Saturday, October 09, 2010

Separation distances between wind turbines and affected residences

I have submitted the following motion to be debated by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council at the Wednesday 13th October 2010 full Council meeting.

"That this Council

1) asks the Secretary of State to give urgent consideration to reviewing the government’s planning guidance on renewable energy as clarification is needed on national minimum distances between wind turbines and affected residences taking into account the size of the turbine

2) then undertakes a review of its ’Interim Planning Document on Renewable Energy’, which could include minimum distance criteria between wind turbines and sensitive land uses such as residential dwellings, rights of way and roads.”

The motion was approved by the Council with only the 3 Labour Councillors voting against!

At almost exactly the same time the Goverment Policy for onshore wind turbines was being discussed by MPs and the Minister at Westminster, a recording of which can be seen here

The following is the speech I gave to support the motion:

The East Riding is already carrying more than its fair share of the country’s EU and National renewable energy targets in those applications that have been approved. The capacity of the East Riding to accept more wind farms is perhaps open to question – BUT what is clear is that particular areas will be saturated, and when all those already approved are built would be in effect windfarm landscapes. Herein lies the problem – many wind farms have planning consent, but apart from Lisset none are yet built.

Over the last 3½ years the Council Planning Committee has considered windfarm application after windfarm application – some have been approved, some have been refused – and of those that have been refused and appealed - all have been approved by a planning inspector.

When looking at the applications the Planning Committee has approved – each has been in a location away from properties… These include the Twin Rivers site, the Goole Fields site, Sancton, and the site near Burton Pidsea….

If one looks at the windfarms that have been approved, either by the Planning Committee or the Planning inspector it is clear that the physical size of the turbines is generally increasing, but worryingly we are seeing more turbines planned to be built ever closer to properties.

The Goole Fields application saw no properties within 750m and only 3 properties within 1,000m

The Sixpennywood application saw 2 properties within 750 and a further 3 within 1,000m

Withernwick then saw 5 properties within 1,000m

Monkwith saw 1 property within 750m and 12 within 1,000m

Then came the Spaldington applications…. of all the windfarm applications we’ve considered - I can’t recall anywhere seeing a proposal for so many properties within 1000m of 126m high turbines … 33 in this case… and worse still out of the 33 – 8 are within 750m - which is unbelievable. Also the centre of the village is only 1,000m away from the nearest turbine.

This is the background to this motion….

An adequate separation distance between wind turbines and properties is important for a number of reasons, with visual impact and noise being the main concerns.

Visual impact is quite easy to determine, imagine living within less than 750m of the Lissett windfarm to get a flavour of the overpowering nature of 125m high wind turbines. Imagine having to live with the constant movement…

Noise is much, much more complex.

The starting point for noise impact is the 1997 ETSU Guidance, which is based on average background noise levels at residences likely to be affected by wind turbines. This is open to abuse by windfarm developers as it based on average background noise levels, which can be affected by a number of factors. I have real issues with, and serious concerns over the way the background noise data has been gathered by some applicants - particularly the locations chosen for noise measurements and the so called farming activities that have taken place around the equipment during the period of measurement – including the running corn dryers or constantly working the land in the vicinity of the noise measuring equipment – thereby giving a higher than normal reading.

Then planning conditions are applied to limit the noise of the wind turbines to be less than say 5db above background noise levels – so if the background noise level is inflated the noise from the turbines can be somewhat greater, allowing for the larger turbines to operate at a fuller capacity.

It is acknowledged by many that this 1997 government guidance is outdated and flawed – after all it was put in place a long time before we as a Council were looking at these massive 2 and 3 MW, 126m high turbines.

This can be addressed very easily by ensuring that there is a minimum separation distance between a wind turbine and a property, as the noise diminishes with distance.

The second part of the motion adds a localised dimension to address separation distances, not only between wind turbines and residences, but also roads and rights of way. I have included roads because the skid marks on the road, observing the traffic travelling on the A165 between Beeford and Lissett, and talking to others, shows that drivers are distracted by the closeness of one of turbines to the road. The lesson from this does not appear to have been learnt as we saw a 126m high turbine proposed to be located with 60m of a highway as part of the Spaldington Common application – so much for fall over distances!

The response of the Secretary of State to the first part of the motion will determine how the second part is addressed. No one is exactly sure what the Government’s Localism Bill will contain when it comes to local decision-making regarding planning applications. But what is certain, the Council will need a policy on renewable energy that is fit for purpose.

This is not about preventing wind farms, it is about making sure turbines are located in areas that cause least problems for residents… it is about stopping our East Riding villages and hamlets being swamped by huge wind turbines being built unacceptably close.


Kev Owen said...

Now don't get me wrong here Paul, but isn't your motion rather like closing the stable door once the horse has bolted?

What do you expect from that motion should it ever actually be levelled at those worthies responsible for such things in Central Government?

Do you (or the constituents that probably prompted it) actually imagine that they're going to rip up the thousands of wind turbines already in-situ up and down the country and increase the distances between units?
Or, are you perhaps hoping that they'll demand a larger 'planting distance' for all future wind farms?
A lot of questions I know, and if it comes down to your intention being the latter question in my list, I would expect Governmental action to be taken sometime after all the outstanding requests for planning have been dealt with so as to not frighten away potential revenue. But that's just the cynic in me...

Wendy McKay said...

Thank you, Paul for raising these issues. The suffering of those who live near wind farms such as Lissett, and Jane Davis who was forced to leave her farmhouse and rent another property in order to be able to sleep without being disturbed by the noise from the turbines which were 970m from her farm shows that current planning regulations are not adequate.
At Spaldington we have endured over a year of fear and worry at the prospect of turbines less than 600m from our homes, with most of the houses in the village Main Street within 1000m of the wind farms.
Anything which can be done to establish set back distances for turbines from properties of at least 1 mile (as recommended by the UK Noise Association) or 2km (1¼ miles) as in planning guidance in Scotland would ensure that other communities do not have to go through the stress and anxiety that we have suffered. It is also essential that the minimum distance criteria are mandatory and not just guidelines which can be ignored or bypassed by the wind farm companies.

Bill said...

Scotland appears to have provided protection for it's residents:
"The 2km separation distance is intended to recognise that, in relation to local communities, visual impacts are likely to be a prominent feature and this should be taken into account when identifying the most suitable search areas. However, impacts will clearly vary considerably depending on the scale of projects and the proposed location. That is why SPP6 confirms that, in all instances, proposals should not be permitted if they would have a significant long term detrimental impact on the amenity of people living nearby. This principle applies to houses within and outwith 2km of the proposed development and regardless of whether they are single dwellings or part of a settlement."