A wind farm developer has been banned from handing out leaflets claiming that turbines could increase the value of nearby houses.
West Coast Energy, which is hoping to build a wind farm in the Scottish Borders, used research from seven years ago and a study from the US to reassure homeowners.
The leaflets were produced by trade association Renewable UK but distributed by the developer.
But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled they are ‘misleading’ and lacking in evidence.
A recent report by the London School of Economics found that turbines knock 11 per cent off house prices – or £27,000 from the average UK property value of £250,000.
The ASA ruling was met with delight by Celia Hobbs, of Penicuik Environment Protection Association, who had complained to the advertising watchdog.
Mrs Hobbs, 68, said: ‘It is plain common sense that one would not pay the same price for a house within view of a 100- metre whirling turbine than an identical house without such a view.
‘In the UK, people affected by noise, shadow flicker and loss of visual amenity are called “nimbies” and made to look selfish to complain when often their only asset is devalued – a tragedy if they are unable to sell and escape the turbines.’
The leaflet, titled Seven Common Questions About Wind Farms, was handed out during an exhibition about 11-turbine Hag Law wind farm, which would be built near Romanno Bridge, Peeblesshire.
It states: ‘A 2007 survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) on the potential impact of wind farms on house prices concluded that “proximity to a wind farm simply was not an issue”.’ However, the ASA found the research, based on data from 2000 onwards, looked at only three locations, too few to be statistically significant.
RICS head of UK policy Jeremy Blackburn, writing to Energy Secretary Ed Davey, had himself warned: ‘Caution should be exercised when extrapolating any findings from the research conducted in 2007 and applying them to the marketplace today.’
The leaflet also references a US study, which found no evidence to suggest wind turbines within a five-mile radius of a house had any negative impact on its price.
In fact, it says, property values even rose above the area average, ‘suggesting that wind turbines actually had a positive effect on value’.
ASA said there was no evidence that these findings in America applied in the UK in 2013.
Renewable UK withdrew the leaflet after a complaint to the ASA in 2012.
As a not-for-profit organisation, the trade body is not within the ASA’s jurisdiction but recently opted to remove the leaflet from its website.
Robert Norris, of Renewable UK, said: ‘Last summer, the ASA upheld a complaint against an anti- renewable energy group which had claimed that wind farms affect house prices, saying their claim “had not been substantiated and was misleading”.
‘The most recent academic study in the UK, by the Royal Society of Chartered Surveyors, said “There’s no definitive answer to this question”.’
A spokesman for West Coast Energy said: ‘This was a simple mistake of utilising old leaflets for display purposes at one public consultation event.
‘The leaflets have now been destroyed. We have acknowledged this error and accepted the adjudication of the ASA.’
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