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‘We don’t want wind farms here’ 

It is a common accusation hurled at people like him, so his request for a definition of “nimbyism” is surprising.

Robin Bean, 48, one of the protesters fighting plans for a 12-turbine wind farm at Routh, near Beverley, is upfront about his Not In My Back Yard approach.

He doesn’t want 12 wind turbines, bigger than Beverley Minster, behind his house.

“I like the idea of green energy,” he says. “I just don’t want it on our doorsteps.”

Residents of the tiny village of Routh objected when they discovered land behind their 26 homes was being earmarked for a wind farm.

East Riding Council refused the application, but developers RidgeWind have appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, with further developments expected in the near future.

And with E.ON proposing an offshore development off the East Yorkshire coast, the issue of wind farms is set to remain on the agenda.

The Routh reaction is identical to those seen in other communities when onshore wind farms are mooted.

Many fear the turbines will be noisy, cause plummeting house prices and spoil their view. There are also concerns wind farms will drive away tourists and harm wildlife.

Each claim is disputed by environmentalists, who insist the pressing need to source renewable, green energy to tackle climate change outweighs “nimby” considerations.

With a wind farm due to open at Lissett, the appeal against the Routh refusal and a further 12 applications in the pipeline for East Riding, including the E.ON proposal, the argument rages on.

Mr Bean and neighbour Penny Higbee don’t come across as nitpickers, ready to complain about the slightest thing. They’re ordinary folk, with what they consider valid concerns about the direct impact of the 100m turbines on their lives.

Mr Bean says: “It’s about the visual impact and the noise levels that come from these things in strong winds.”

Both complain about a lack of information and a plethora of misconception.

“No one can give you true facts and figures,” Mrs Higbee, 37, says.

Although opposed to the wind turbines proposed for a site about three-quarters of a mile from their homes, they accept the need for renewable energy, but always with the proviso “not so close to our homes”.

“I don’t think any of us are against green energy,” says Mr Bean.

“Out of all the people in Routh, there isn’t one person we know of that wants them this close to us. We’ve had meetings and there has not been one person with their hand up in support.”

Mrs Higbee says: “I just feel we’ve gone too far with technology. Years ago, we never had these problems. Sometimes, it’s down to the Government to sort things out.”

Prompted by the silent roar of environmentalists who argue we only have problems today because we have trashed the planet, I ask about the responsibility of individuals.

She says: “When villagers in places like Routh are told not to use their cars, what do they expect us to do? There are hardly any buses through Routh.

“Everyone is putting the onus on the individual when there isn’t the infrastructure to back it up.

“I appreciate what people are saying, we all have a role to play, but these people aren’t the ones sitting in their back garden on a summer’s night, listening to the noise from these things. No one can actually tell us what noise they are going to make.”

Mr Bean has visited wind farms on the Continent and in the Lake District.

“I’ve been near them myself and it gives a vibrating, booming noise,” he says. “Although it isn’t a disturbing noise, it is an irritating noise.”

Mrs Higbee says: “I think it’s like a dripping tap and eventually, a dripping tap will drive you mad.”

During last summer’s floods, several homes in Routh were affected by water running off the fields. With the wind farm requiring concrete bases, residents are concerned displaced water and removal of natural drainage will increase the risk of flooding.

“We’re told the concrete required will be equivalent to the size of 72 double-deck buses,” Mr Bean says. “That land, which is still wetland, would normally soak away water. Where will all that go if these turbines go ahead?”

With the Government banging on about people concreting their front gardens and reducing natural drainage, it seems a fair point.

While accepting wind power may be a short-term solution, both think other sites should be found for wind farms, away from residential areas.

“Why put them so close to residential properties when they can be put out at sea?” asks Mrs Higbee.

While the Government will point to extra cost and technological limitations, this also seems fair.

Instead of the expense of public inquiries every time an onshore wind farm is proposed, why not get on with building them offshore, whatever the cost, and incentives required to encourage developers to look offshore?

Maybe E.ON’s proposal is a good place to start. If they’re asking people to make sacrifices to play their part, why not set the example?

Mrs Higbee, a farmer’s daughter originally from Meaux, moved to Routh five years ago and the fruits of their labour are obvious.

Refurbishing their home, they went out of their way to make it as green as they could afford. But that’s her point.

Going green is usually the most expensive option, with few incentives to encourage people to seek greener alternatives. You need to be rich to be green.

“When we moved in, we looked at having solar panels on the roof, but it was just so expensive and it still would only heat the water,” she says.

“Surely, the Government can come up with some ways to help us all be greener or generate our own energy without resorting to wind farms.

“They’re asking us to move mountains with no help whatsoever.

“I don’t know why they can’t look at doing something where each individual can produce their own energy. Why do we need great big turbines producing energy for the national grid when we could each have personal wind turbines, solar panels or whatever to generate our own energy?”

Although they tasted victory when East Riding Council sided with them and refused planning permission for the farm, they know the appeal means the fight is far from over. But they’re not about to cave in.

Heading back to the car, I hear the constant drone of traffic from the busy road to Beverley. I might be wrong, but it sounds a lot noisier than a dripping tap.


21 May 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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