A couple who say they were driven out of their family farm by the “nightmare” hum of wind turbines have mounted a ground-breaking £2.5 million compensation bid in London’s High Court.
Jane and Julian Davis, moved out of Grays Farm, Deeping St Nicholas, near Spalding, Lincs, four years ago because of the strain of living with the incessant noise.
And now they are taking on a local windfarm and other defendants in a pioneering case which will test the law on whether the sound created by the turbines amounts to a noise nuisance.
Mrs Davis, whose husband’s family cultivated Grays Farm for over 20 years before they were uprooted by the noise, said it had been a “nightmare living there”, and that they had no option but to leave.
Speaking before today’s High Court hearing, she added: “The noise is unpredictable and mainly occurs at night, you can never get to bed with the assurance that you will stay asleep.
“It’s incredibly unpredictable.”
In a bid to recreate the effect, she mimicked a sound she said was “something between a whirr and a hum”, adding that it was the peculiar, insidious “character” of the noise which made it so unsettling.
“You can’t even have a barbeque,” she said.
The couple are suing local landowners – RC Tinsley Ltd and Nicholas Watts, on whose land some of the turbines have been sited – as well as Fenland Windfarms Ltd and Fenland Green Power Cooperative Ltd, who own and operate the turbines.
Their lawyers are seeking either a permanent injunction to shut down the turbines or damages of up to £2.5 million to compensate the couple for the disruptive effects on their lives.
They have not returned to their home since 2007, and are now living in Spalding.
Mrs Davis said before the hearing she had no quarrel with the appearance of the turbines – only with the unsettling effects of the noise.
“We want them to stop the noise so we can move back in,” she said, adding: “We want them to recognise that the noise is a nuisance so we can go back and get some rest and sleep like we did five years ago. ”
The couple’s QC, Peter Harrison, said that, for his clients, windfarms “have emphatically not been the source of trouble-free, green and renewable energy which the firms promoting and profiting from wind energy would have the general public believe”.
The Davis’ had, instead, faced an operator which “has refused to acknowledge the noise their turbines make and the effect that that has had on the lives of these claimants”.
“Their lives have been wholly disrupted by that noise”, he told the court, also alleging that the main operator had tried to “impose a code of silence on those examining or recording the noise that these turbines in this location have caused”.
They had, he claimed, tried to “attack the credibility and reasonableness of the claimants rather than examine what they were actually being told”.
“From the defendants’ witness statements, and the material they wish to put before the court, it seems that those attempts to undermine the claimants, to say they are over-sensitive, that they are exaggerating and over-reacting, will continue during the trial,” the barrister added.
He claimed the defendants had been irked by Mrs Davis’ eagerness to “speak publicly about her experiences” and that she was being attacked for simply refusing to “put up with the noise”.
“To not quietly accept your fate, it appears, is the ultimate provocation,” he said.
The QC said the case was not a test of the Governement’s Green policies, but concerned the Davis’ wish to “get on with their lives and get back into their house”.
Although the case will hinge on technical arguments about measuring the “Amplitude Modulation” (AM) given off by the turbines, there are also vexed issues about the extent to which the defendants were given a fair opportunity to monitor the noise levels.
The hearing before Mr Justice Hickinbottom continues.