Public opinion

As explained in Opening, STAPLE has taken a selective and focused approach to this Inquiry. We have supported Tendring Council’s case and have avoided duplicating evidence. Thus whilst we are concerned with the impact on landscape, visual amenity and recreational amenity we have offered limited evidence and have adopted and relied on the cross examination and evidence of David Altaras and the witnesses of The inspector highlighted his key issues as follows: ”Whether any harm in terms of the character and appearance of landscape, including cumulative effects, the living conditions of nearby occupiers through, amongst other things, visual impact or noise or disturbance, the ecology of the area, economic impact, aviation interests and any other matters raised is outweighed by any benefits Staple has produced evidence from local people that shows how they cherish and enjoy their surroundings and the landscape in which they live and work. As far as they are concerned this is not an average landscape but one that is valued as an area of open countryside available for recreation on the immediate urban fringe of the The key characteristic of the site is its proximity to high density housing. DH identified that were no operational wind farm clusters of large scale wind turbines this close to dense housing. Whilst a few other schemes have been approved none have yet been built to provide the actual physical evidence of the impact that they will have on the overall residential amenity of local residents. PUBLIC OPINION
Much has been made of the subject of public opinion, not only that 68% of respondents would like their electricity to be derived from renewable sources, viewing wind power as the best form of energy (Allegra poll on behalf of the British Wind Energy Association) but that people living next to wind farms like them (MORI for the Scottish executive). We concur with Mr Altaras that opinion polls are irrelevant when it comes to planning determinations. No application can be determined on the basis of public opinion alone. Notwithstanding this the case for valency put by the Appellant has been based on national opinion polls and in evidence STAPLE has shown that the detail of the MORI poll does not support the conclusion drawn by the Appellant that people living near wind farms find their presence acceptable as would be the case at Earls Hall. In the analysis of the letters sent to the Council in relation to the Earls Hall Wind Farm, STAPLE established that only 11 out of the 1105 letters of support were non- standard letters written by residents of Tendring. Yet 119 out of 157 were in opposition. We know that the opinion of those who will have the greatest experience of living within close proximity of the site, is robustly opposed to the project, since these are the people who have most to lose. STAPLE called a certain number of these local residents to express their views on the Maggie Wild (who lives at Elm Farm, at 760m from the nearest turbine) attested to the "spectacular sunsets, as the sun goes down behind the woods" the view of which would be menaced by the turbines. She is "distraught" at the thought of sleep loss, and the fact that she will be reminded of its cause every day when she opens the Debbie Duke (Gaynes Hall, at 930m) highlighted her experience of lying in bed at night hearing the hooting of owls, the singing of nightingales and the wind rustling through the trees, "pleasant, soothing sounds that you'd expect in the country". She compares this starkly with her experience of staying at a friend's house in Lowestoft, near a 126m high turbine, when she was "awoken not long after dawn, feeling rather unsettled, there was a peculiar mechanical sound ..". She sees the turbines as quite out of place in this area where there are no other structures, man-made or natural, anywhere near approaching their 125m height". She also reminded the Inspector that this development would be out of keeping with the general rural and traditional feel of a gently undulating area, made up largely of agricultural land, ancient woodland Edward and Mary Dean (651 St John's Road, at 975m) alerted the Inspector to the fact that their house and garden currently has undisturbed views onto an agricultural setting. When they built their home in 2001, there were planning requirements that all first floor windows had to face the north. In the event this resulted in all windows facing in this direction, i.e. towards the site of the proposed wind farm. They were keen to point out that their quality of life will be affected both inside and outside the Tracey and Stuart Baker (New House Farm, at 640m) bought a plot of land on which to build their dream home in 2006, before planning permission was submitted for the Earl's Hall wind farm. They stated that they knew nothing of the project before they bought the land, only learning of the proposal when they read about the Public Exhibition when it was advertised in the Clacton Gazette. Once they bought the land they were committed. The whole house is designed to look out on an exceptional panorama, whose make-up will be radically altered by the turbines. The Bakers will not put in trees to screen the view, arguing that to do so would defeat the point of buying a plot in this location. They do intend to grow a small hedge, but this is to be limited to 2-3 feet in height, to act as a perimeter marking and as a barrier to keep their dog secure. The Baker's will have a full view of all five of the turbines. The testimony of local people, as above, is a critical element in determining what BENEFITS
Whilst PPS22 does say that any contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is to be welcomed, it also says that the determination of any specific planning application for renewable energy generation should be based on the assessment of the balance of positive benefits and adverse impacts. In two areas, when quantifying the benefits, the Appellant seems not to err on the side Firstly, in the ES the Appellant uses a capacity factor of 29% for a 2MW turbine, and 31% for a 2.3MW turbine, without any back-up evidence as to why such a high rate is used. The NOABL database run by BERR provides wind speed data for the site suggesting 6.5m/s at 45m. This suggests Earl's Hall Farm is not a windy site (being only 0.1m/s above the cut-off point for site selection, regarded by another developer (Ecotricity)). If we were to assume that this wind farm is more likely to achieve a capacity factor of around 25%, then the 2MW version will supply only 4660 houses with electricity, a smaller number than will experience significant visual impacts, deemed by the Appellant to be at distances up to 4/5km. Secondly, the Appellant in the Environment Statement assumes a saving of 860g of CO2 per kWh, and not the 430g, which represents a more realistic energy mix, used by DTI, Defra, Ofgem and the Carbon Trust (the Sustainable Development Commission recommends 355g). Using the more realistic capacity factor cited above, and applying the industry recognised 430g of CO2 per kWh, leads to an offset of between 9450 and 10830 tonnes of CO2 from this wind farm, a number that is 60% lower than that used in the ES. By inflating the benefits, the Appellant is not providing the decision-makers with the correct information on which to make an informed judgement, as is required when undertaking an Environmental Impact In his Summary Proof of Evidence, the Appellant's planning consultant, Mr Waring concludes: ". if greater landscape harm than Mr Stevenson suggests is identified, which is not accepted, then my professional view is that such harm would be outweighed by the significant wider environmental, economic and social benefits arising from the scheme ." (Para 2.34). When cross-examined on the nature of the economic benefits, Mr Waring conceded that there would be no specific benefits locally, beyond those accruing to the farming families involved in the scheme, and that apart from during the 8-month construction period, no full-time equivalent jobs would be created. He also made it clear that the electricity generated at Earl's Hall Farm would go straight into the National Grid, and would not specifically provide electricity to those living in the local area. So there are no local benefits, yet we have identified a number of adverse impacts, which, on balance, therefore, we do not PROXIMITY
Earl's Hall farm has at its east the urban fringe to the west of Clacton, at its south the ribbon of houses alongside St John's Road, and at its north the substantial settlement of St Osyth Heath (also known as Chisbon Heath). Critically, to the north east of the site is the residential park at Meadowview. It has been agreed that 327 properties lie within 1000m of the site (as measured to the nearest turbine) with 167 within 800m. Of the latter, more than 90% are in Meadowview. It should also be made clear that the provision for housing as identified in the Tendring Local Plan, allows for 399 new homes to be built on land on the corner to the west of Little Clacton Road and to the north of St John's Road. Mr Davey, planning consultant representing the Council has identified a further 250 properties arising from this housing allocation that will be within 1000m of the site, of which 20 within 800m. It is notable that 60 properties are within the separation distance of 700m, used both by developers such as Enertrag as best practice, and a distance considered by the Appellant's landscape consultant to be where the visual impact of the turbines will be "dominant". He extends the description to this, from the language of "relatively prominent" at up to 2km, from the guidelines outlined in PAN45 from 2002, which was modelled on 110m high (to tip) turbines. It is important to highlight that when we refer to proximity, we have in mind not just the visual and recreational aspects of residential amenity but also that of noise, flicker Mr Stevenson has repeatedly said that the Earl's Hall wind farm does not break any new ground, in terms of the positioning of wind farms in the UK, and their proximity to housing. STAPLE begs to differ, and continues to maintain that no operational cluster (i.e. 3 or more) of large-scale (i.e. 1.3MW or more) wind turbines, yet exists in the UK this close to dense housing. We accept that there are "schemes" (i.e. consented projects) that exist, but until they are operational there is no evidence that in such schemes residential amenity will be adequately protected. The Appellant has made much of two cases: firstly, Lindhurst, a 5 turbine project at the southern edge of Mansfield and bordering the west of Rainworth. However, this is not yet operational. Furthermore, it may well have been approved (8-3) by the Members of the local Council, but its potential adverse impacts have not come under the same scrutiny as if they were the subject of an Appeal hearing, and the context in which it was approved needs to be understood. Secondly, we were surprised that the Appellant referred to the Blyth Harbour project. Presumably it was selected because the residents of this town in the North East apparently already have experience of living very close to turbines. The simple fact is that this is a "replacement" wind farm scheme, on a spit of land jutting into the sea, in the urban setting of Blyth, certainly very close to housing, but where the old turbines will be dwarfed by their replacements (125m or 410ft (+ one at 163m, or 535ft) given that currently they measure only 42.5m, or 140ft. Most of them will be almost three times bigger. Again, the replacement turbines are still a scheme (albeit consented) so it is impossible to judge a priori how the population will react to them when they start operating. MEADOWVIEW
Meadowview Residential Park represents the most significant concentration of residents living close to the wind farm. It contains over 90% of the dwellings within 800m of the nearest turbine and the nearest homes will be only just over 600m away. This is well within the 700/800m minimum separation distance that is used by a number of other wind farm developers. As a residential park of older mobile homes the residents will be potentially more susceptible to noise and vibration from MK in her evidence showed that a significant proportion of the homes in Meadowview will see a number of the blades appearing and disappearing disconcertingly over the tops of Hartley Wood from their windows and all will experience the visual impact as they walk or travel around the site and from the Mr Sharlott in his evidence identified that the residents living in a park such as Meadowview are attracted to a lifestyle of peace and quiet amongst like-minded individuals. Such parks cater for retired people who want to enjoy their later years away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The inevitable older demographic profile of Meadowview will mean that this is a community that will be more susceptible to the adverse impacts of the wind farm, through noise and visual intrusion, than the general population as a whole. Being mainly retired they will also spend a greater proportion of their time at home and in The lack of apparent concern from the residents was explained by Mr Sharlott as resulting from the tight management control of such parks. In addition to the impact on overall residential amenity DH produced evidence from High Moor Park Farm, a holiday caravan park, close to the Knabs Ridge wind farm of the potential economic impact on Meadowview which has not been assessed with the Appellant’s case. The late production, the day before evidence was heard, of a rebuttal proof by Dr. McKenzie changing significantly all the data points within the noise impact assessment did not help STAPLE in presenting its case and, resulting as it did from a simple error in the calculations, was not only extremely unfortunate but also With such a density of housing in the immediate surrounds of the wind farm it is critical that accurate background noise measurements are taken in order that the residential amenity of residents are protected through the initial analysis and future STAPLE contends that for Meadowview, the most critical location in terms of the potential number of people affected, an unrepresentative location, namely Grove House, was selected instead of a site on or close to the park itself. The reasons provided for why no suitable site on Meadowview could be found did not stack up to scrutiny and, although Dr McKenzie did not admit this under Xexamination, the Inspector was invited to view the two sites and form his own view. With the A133 a significant source of background noise in this area and Grove House being some 300m closer to this main traffic artery than Meadowview, the noise environment at Grove House cannot be considered to be representative of Meadowview and will potentially lead to higher background noise levels being attributed to Meadowview than will actually exist in practice. This will reflect through into the noise limits used in the noise conditions, the main recourse of local residents to alleviate any problem arising after the wind farm becomes operational. Dr McKenzie in his rebuttal proof in charts 7.13/7.14 analysed the background noise at Grove House filtered by wind direction. He used these charts to argue that this showed that the worst case scenario from the south west was no worse than the overall situation. However his analysis used a filter from 135-315 degrees rather than the much tighter circa 45 degree sector from the south west that represents the direct STAPLE also contends that the noise data was compromised by the failure of the rain gauge which resulted in eight whole days of data being removed because of an inability to identify in which specific ten minute period any rain fell. To provide more robust data the measurement period should have been extended to compensate for the days lost. Dr McKenzie in Xexamination agreed that no other atypical noise data had The night time data was shown in STAPLE’s supplementary proof to display very different noise levels between the early night period and early morning, with a significant surge in noise levels before 4am (using the corrected data). STAPLE argues that this is too early to be accounted for by a dawn chorus and no other explanation was forthcoming. The averaging effect of the ETSU methodology will mean that at a time when residents will be sleeping or trying to go to sleep, the background noise level will be significantly below the average and their residential Jane Davis highlighted the effects on health that can occur as a result of living 930m from a wind farm with smaller sized turbines and identified the issues of amplitude modulation, vibration, effects of differing atmospheric conditions within the overall 90m height of the blade diameter and low frequency noise which are not completely accounted for within the ETSU methodology. The variable factors that are specific to each wind farm means that there is no way of predicting exactly the actual noise output until the wind farm actually starts operating and with so many houses so close a comprehensive and representative noise impact assessment is crucial. STAPLE argues that, particularly in the case of Meadowview, the evidence produced by Dr McKenzie cannot satisfy the Inspector that there is not an unacceptable risk of significant adverse impact on residential amenity through SHADOW FLICKER
During the cross examination of Mr Harrington, Mr Hardy stated that a proactive condition had already been tabled and Mr Harrington agreed that would satisfy STAPLE's concerns on shadow flicker. Previously in the ES, all that the Appellant had been proposing was the provision of blinds and screening to affected properties. A proactive condition would be one whereby if required the Appellant would shut down the relevant turbine(s) when shadow flicker occurs. CONCLUSION
This wind farm has been sited in a district that, according to Mr Davey’s evidence, the most recent criteria based analysis of the East region’s onshore wind potential assesses as having zero potential. This reflected in the fact that this scheme has been squeezed into a site with the nearest property only 535m away and with 327 homes within 1000m. This density of population so close significantly increases the potential adverse impact on residential amenity in addition to the normal adverse effects any wind farm with 125m turbines will have on landscape character visual amenity and recreational amenity which have been covered by Mrs Kemp’s evidence and which The evidence of our ‘local’ experts shows the scale of the residential impact, with the experience of the Baker family building their dream home particularly relevant, and the value local people place on this open piece of countryside which offers them the chance to escape conveniently from the urban surroundings. This wind farm will compromise this urban fringe and extend modern industrial development into Staple has highlighted the sensitivity of Meadowview as the largest affected settlement, albeit a residential mobile home park, with an elderly population and dwellings that are less substantial than normal houses. The lack of representative background noise measurements increases the threat posed to these residents. The harmful effects of this proposal would be felt for a generation. The need for renewable energy sources is pressing but with the area already harvesting massive amounts of wind energy through the Gunfleet Sands offshore wind farm this area is already doing its bit. It is not government policy that all schemes are to be permitted, at any environmental or social cost. In this case the evidence has clearly demonstrated that the appeal site is in an “inappropriate location” for a scheme of this size and The inspector is respectfully requested to dismiss the appeal.


Gosman and civil aviation safety authority [2013] aata 48 (31 january 2013)

Gosman and Civil Aviation Safety Authority [2013] AATA 48 (31 Janua. [Home] [Databases] [WorldLII] [Search] [Feedback] Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia You are here: AustLII >> Databases >> Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia >> 2013 >> [2013] AATA 48 [Database

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