I have for the last six months been part of the steering group ACT (Against Congham Turbines). In my business capacity I have the landowner Mr Michael Mason and his wife Kate as good and respected clients, I am also privileged enough to have them as friends. At times it has been a difficult path to tread.
The fact that a feasibility study for a wind energy project was being examined, only became public knowledge due to a leaked document. The document showed the intended positions of all the turbines. Following its release a public meeting was held and a steering group formed to examine ways of preventing this huge development going ahead.
For all those people out there who think a steering group or action committee is a load of narrow minded NIMBYs let me explain a bit about the group. First of all not one person is against renewable energy. Some of the group actually like to see small groups of turbines. The Congham plan was not for a small group, it was for 26 turbines (imagine the group at Pickenham only multiplied by nearly four). It was to be in a beautiful part of the countryside, not on an old airfield.
The steering committee had an interesting mix of people; our chairman is a director of one of the most well-known and respected land and estate companies in the UK, the secretary had spent his life as a designer of tall structures, another member is a director of an award-winning company in Cambridge and previously was a director of a turbine company. We had a well-known local solicitor who kept our comments legal and advised us where and where not to tread.
Then there was Sarah Mawby’s (letters, June 15) old English teacher who was delighted to see Sarah’s letter in the press. Our leaflets were taken care of by a local lady who is secretary and a busy mum, so that gives you an idea of what a cross section of skills were available to us.
The main objection to the wind farm was its position – large wind farm developments need to be away from people and preferably offshore, not in the middle of good farmland and close to houses. It has to be said that all the group agreed that if we were in the land owners position, we would look at the proposal just like they did. Many of us have young families and the extra income from any business opportunity would be welcome. But sometimes it is just best to walk away.
There have been many letters in your paper about wind farms, some in favour some against. But the one thing that stands out is the lack of understanding and misinformation surrounding them. For myself it has been an eye opener to find out the truth behind a lot of statements made by wind energy companies and to understand a lot of the technical language, although having a background in engineering helped.
We, as a group, were delighted to see the letter from Sarah Mawby, mainly because she was so young. This was closely followed by the letter from E. Clarke (South Wootton) who praised her well-researched letter. Unfortunately Sarah starts off by mentioning the harmful “infra sound” and suggests that we find this in everyday items such as mobile phones and iPods. Well, Sarah, infra sound is a low-frequency soundwave which travels through the ground and mobile phones use microwave technology – about as far away from each other in technology terms as you could get.
Twenty years ago the Government stated that there was no problems associated with living next door to electricity pylons, now we know there is and the Government has had to back track. It will be interesting, with all the research being done, to see what the Government says about turbines in 20 years time.
The wildlife issue for us was not so much associated with the rabbits amd shrews that Sarah mentions, but the thousands of migratory geese and large populations of raptors and owls. It is not possible to relate what you see in an industrial estate in Setch, with thousands of acres of farmland. But turbines do have one effect, unless you are a mole. You don’t see moles around wind turbines, or perhaps moles don’t matter.
The last issue that constantly raises it’s head is sound measurements. The wind farm industry will tell you there is no sound issue and they will quote you a sound measurement called L90. If you research this on the Government’s own DTI website it actually says the L90 standard allows reliable measurements to be made without the corruption from relatively loud transitory noise.
It is that very corruption of sounds that keeps our children awake at night. It is the loud transitory noise that is most disturbing.
The one biggest thing I have learned is to look at who funds all the research available on the Internet. If a so-called expert tells you something and they get their funding from Government-funded schemes, societies, universities institutes, etc, they will not tell you something that would put their funding at risk. So be careful what you believe.
It is worth mentioning that many people who do support wind farms live in places where one could not possibly be built. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
The work of the ACT steering group is finished apart from some administrative work. The final decision taken by Michael and Kate Mason must have been a very difficult one to make. There was, after all, a lot at stake for them, their children and the future of their farming enterprise. Their decision was relayed to me personally by Michael Mason in a hand-delivered letter on Friday evening, June 22, and released by the group secretary to all the people who had signed up on email the next morning.
I have not, and will not, ask why they decided to cease their interest in the development. I, the rest of the group and the residents of Congham wish them well and thank them for the decision they made.
Len Rust, Congham
6 July 2007
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