The Government is investigating whether the alleged blight of huge wind turbines in rural areas depresses prices of properties in their shadow.
Anti-turbine campaigners yesterday welcomed the review against protestations the “green” technology has no bearing on the housing market despite “common sense” suggesting they have a negative effect.
The march of towering turbines in rural Cornwall, Devon and Somerset is one of the most contentious issues in the region. More than 100 of the generation of giant turbines cover the area.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has brought in consultants Frontier Economics to establish the loss to house prices caused by onshore wind. Studies to date on the link have been limited in scope.
Bob Barfoot, chairman of the North Devon branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said: “Common sense dictates that wind turbines do affect house prices, despite what has been said for years by the Government and industry.
“If you have the choice of two houses that are the same – one with a huge wind turbine in view, one without – what are you going to go for?
“But we need the facts. House prices have fluctuated. They are rising now but they have been falling. So it’s hard to say whether a house is getting less than its asking price because of wind turbines or house price depression.”
Peter Symons, a partner in Stags, one of the region’s largest estate agencies, said house prices could be hit by as much as 20% if a development was especially unsightly – but that was more likely to be a power station or prison.
He said: “We have for some time been faced with prices being reduced because of physical factors, be it a school or a pylon or a prison.
“And a wind turbine singular, or wind farm plural, or solar PV, all these things come into play. But the affect on prices depends in every single different circumstance.
“Before it happens people think it will be a disaster, but when the thing is built it is often not so bad.”
The work is part of a wider study into how renewables impact on the countryside and the rural economy.
The report is a joint project between Mr Paterson’s Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Energy and Climate Change (Decc).
A Defra spokesman said: “It is our role to rural-proof policy. We need to ensure that energy is generated in a way that is sustainable. Sustainability includes the economic as well as social and environmental impacts.”
A House of Commons research paper last year said academic studies that examined whether wind farms actually reduce house prices were “not at all agreed”.
In 2007, Oxford Brookes University looked at properties in Cornwall and commented that “the ‘threat’ of a wind farm may have a more significant impact than the actual presence of one”.
Surveys commissioned by National Wind Power, now npower Renewables, found around three in four residents close two wind developments reported “no effect”.
But another study analysed 201 sales transactions from houses situated within half-a-mile of a 16-turbine wind farm in Cornwall, and indicated less benign conditions.
It found “some evidence” to suggest that both noise and flicker from the turbine blades “could blight certain property and that the view of countryside enjoyed by the occupier had some value which may be affected by a wind farm”.
Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey has played down reports of a row with his Conservative Cabinet colleague in a letter to the Daily Telegraph.
He said: “My department is not blocking a Defra report on the impact of wind farms. The Government is committed to moving to a secure, affordable, low carbon energy system, without excessively relying on any single technology. So, this cross-government study will look at maximising the benefits and minimising the negative impacts of all technologies, including shale gas and nuclear.”