Love them or loathe them, more wind farms are on their way. The big question is: will they have an impact on nearby house prices? Bob Barlow, a public relations executive from Cambridgeshire, believes he has found the answer.
‘A Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors study suggests local house prices drop by around 20 per cent when a wind farm application is submitted. If a house in the vicinity was once worth Pounds 350,000, it will now be worth Pounds 50,000 to Pounds 70,000 less,’ he says.
Mr Barlow is one of the leaders of the Stop Wadlow Wind Farm campaign, a group of 300 local residents opposing plans for what he describes as ’13 vast, noisy turbines, each one taller than Big Ben, and visible over an area of more than 300 square miles’.
So far, he has persuaded planners at South Cambridgeshire District Council to reject the proposals, but the developers may yet appeal.
Wind farms remain controversial and many communities faced with the prospect of one on their doorstep protest.
Opponents argue that they are dangerous as well as noisy and ugly. A study conducted by Darmstadt University in Germany revealed that ice forming on the blades in cold weather could be thrown 500 metres, and that fragments of broken blades could fly 250 metres.
In any event, critics also claim that the turbines generate such modest levels of electricity that they cannot make a meaningful contribution to the nation’s energy requirements. As a result, the damaging effect they have on the landscape simply cannot be justified.
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), meanwhile, says that 1.5 per cent of the UK’s current energy needs are now met by 148 onshore wind farms, and another 31 are being built. There are also six off-shore farms with another eight under construction.
But there are many more to come. A further 116 farms have been awarded planning consent and another 215 are currently being considered.
The BWEA says that 20 per cent of the UK’s energy requirements could be met by wind power by 2020 if planning bottle-necks were removed.
While some estate agents claim turbines have a negative impact on prices, many others see them as an inevitable feature of the future landscape. And farmers, on whose land the turbines are often built, can certainly profit from wind.
‘The NIMBY [Not In My Back Yard] crowd will always protest, but wind farms are the way forward,’ says Stephen Thompstone, of Savills estate agency.
‘In fact, future turbines are likely to be even larger if they are to help meet government targets for sustainable energy.’ Mr Thompstone is based in Gloucestershire and helps landowners negotiate with developers who want to find sites for turbines.
‘Landowners normally receive two payments a ground rent for the lease of the plot and then a royalty payment based on the volume of energy generated by the turbines,’ he explains.
Savills is selling Tynewydd Farm, near Bridgend in South Wales. It has ten turbines on its land and generates Pounds 13,000 a year in royalties a relatively small amount because the deal was negotiated in the early 1990s, when wind farms were in their infancy.
However, the buyer will receive a further Pounds 10,000 annually because a mobile phone mast is also sited on the property. THOMPSTONE also cites separate research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors which shows that while wind farms do make it harder for vendors to attract buyers, their effect on property prices is reduced over time, once they have become a part of the landscape.
In reality, there is no conclusive proof either way, as most wind farms have been erected away from residential areas. But this will not always be the case.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown says that by 2050 the UK economy will be two-and-a-half times its present size, but will have to produce just 50 per cent of its current CO2 emissions.
He sees wind power as a way of meeting that target, and claims that local communities could also have cheaper energy if they agree to a wind farm being sited nearby.
Mr Barlow, however, remains unconvinced. ‘We’re against what is effectively a power station being built in our area,’ he says.
‘If it goes ahead, the surrounding countryside will be industrialised and our homes will be made less valuable in one fell swoop.’
By Graham Norwood
30 November 2007
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