WATFORD – The battle over the Zephyr Wind project near Watford is over.
The group appealing the four industrial wind turbines has withdrawn its appeal of the project.
The Middlesex Lambton Wind Concern group launched the appeal to the Environmental Review Tribunal of project between Churchill Line and LaSalle Road. It was prepared to start the hearing at the Brooke Alvinston Community Center but withdrew the appeal after a legal pre-hearing setback.
Eric Gillespie, the lawyer representing the group, says the tribunal asked for medical history from the witnesses who would testify to being affected by the turbines, something Gillespie was willing to do. He says the tribunal wanted to see the records of 23 witnesses who were to testify of the health affects of wind turbines. And it wanted the records for the last ten years.
But he says compiling the information would take time. Gillespie asked for an adjournment, but the tribunal gave him six days to come up with the information.
“That’s just not doable,” says Esther Wrightman, one of the people who started the appeal.
“If we were even to try to do it, it would be a very shoddy job and if you’re going to do it, you have to do it right.
“What they asked was very unreasonable. We could get the information but we would need an adjournment to do that.”
Gillespie says the clock was also ticking on the length of the appeal. The Environmental Review Tribunal gives just six months for each appeal from start to a final decision. “That time started to run back in November so it will expire in May. When we sat down and just looked at the math, as they say, there simply was not going to be enough time to go and get the material …within that six month timeframe.”
So the group made the difficult decision to withdraw the appeal, which means the project will move ahead. Wrightman says it is disappointing.
“An appeal cost tens of thousands of dollars to do; it’s not something the average person can do…it’s disappointing because we did try. We put everything into it but the ERT asks too much of the average person trying to appeal it,” says Wrightman. “To ask for medical records of 23 people from the past ten years in the next six days … you can’t do that.”
And she feels bad for the people who live beside the new industrial wind farm.
“You know the people around it (the wind turbine site). You know there is a high likelihood they’re going to be affected and this is the only opportunity to voice opposition on these projects is through the appeal,” she says.
Wrightman says trying to stop the project has been an eye-opening experience. “It does have that David and Goliath feeling to it. Even though you’re trying your best and you’re putting everything into it; on your last round, the last leg of you’re race, you get tripped…I hope that people don’t get completely discouraged by that. I hope they continue.”
Gillespie says the work done on the Zephyr appeal will not be lost. He says future appeals will use this experienced to be more prepared.
And he says the ruling is important for people who may soon find wind turbines in their backyards. “It would certainly make sense for anyone who hasn’t had a checkup recently to get into the doctor so there is a record of their current state of health.”
Gillespie says documenting health before the wind turbines arrived may not only prove the turbines are the cause of any ailments, it may set neighbours up for civil suits against wind development companies. “We’re already acting for people that have brought claims with exactly that scenario; they were fine, the wind turbines came and now they’re not fine,” he says.
Wrightman says the Middlesex Lambton Wind Concern group will be watching as other local projects are approved and may file appeals in other areas.
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