Action must be taken to reduce noise levels at Fullabrook wind farm after North Devon Council announced the site was still breaching planning requirements.
In a long-awaited report released today, it was revealed the site had breached noise restrictions at seven out of eight monitoring locations.
The investigation was carried out between May 2013 and August 2014, and came after a number of changes were made to the mechanical workings of the turbines following previous breaches of the conditions.
After news of the most recent failure, the council’s chief executive Mike Mansell contacted the managing director of the wind farm’s operators, ESB International, calling for action to be taken.
Jeremy Mann, head of environmental health and housing at North Devon Council, said in the letter Mr Mansell gave ESB a deadline of December 19 to detail how they will combat the issue.
He said: “The council had serious concerns about the noise levels during the planning process, and yet we have been left to be the regulator of it. That’s the position that we are in and we have to do our absolute upmost to secure the best for the community.”
Mr Mann added that a number of measures could be taken by ESB to tackle the issue, from attempting to once again tackle the mechanics of the turbines to implementing various restrictions during certain weather conditions.
However, he said there was no “quick fix” for the problems faced by nearby residents.
“To have a situation where just over 30 households are complaining is a significant concern,” Mr Mann said. “We don’t have another job where we have that level of community concern.
“However, we have a degree of confidence. In our previous engagement with ESB International there has been a completely open book arrangement regarding the monitoring. We are hoping this will continue.”
Andrew Millie, regulatory services manager at North Devon Council, added: “It’s to be hoped that they will respond and it’s to be hoped that they will do so in a positive way. The alternative is that we go down the regulatory route.
“If we go down that route and it was to go to a court this authority would have to demonstrate that it has been fair and reasonable in the process.
“Clearly there comes a point where people will say how much more time are we going to give them but this is a massive project and the solutions don’t come overnight.”
Alongside Andy Cole, environmental protection lead officer, the group explained that the main issues surrounding the noise generated by the turbines related to their “tonal noise”.
Mr Cole explained that this produced a “constant low frequency hum”, which had lead to a number of complaints from nearby residents.
Responding to the latest report, a spokesman for ESB International said: “The report reveals that further noise mitigation measures are required at some locations and consequently a noise mitigation strategy has been developed and ESB intend to implement this strategy within the next month subject to verification and agreement with NDC.
“ESB acknowledge that this process has taken longer than at first anticipated but it was important to us that the process was thorough and robust so that the resulting noise mitigation strategy will address the issue.
“We note that a letter is issuing from North Devon Council and we will respond as appropriate. ESB is committed to bringing this matter to a conclusion and appreciate the cooperation and patience of residents in the vicinity of Fullabrook Windfarm.”
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