A Ross-shire MSP has called for noise restrictions on wind turbines in the Highlands to be relaxed – and claimed “a cackling chicken” can breach the rules.
The remarks came this week as the local authority prepares to debate a new planning blueprint for future developments.
SNP politician Rob Gibson, MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, called on Highland Council to ease the noise rules on turbines and claims they are stopping a number of his constituents who want to erect domestic turbines because they are found to breach noise regulations.
The MSP said the noise from turbines should be put into context with other background everyday noise like traffic and animals.
He said the issue had been brought into focus by a letter received from a constituent in Caithness who is seeking to build a turbine near his home and had recorded a chicken breaching the regulations.
The man was told the turbine would be too loud so used a machine to measure background noise levels.
“He lives near Thurso and was asked to put the noise machine in different places a certain number of metres from the building,” said Mr Gibson. “He is several hundred yards from new houses.
“A hen just came out cackling after laying an egg and it made 49 decibels which breached the limit.” Mr Gibson said the regulation breaking sound of the hen demonstrated the need for planning officers to take “a rational approach” when considering noise issues.
Solitary turbines providing energy for Highland residents, businesses and organisations are becoming increasingly popular and four separate proposals were to be considered by the council’s new North planning applications committee in Inverness this week.
There are no national noise restrictions for domestic turbines. The council goes by industry standards that domestic turbines cannot exceed 40 decibels for 90 per cent of the wind speed time, which was the limit advised by RenewableUK the trade body for wind and marine industries.
Applicants are invited to supply a background noise assessment in support of their plans although it must be measured over a set period of time.
The MSP added the council should also consider the sparsely populated landscape in the region when revising the noise guidelines for wind farms which are subject to national guidance established by the UK government. “There has got to be appropriateness with the kind of landscape you have,” said Mr Gibson.
Mr Gibson’s call comes as the council’s draft Onshore Wind Energy Supplementary Guidance – the planning blueprint for wind farm and turbine development in the Highlands – is to be debated by the planning, environment and development committee in Inverness in March before a public consultation.
Committee chairman Councillor Ian Ross said it recognised concerns over smaller wind turbine developments but there was no national guidance.
“We are therefore drafting supplementary guidance for this type of development,” he said. “There have been particularly concerns over the noise levels associated with smaller wind turbines and this can vary with different manufacturers. The council has approved a number of smaller and single turbine applications and where there has been a refusal, the approach we have taken to date has at times been tested and supported through the independent appeals process.”
Councillor Ross (East Sutherland and Edderton) said Mr Gibson was an “active champion” of wind farm and turbine developments and welcomed discussions with him on the subject
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