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Objectors hit out at ‘biased’ turbine poll

Residents against a proposed wind farm are up in arms after a “biased” poll claimed more than half of local people were in favour of the scheme.

A survey carried out on behalf of wind farm developer RES said 51 per cent of residents supported the Jack’s Lane project between North Creake, South Creake, Stanhoe and Syderstone, when it was published this week.

But scores of residents from surrounding villages have complained to the Lynn News to say the poll was “fundamentally flawed” and “carefully calibrated” to produce the result RES wanted.

They have also reiterated the results of parish polls into the matter, which revealed 85 per cent of residents in South Creake were against the wind farm proposals, with 80 per cent in North Creake and 77 per cent in Syderstone.

RES submitted plans for six 126.5-metre tall turbines and associated works last year, and West Norfolk Council’s Development Control Board is due to make a decision on them in the next few weeks.

The company says the turbines will generate enough electricity to power 8,000 homes a year and provide an annual community fund of £24,000 a year.

It employed market research company Populus to carry out a survey and last month 1,000 residents were polled by telephone.

Populus said people living in villages surrounding the site were surveyed, but residents claim some lived as far afield as Wisbech.

Syderstone resident Reg Thompson, of the Creakes Action for Protecting the Environment, said: “The area covered included Hunstanton and Dersingham, where I doubt they have heard of Jacks Lane, and at least one person was called who lives in Wisbech. Given the wide area canvassed, the sample of 1,000 is not representative.”

Many residents also claimed the questions were carefully crafted in order to obtain the desired result.

Rosalind English, of Burnham Overy Staithe, said: “The questions, which masqueraded as being a broad opinion-gathering interrogation about various forms of energy, were carefully calibrated to elicit a positive response.”

Dermott Sales, of Docking, said: “The pollsters, in many cases, did not state they worked for RES and only asked if the person supported renewal energy.

“It seems the whole vote was biased to provide the result the company wanted to achieve and this is typical of tactics used by wind energy companies.”

In response to the claims, RES project manager Simon Peltenburg said everyone polled lived within ten miles of the site.

He also said the poll was designed to ensure the questions complied with the Market Research Society Code of Conduct and that they could not be construed as leading.

He added: “We have been careful to be open about the results of the poll and to publish them in detail and not to use them to make exaggerated claims.”

Mr Peltenburg also said parish polls cannot be considered to be independent as respondents have chosen to take part.

“This naturally draws out more people who are opposed to the scheme to take part in the poll.

“Whereas the Populus methodology ensures that participants are randomly selected, that none of the questions put to them are leading, and that the results are weighted and analysed using statistically robust methods.

“We are very disappointed some members of the local community seem to be unwilling to accept that there are significant numbers of silent supporters of the Jack’s Lane wind farm.”