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TWO WORLDS COLLIDE IN A BATTLE FOR THE COUNTRYSIDE
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‘If this can happen in Bradworthy against the determined protests of the local community, then no fields or cherished vistas in the Westcountry are safe or sacrosanct’

A fence stands like a barricade across the green fields, the heavy machinery lies ready, and just feet beyond it cows gaze on from a landscape split in two.
This was the scene yesterday at Bradworthy, where the ground is being prepared for Devon’s first giant wind turbines.
Two worlds collide in an image that precedes the “industrialisation” of the countryside.
The process of transforming this agricultural land – intrinsic to a way of life over generations – has begun.
It is the first physical evidence of what campaigners have warned against so vehemently.
If this can happen in Bradworthy, if this can happen against the determined protests of the local community, then no fields or cherished vistas in the Westcountry are safe or sacrosanct.
For now, there is only a makeshift car park and portable toilet.
But soon this site will teem with the activity of workmen engaged in a vast construction project.
Wildlife will be scattered as 70 metres of hedgerows are torn up.
Ancient country lanes that are scarcely wide enough for a horse and car to pass will be widened.
The heavy lorries and diggers will muscle down these thoroughfares to the site at Forest Moor.
Craters will be cut out of the land and filled with concrete.
And where now the trees dominate the skyline, in their stead will be three turbines, each 75 metres high to the blade tip – much taller than Nelson’s Column.
As the cows gaze on unknowingly, the landscape of which they are so much a part is being erased.
 
 
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MORE RESEARCH NEEDED INTO TURBINE NOISE
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11:00 - 14 October 2004
Dr Amanda Harry, who has produced ground-breaking research on the effects of noise from turbines on people living near the Bears Down site explains why she is taking her investigation further

Over the last 12 months I have been concerned by the numbers of people who appear to be experiencing problems caused by noise exposure from wind turbines. This, according to the British Wind Energy Association, has not been an issue until brought up by anti-wind activists in this country.

However, I have heard from people all over this country; Cornwall, Wales and Cumbria; from France, Germany, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand and the USA who are experiencing noise problems from nearby wind turbines.

So this is not an isolated problem and from the information I have been able to gather, it is not a new problem either.

Initially I felt that the problems experienced by these people were being caused simply by the low frequency noise which is produced by the turbine blades passing the towers. But now I am sure that there are a combination of factors which makes the noise emitted from wind turbines so disturbing.

These factors include the repetitive nature of the noise being like a dripping tap, the unpredictability of the noise (we cannot tell when the wind will blow or how strongly the wind will blow), the noise levels increasing noticeably at night when nearby neighbours are trying to rest, and modulation of the sound produced by the noise interaction between turbines.

The low frequency noise and vibration adds to the distress and disturbance and makes susceptible people hypersensitive to the noise. Indeed prolonged exposure to low frequency noise and vibration is known to increase a person's sensitivity to the noise. Much research has been published showing the correlation of health problems and disturbance from noise.

Yet there has been no such research for wind turbines. An initial survey by me indicates that a problem exists and I feel this warrants further in-depth, independent research and investigation. However, the wind industry has taken it upon themselves to state that there isn't a problem without looking into the issues further.

It is because of this that I have been working with a physicist and acoustic scientist, Dr David Manley, to try to confirm our observations. With the help of a small grant, which has been secured by the UK Noise Association, we hope we will be able to show how the character and intensity of the noise and vibration produced from wind turbines can cause a noise nuisance which can have a knock-on effect on the health of those experiencing the disturbance. My initial survey shows that the current noise measurement standards used 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 mind.
 
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WINDFARM PLANNERS TO BE 'INDOCTRINATED'
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11:00 - 14 October 2004
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 exercise".

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 conference.

"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.

Campbell 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 turbines.

"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 initial findings.

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 workshops."

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 expertise.

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 opinion polls."

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.

Delegates to 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 view."

Dr Harry was speaking as she prepared to take part in ground-breaking research alongside the leading acoustic scientist Dr David Manley.

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 nausea.

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 mind."

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.

She warned 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 recuperate.

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."

The two doctors' work has attracted a small grant from the UK Noise Association and is expected to take three to four weeks.

In 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 turbines."