In the meantime, however, new proposals have come to the fore – for 16 more wind turbines in Deeping St Nicholas.
On March 6, villagers spoke out at a special meeting of Deeping St Nicholas Parish Council.
The proposals, made by Spanish renewable energy giant Iberdrola, would add to the existing eight turbines, taking the number in the village to 24.
Mrs Davis told the meeting: “They don’t really understand how these large wind turbines interact with each other in a flat landscape. The research just hasn’t been done.
“If we have eight with another 16 behind them it would make even more noise.
“It can have a health impact and this is something which could affect more people.”
Residents agree that the village has already done its bit for the future of the planet.
A scoping report is now in the pipeline, which will likely be followed by an in-depth environmental impact assessment, which could take up to 18 months to complete.
For the Davises, however, it’s all too much to bear thinking about.
“It’s almost cost us our sanity,” says Mr Davis. “Our home is practically worthless, and to go on living like this would be unbearable. Life here has become a total nightmare.”
By Robert Brooks
28 April 2007
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