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Turbine firm under fire for change of plans

Noise restrictions imposed on a controversial and yet-to-be-built wind farm – then approved by a planning inspector and unchanged by the High Court – are to be re-considered by planners.

Permission has already been granted for nine turbines in the Den Brook Valley, near Crediton, but the facility remains on the drawing board due to concerns over noise pollution.

Developers Renewable Energy Systems (RES) have now applied to West Devon Borough Council to vary the conditions.

Mike Hulme, a long-time opponent of the proposal, says RES are “clutching at straws” and is concerned that the council is not qualified to rule on such a complicated issue.

RES says its recent tests show that the condition was “not working properly”, claiming the noise from “blade swoosh” can be detected even in areas with no turbines.

In 2010, Mr Hulme, a leading member of the Den Brook Judicial Review Group, failed to overturn the decision of the Communities and Local Government Secretary to grant permission for the wind farm, consisting of nine 120m (393ft) high turbines, on land near the villages of North Tawton and Bow.

But, Mr Hulme, whose home is less than a mile away from the closest proposed turbine, did succeed in having the consent made subject to certain conditions to control potential noise pollution.

The condition relates to the level of noise during different atmospheric conditions at night, caused when the blades rotate through varying wind speeds, so-called “wind shear”.

Mr Hume says any decision by councillors to amend the “unique” condition would “fly directly in the face” of the decision by three Law Lords.

He added: “It must be remembered that a top Government planning inspector deemed the current noise controls essential for reaching his decision to finally approve the huge industrial scale wind development more than three years ago.

“RES are applying to change something which has been ruled on by the High Court, the second highest court in the land.” The dispute centres on the phenomena known as amplitude modulation (AM), a rhythmic “swooshing” and “thumping” noise which campaigners claim can ruin the lives of those living nearby wind farms.

Since the Court of Appeal ruling, RES says it has spent several months monitoring background noise levels at other rural wind farm sites and running the data through the parameters set by the High Court.

The company says the results of these tests consistently show that excess AM, as defined by the current condition, is present even at locations where there are no wind turbines.

Dan Leahy, RES project manager, said: “We were very concerned when we discovered that the noise condition wasn’t working properly.

“Working with a number of noise experts, we believe we have pinpointed the problem and we know how to fix it. However, we have to follow due process and ask the council’s permission to vary the condition, which is why we have lodged this application.”