Protest victory in turbine battle

Robert Sutcliffe

A PLANNING inspector has rejected an appeal over a controversial planning application for a wind turbine which if built would have been one of the largest in Britain.

Princes Soft Drinks had applied to build a massive Enercon E70 wind turbine at its factory in Toftshaw Lane, Bradford. The 2m turbine would have a hub height of 85 metres and a maximum height of 120 metres to blade tip.

Many residents were opposed to the proposals, and more than 1,800 letters of objection along with two petitions were handed in to Bradford Council.

The council says that to support its application the company appointed acoustic consultant Maslen Environmental Ltd to assess potential noise impact.

Maslen’s report predicted that noise levels experienced by nearby residents, both at night and during the day, would be lower than the limits imposed by ETSU-R-97, the British Government’s only recognised wind turbine noise assessment guide.

But investigating Bradford Council environmental health officer Brian Fairclough used several other noise level methodologies when he visited a similar turbine in Norfolk.

Using World Health Organisation and British Standard guidelines and codes of practice, he came to the conclusion that the Princes Soft Drinks turbine would cause a noise nuisance for nearby residents.

Following Mr Fairclough’s recommendation, Bradford Council’s planning service refused permission for the turbine.

Princes Soft Drinks appealed against the decision on the grounds that ETSU-R-97 was not used exclusively to assess the noise. The Government's own planning guidance on wind turbines and wind farms advocates the use of ETSU-R-97 to predict the likely effects of noise, although local authorities have some concerns about the accuracy of information from this model.

The company’s representatives argued that the other noise prediction criteria used by Mr Fairclough was not relevant, but planning inspector Elizabeth Ord upheld Bradford Council’s original decision.

She stated that the turbine would be overbearing and oppressive to residents and the noise produced could lead to neighbours losing sleep.

Bradford Council says the decision has far-reaching implications for turbine builders and has prompted a national debate between them, planners and environmental health officials.

It says the planning inspector's decision has gone some way to clarifying the use of ETSU-R-97 in predicting the effects of wind turbines, and should aid local planning authorities to balance the need for more sustainable means of energy production with the concerns of local residents.

Keighley planning panel chairman Chris Greaves agreed that the decision could have serious and far reaching implications for the industry’s future.

He said: “It’s potentially a bit of a tipping case in that there has been tremendous Government pressure to support wind farms and so this decision may mean there is a bit of a rethink about the wisdom of using this particular energy option.

“Wind power is not at all efficient – it takes more energy to build a turbine than it then produces – the turbines are blots on the landscape and can ruin the lives of people near them.

It is a different situation to the one in Holland where they are part of the industrial landscape. If we want to generate more energy then lets go for alternatives such as clean coal and nuclear power.

“I am personally extremely pleased by this decision though surprised because we are all being leant on by the Government on this issue.’’

A Princes spokesman said: “We are aware of the decision and cannot comment further.”