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Turbine noise limit raised to realistic levels

Permitted noise levels near the site of a controversial wind turbine have been increased – because the original restrictions were impossible to adhere to.

The turbine – currently out of action due to a fault – on the edge of Double Arches Quarry in Heath and Reach has had a “successful” first year since it started turning in December 2014, according to Arnold White Estates (AWE).

AWE told a meeting of Central Beds Council’s development control committee that no noise-related complaints had been received to date.

The company said the planning application to amend noise limits at nearby properties Mileway House, Checkley Wood Bungalow and Sandhouse Cottages was to “address an ambiguity in a planning condition”.

The condition stated that the noise should not exceed 35dB at all times, but Ian Foll, operations director of Arnold White Estates, explained that even prior to the turbine being erected the background noise from the A5 and quarry were already above that level.

“It there was a complaint it would be a very difficult complaint to ever prove,” said Mr Foll.

He added: “The turbine has never been reduced in its output because of a noise issue. It has been switched off because of shadow flicker, but not noise.”

AWE say the new levels would be variable to address changes to background noise at different times of day.

The changes – which were voted through 12-0 by councillors with one abstention – mean that daytime levels can now be either ‘background noise + 5dB’ or ‘35dB’ – whichever is higher.

At night, when residents would be inside their properties, the limit is higher at ‘43dB’ or ‘background noise +5dB’ – whichever is bigger.

The occupants of Kingsway Bungalow wrote to object to the application.

They said: “Since the turbine has been running, apart from the ugly site, it has not been too much of a nuisance. However, there have been occasions when the wind has been in a certain direction when the noise of the turning blades does cause a very noticeable thump thump sound.

“This is always at night when the ambient noise has been at its lowest. It appears to be when the wind is coming from the north west and the turbine has rotated so that the blades are nearest to Kingsway Bungalow. Bearing this in mind, the amendment to the condition which would allow a greater noise level is strongly objected to.”

Another submitted comment was: “Freeview digital television and radio reception is appalling. Pixelation and audio disruption make viewing impossible. The turbine needs be shut down until such time the electromagnetic noise is eliminated.”

Councillor Sue Clark said: “There is a complaint from Kingsway Bungalow. While it may not be a formal complaint it does seem to me that they are suffering from a noise which the resident is finding disturbing.”

The meeting heard that Government guidelines were not designed to make turbines inaudible, but to offer a level of protection.

AWE confirmed that noise monitoring hadn’t taken place at Kingsway Bungalow because Manor Farm and Mileway House were nearer.

Ward Councillor Mark Versallion said he had been impressed with the extent AWE had engaged with the community.

He said: “This is a controversial structure and not everyone in the community is wholly happy with it.

“AWE have done a good job in engaging with everyone since it was commissioned over the TV reception issues.

“Quite often developers do not go to that extent to please as many people that might be pleased. I still have constituents who are very unhappy with the existence of the turbine.

“The community, I believe, have adjusted to the turbine as much as they ever will be.”

Reacting to the turbine industry accepting that Amplitude Modulation – believe to be behind the “thumping” at Kingsway Bungalow – was now a recognised noise issue since the Heath and Reach approval, Councillor Versallion added: “I am sensing a lack of clarity , the regulations have changed, the goalposts have moved. There is some concern that we don’t inadvertently exacerbate the noise levels.”

The committee resolved to ask the council’s Public Protection department to investigate the situation at Kingsway Bungalow.