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Inadequate response to turbine survey

I agree with Dr John Etherington’s critical observations (April 23) about the recent “survey” on the impact of wind turbines on property values. I came across this “survey” in the media and wrote to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) expressing concern about its media statements about it. My letter and the response from RICS are as follows:

Dear Mr Berry,

There are some interesting points to note regarding the survey “What is the impact of windfarms on property prices?”

1) Of 131 wind turbine sites in this country, only two were used in this “survey”. The turbines at these sites (St Breock and Bears Down/St Eval, in Cornwall) have tip heights of 57m and 53m respectively. Turbines typically have a tip height of 100m and upwards, twice the size of those used in this “survey” and they’re getting bigger.

2) The survey’s concluding remarks include the statements, “Because of the limited data available, the findings require a degree of caution” and “Therefore a cautious approach should be adopted until a larger and more in-depth study can be undertaken”.

3) The bar chart of property prices in the survey does not show a) the prices of ANY properties within 0.5 miles of turbines; b) the prices of detached properties within 0.5 to one mile of turbines; c) the prices of terraced and semi-detached properties within one to 1.5 miles of turbines.

Perhaps there weren’t any such properties within these zones, or if there were then there weren’t any transactions on them. This is a shame as it weakens the survey.

4) The survey is based on this bar chart, so only presents a statistical view and not necessarily a reality. The report itself qualifies as much when it states “By sorting the properties by type and location, they were able to see – statistically, at least – if proximity to windfarms had any effect on transaction prices”.

5) The survey says “The effect seemed much less marked – if at all – for detached houses”. In a statistical survey which had no detached properties within a mile of the turbines or else no detached property transactions within a mile of the turbines, this may be true but also meaningless.

6) The first five pages of this eight-page study are all about wind; i.e. most of this study of the effect of wind turbines on house prices is about wind.

It seems it is common sense that property values will be affected by wind turbine developments especially as the value of many country properties lies in their location in unspoilt, beautiful and quiet environments. Noise from turbine developments is causing real problems and in some cases so is light and shadow flicker, and just the movement of the turbines in a person’s peripheral vision, particularly while in their homes, can be quite disorienting. Some people’s businesses are also threatened by wind turbine proposals.

I find it surprising, if not shocking, that a reputable organisation like RICS should have issued a press release that failed to reflect, never mind highlight, the cautionary concluding comments of this “survey”. Could a further press release be made to re-establish some sense of balance?

Yours sincerely, Jane Faust.

Dear Ms Faust,

Thank you for your response and reasoned arguments about the research report. The purpose of the press release was designed as a hook to generate media coverage on this subject but to date I’m not aware that it has been picked up in the media. Against this background I would support the recommendation in the research report calling for more detailed research on this subject before RICS makes any more public announcements on this subject.

Regards, Brian Berry

Need I say any more?

Jane Faust



15 May 2007