University experts agree that RES’ proposals to replace wind farm noise condition are seriously flawed.
West Devon Borough Council sought the advice of independent experts to assess the merits of a noise condition imposed upon the Den Brook Wind Farm, but the findings did not fall in favour of the applicants, Renewable Energy Systems Ltd (RES) who propose to build the wind farm in the Den Brook valley between Bow, Spreyton and North Tawton.
RES have now withdrawn their plan to amend the noise condition yet still claim that the condition does not provide a robust means of identifying the presence of amplitude-modulated wind turbine noise.
The noise condition was originally imposed on the nine-turbine wind farm as part of the planning permission upheld by the Court of Appeal, and applies to a particular type of noise called Amplitude Modulation (AM), or “blade swoosh”.
Since the Court of Appeal ruling, RES has spent several months testing the methodology that has been vociferously supported by opponents of the wind farm, the Den Brook Judicial Review Group.
RES say the results of these tests consistently show that the method reports AM noise is present, even at locations where there are no wind turbines.
RES likens this situation to a policeman registering speeding motorists on his speed gun even when there are no cars there.
The company applied to WDBC in April this year in order to vary the noise condition, suggesting a proposal to rectify what it says are “flaws”.
The council appointed ISVR Consulting, University of Southampton, to advise them.
ISVR’s report, however, agrees with RES that one condition, Condition 20, “does not provide a robust means of identifying the presence of amplitude-modulated wind turbine noise”.
It also says that “there is no certainty that the thresholds as set would provide adequate protection to local residents.”
The report also questions the fundamental principles on which the noise condition was originally based, stating that “there is no scientific basis for asserting that a level of AM exceeding the thresholds set in Condition 20 would present a significant or unacceptable noise impact.”
It goes on to criticise the author of the condition, saying that “it cannot be correct that an individual’s personal experience and subjective judgement can provide the only basis for a noise condition” and suggests that a scheme should be developed to overcome the issues presented by Condition 20.
Rachel Ruffle, RES’ development director, commented: “We are very pleased that the report by the University of Southampton has confirmed everything we have said regarding Condition 20.
“On the basis of its findings, we have agreed to withdraw our request to vary Condition 20 and we will now work with ISVR to develop a scheme to overcome the problems inherent in the noise condition.
“We have also approached the Den Brook Judicial Review Group and invited them to take part in developing the scheme that will offer residents a robust means of measuring AM without imposing unnecessary restrictions on the operation of the wind farm.”
RES ACCUSED OF ‘SPINNING THE FACTS’
Meanwhile, a leading spokesperson on behalf of the Den Brook Judicial Review Group (DBJRG), commented: “Corporate wind farm developers RES have once again shifted the goal posts in their bid to remove effective Amplitude Modulation (AM) noise controls from the nine 120 metre-high proposed Den Brook wind turbines.
“When, one might ask, are RES going to realise that such cherry-picking and spinning of the facts simply distorts the truth, alienates their cause and, frankly, isn’t fooling anyone except perhaps themselves?
“For more than two years now, RES have been threatening the Den Brook neighbourhood with fallacious accusations against the hard won noise controls imposed on their 2009 planning permission by a senior Government Planning Inspector.
“Earlier this year, developer RES submitted a further planning application aimed to replace the imposed noise conditions with a complex set of proposals devised by RES’s in-house technical department.
“Close scrutiny of RES’s proposals by a world leading mathematician and acoustics expert advising the DBJRG revealed the proposals to be ‘imprecise, misleading and not capable for accurately assessing the true nature of real-world, excessive AM noise.
“This analysis was further endorsed by consultants ISVR of Southampton University when advising the West Devon Borough Council’s Planning and Environmental Health departments.
“RES seemingly hold the view that neighbours should and must endure substantial increases to the levels of noise impact permitted by the planning permission.
“It is now perfectly clear that RES’s goal is not only to dispossess but deprive the Den Brook neighbourhood of any effective controls for debilitating AM noise impacts,” explained the DBJRG’s spokesperson.
The representative added: “The latest twist in this long-running story is that by withdrawing the application RES side-step having to adequately and properly account for matters that hold fundamental importance for the case.
“RES state that it is now their sole intent just to devise a ‘scheme’ in conjunction with the ISVR aimed purely to override the currently established noise controls.
“Whilst the ISVR consultants are also paid contractors to the wind industry one must hope they are prepared to get to the bottom of the copious pseudo-scientific arguments and trail of smoke and mirrors left by RES.
“Perhaps in light of the detailed analysis that unequivocally exposed the true and quite shocking nature of RES’s proposals we might now get some straight-talking and truths from the developer as this hugely time-consuming and expensive saga proceeds ‘ad nauseam’.”
WORKING GROUP TO BE FORMED
A spokesman for WDBC, said: “A variation to a planning application (00393/2013) was made to West Devon Borough Council by renewable energy company RES in April which sought to amend a condition on their planning permission for Den Brook Wind Farm.
“RES has permission to build nine wind turbines on land close to the villages of North Tawton and Bow.
“The permission has been at the centre of a number of legal challenges. One of the conditions that has resulted from this legal process is that the applicant must protect local residents from excess Amplitude Modulation – a type of noise.
“The council sought the advice of an independent noise consultant ISVR of Southampton University to assess the technical merits of this condition and the view of RES that the condition is technically flawed.
“Based on the findings from Southampton University, the council’s environmental health team was unable to support RES’ application.
“RES has now withdrawn their application to amend the condition.
“The council will now be involved in a working group of noise experts, including RES, to agree a method for measuring Amplitude Modulation in order to protect communities in the area.
“Although these discussions are due to begin soon, the withdrawal of the application does not mean that RES is unable to build the turbines.
“RES has addressed all conditions which are required to start building on the site.”
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