|Within days of work starting on Devon's first giant
windfarm, planners across the region are being invited to a conference
that has been denounced as a "pure propaganda
Campaigners yesterday described
the Workshop for the South West Region, which is being hosted by the
British Wind Energy Association and backed by the Government, as nothing
more than a "charm offensive".
And they warned that it was aimed at
softening up planners and councillors in Devon and Cornwall for a spate of
new windfarm applications.
Dr Caroline Jackson, South West
Conservative MEP and regional president of the Realistic Energy Forum,
even described the event as an "indoctrination session in which planners
will be told what to think".
The conference on Tuesday at St Breock
Downs, near Wadebridge, boasts the "highest level politicians, civil
servants and developers". They include a speaker from Greenpeace, a
speaker from Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's office, and from the
Department of Trade and Industry Energy Group.
The event will claim
to dispel "some myths" about planning regulations, public opinion,
consultation, and whether wind turbines are "noisy". But yesterday Dr
Jackson denounced the event and urged the public to demonstrate at the
"A lot of new information is being excavated about the
dangers of windfarms but this will just be indoctrination," she said.
"This is of huge importance for the future of the South West. Windfarms
damage the landscape, they don't do what they're supposed to, and they're
harmful to people living close to them."
Her comments were echoed
by the Renewable Energy Foundation which condemned the conference as
"unfair and undemocratic" and a waste of public money.
Dunford, chief executive of REF, said: "Planners and councillors should be
aware that this is a blatant charm offensive. It's pure propaganda and a
kind of special pleading by the industry. They have refused to enter into
any public debate with us. They have declined every opportunity to
consider an impartial and realistic view of all the concerns about wind
"All their opinion polls are the ones that they have
conducted. Don't be taken in by this."
Neither the public nor the
Press have been invited to the conference. Nor have Dr Amanda Harry or the
eminent acoustic scientist Dr David Manley who yesterday revealed to the
WMN that they will be conducting their own independent research in the
region into the health effects of noise from turbines on people living
near windfarm sites. Dr Harry writes exclusively in the WMN today of her
The conference will take place against a
background of intense controversy over the construction of three 75-metre
turbines at Bradworthy in North Devon, a project described by protesters
as "industrialisation" of the countryside.
Campaigners fear the
project at Forest Moor, which will involve tearing up 70 metres of
hedgerows, the widening of ancient country lanes, and the concreting of
former agricultural land, could open the gates to a rush of windfarm
applications in Devon and Cornwall.
Yesterday, the British Wind
Energy Association defended the conference as an information exercise. A
spokeswoman said: "The purpose is to inform planners of Government policy
and changes in regulations. We are doing this across the UK. Most of the
proposals for renewable energy are for wind at present so why shouldn't we
as the representative body lend a helping hand?"
She added: "Five
years down the line the biomass industry might be out there having
She denied the event would be "partial or partisan",
insisting there would be planners present with extensive experience of
windfarm applications who would share their knowledge and
Asked why Dr Harry and Dr Manley had not been invited,
she said there would be other specialists present.
She denied the
event would be undemocratic by excluding the public, saying: "The
presentation on what the public really thinks is based on a whole range of
She insisted that the conference, which includes a
visit to the St Breock windfarm, would not be costly and would only
involve "feeding then bussing" attendees to the site.
the conference have been quoted reduced rates should they need to stay at
the Hustyns Hotel of £95 per person per night for bed and breakfast or
£115 pppn for dinner, bed and breakfast.
Last night, Dr Harry said:
"I would have liked to have presented my findings but I haven't been
invited. I don't suppose any of the people from near the Bears Down
windfarm (near Padstow) who have suffered terribly from the effects of
noise have been invited either.
"What will happen is that the
planners and the councillors will get a good meal and then be taken to the
windfarm site while the turbines are turned down. They should be invited
people from across the board, but they don't want to give a balanced
Dr Harry was speaking as she prepared to take part in
ground-breaking research alongside the leading acoustic scientist Dr David
Her earlier research last November pushed the problems on
noise into the national spotlight with her findings that people living
close to the Bears Down windfarm suffered anxiety, headaches, insomnia and
Now she and Dr Manley, who was the first scientist to
measure seismic (vibrational) waves over the ground produced by wind
turbines, aim to produce definitive research from a number of sites in the
Westcountry. Dr Harry said: "I still get people from right across the
world writing to me about sleep disturbance. We hope to produce research
that cannot be ignored."
She said the far-reaching effects of noise
had been ignored by windfarm companies which do not take measurements at a
low enough frequency. In her article below, Dr Harry says: "The wind
industry has taken it upon themselves to state that there isn't a problem
without looking into the issues further. The current noise measurement
standards employed to predict noise from wind turbines are wholly
inadequate to protect neighbours of turbines from the turbine noise and
should be re-evaluated and new standards drawn up with this in
Dr Harry and Dr Manley aim to produce the findings in an
eminent medical journal. Her findings last November provoked intense
debate after she reported that nine out of ten people surveyed near the
Bears Down windfarm, near Padstow, reported ill-effects.
that GPs could increasingly see patients reporting similar complaints as
more windfarms were constructed. She wrote: "The range of distance from
the nearest turbine to their properties was 300m to one mile. Of these
people 93 per cent said that they felt that their lives have been
adversely affected from the effects of the turbines; 93 per cent are
experiencing more headaches and over 70 per cent are having problems
sleeping, and suffering from anxiety symptoms."
One couple, Colin
and Kathy Bird, living near the Bears Down site, were so badly affected
that they were booking into B &Bs in Newquay in winter when the
turbines were most forceful, and even took a month's holiday abroad to
Yesterday, Dr Manley said: "In 1995 I first discovered
that these windfarms make a lot of seismic noise. Windfarms do generate
low frequency radiation both seismically and airborne. All this has been
accepted but what they don't accept is the effects on health."
two doctors' work has attracted a small grant from the UK Noise
Association and is expected to take three to four weeks.
response to Dr Harry's and Dr Manley's research, a spokeswoman for the
British Wind Energy Association yesterday quoted Dr Geoff Leventhall,
Consultant in Noise Vibration and Acoustics and author of the Defra Report
on Low Frequency Noise and its Effects, as saying: "I can state quite
categorically that there is no significant infrasound from current designs
of wind turbines. To say that there is an infrasound problem is one of the
hares which objectors to wind farms like to run. There will not be any
effects from infrasound from the