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Gedling approves wind turbine at Woodborough (Nov 2011)

Gedling Planning Committee approved a wind turbine on a Woodborough farm at its meeting in November. That was in spite of over 1,100 objections organised by a campaign group called WACAT (Woodborough and Calverton against Turbines). However, the turbine had support from a number of neighbours in Woodborough and Calverton, and from Nottingham Pro-Wind Alliance. Woodborough Parish Council decided narrowly not to object to it at a meeting in June, and decisively decided not to fund WACAT's campaign on 11 July. A pro-turbine facebook site was established.

Farmers John and Cathy Charles-Jones asked Gedling Borough Council for planning permission for one medium size wind turbine at Woodborough Park Farm which is at the head of the valley above Woodborough, near Dorket Head.The turbine will be 65.5m high, rated at 330kW and estimated to produce 867MWh electricity per year – equivalent to the average consumption of around 185 houses, about a quarter of Woodborough village.It should save around 460 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year. It will help to secure the financial viability of the farm and respond to demands from customers for farmers to reduce their carbon footprint.In 2010 they got planning permission for two small 11kW turbines - these will be replaced by the one larger turbine.

The anti-turbine campaign turned nasty, particularly at a large public meeting on 21 June. WACAT's misleading propaganda included:

  • Claiming that the turbine will generate noise at 90dB (which would require ear defenders in a workplace), and actually playing turbine noise through an amplifier to the meeting at 90dB. (The application does actually show that the sound power level at the turbine will be 90 – 100dB, but at a distance of 72m from the base of the tower the noise is less than 60dB (quiet but audible), and at the nearest residential property it would be less than 40dB.)
  • Claiming that the turbine will be visible from almost the whole of Calverton and Woodborough. (This is based on a map showing the 'zone of theoretical visibility' which takes account of the contours but no account of buildings, trees, etc. In fact, in almost all of both villages it will be impossible to see the turbine when standing at ground level because it will be obscured by houses, hedges, etc.)
  • Using a doctored photomontage to make the turbine appear larger than it will be. (There are strict rules about photomontages used for planning decisions to show new features in relation to the landscape.)
  • Falsely claiming that if permission is given for a 330kW turbine this will be in addition to permission given in 2010 for two small turbines – emphasised by a picture of proliferating turbines shown to the meeting. (A new permission would allow only one turbine overall.)
  • Claiming that 'shadow flicker' will affect the whole of Calverton and cause epileptic fits on a nearby bridleway. (Shadow flicker is caused by the sun low in the sky behind a turbine, and only causes problems indoors within 10 rotor diameters (334m) – there are no properties within this distance. Epileptic attacks can be triggered by light flashing between 5 and 30 times per second, but large wind turbines move more slowly than this.)
  • Describing the turbine as a 'bat killing machine' and a 'bird killing machine'. (The number of birds and bats killed by wind turbines is very low. This turbine will comply with advice from Natural England on reducing the risk to bats.)
  • Claiming that house prices could be reduced by 15 to 30%. (The House of Commons Library has a note SN/SC/5221 which does not support such a claim (para 2.2).)

WACAT's main legitimate complaint is that the farm is in the greenbelt. However, Nottingham is surrounded by greenbelt. Given that wind turbines need to be sited several hundred metres from people's homes there are very few suitable locations within the urban area. If turbines are not allowed in the greenbelt, that would make almost the whole of Greater Nottingham a wind turbine-free zone.

Planning decisions elsewhere have established that even several turbines together in a wind farm do not greatly impact on openness or compromise the main purpose of greenbelt which is to prevent urban sprawl and coalescence of settlements. It has also been established that the contribution wind turbines make to renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions meet the test for 'very special circumstances' which allow such development in the greenbelt. That was accepted by the Committee. WACAT is now considering whether to challenge the decision in the High Court.

Details of the application are on Gedling's website at http://pawam.gedling.gov.uk:81/online-applications (enter ref: 2011/0523). The committee report is on the planning agenda for 2 November. Brief details of the farm are available on the farmsunday website.

 
Photomontage of turbine (centre) from planning application