Reasons for objection
There are many reasons why we might object to a wind power station in principle, but there are a limited number of issues which carry weight in planning terms. These are as follows:
The visual impact in the landscape is the strongest argument planners can use to reject this application. EDF have targeted this area partly because it has no official landscape designation. However it is of high landscape value, lying between the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the South Downs National Park.
EDF claims in its scoping document that “there will be minimal impact upon particular aspects of landscape character”. However we believe that these turbines will dominate the skyline of Hampshire. The steel and carbon fibre structures will be in stark contrast to the gentle, undulating character of the landscape. The movement of the blades draws further attention, conflicting with its tranquillity. In a rare stretch of countryside free of light pollution at night, there will be lights on the towers to warn aircraft.
There will be other infrastructure such as transformers, meteorological masts and control rooms.
Download a map showing visibility of turbines from the surrounding areaDownload
Clearly the impact locally will be dramatic but we should not underestimate the impact over a much wider area; EDF’s own map shows visibility of the turbines as far as Salisbury, Alton, Winchester and even Southampton.
We believe the small, unpredictable and intermittent supply of electricity generated, and very limited carbon savings, will not justify the adverse impact on a valuable landscape.
Downgrading of landscape quality
This would be the most visually intrusive development in the landscape of Hampshire for many years. If permitted it would also set a precedent, opening the possibility of more wind turbine proposals across Hampshire. There is already another proposal a few miles to the north-east at Woodmancott. It would also make it harder for planners to resist further aggressive developments of an industrial nature in the region.
One of our greatest cultural assets is the landscape itself, a beautiful stretch of Hampshire Downland with distant, uninterrupted views. The area is chequered with archaeological sites; Neolithic and Bronze Age tumuli, Celtic Field systems, Iron Age Forts and Roman sites. Old maps show that the delicate pattern of woods, hedgerows and fields has changed very little in 200 years. It is essentially the same landscape which Jane Austen would have crossed from her home in nearby Steventon to visit the Portsmouths at Hurstbourne Park. Passing through this landscape on his way from Winchester to Whitchurch, William Cobbett remarked in his Rural Rides of 1830, “There are not many finer spots in England”.
The surrounding villages are rich in listed buildings and churches, expressing much that is at the core of Hampshire’s historic identity. Whitchurch itself has retained a distinctive character as an old country town, as has the nearby village of Overton. Many of these buildings and winding lanes would have their settings severely marred by industrial turbines on the skyline.
The area has many kilometres of footpaths and bridleways, either passing through the proposed site or with views onto it. It serves as a leisure resource for surrounding communities, notably Whitchurch, Freefolk, Laverstoke and Overton. The much used footpath across to the tumuli at Wonston would suffer a dramatically altered landscape, as will footpaths in the AONB around Hurstbourne Priors and Longparish.
The bridleway passing through the middle of Upper Norton Farm could become dangerous because of the unpredictable reaction of horses to the moving blades.
A number of local businesses could suffer loss of business due to the presence of wind turbines. Most notable are Popham Airfield and the wedding venue at Tufton Warren.
Popham Airfield, a popular and well used facility for light aircraft and micro-lights, would have severe safety concerns. The airfield is aligned so that aircraft taking off would fly directly at the wind turbines.
Turbines would also present a hazard to gliders from Lasham airfield and balloon flights which frequently use this area.
At Tufton, a popular wedding venue in an exceptional rural location would suffer devastating impact. One of its most valuable assets, the long and beautiful approach, would be ruined.
The negative impact on quality of life in the vicinity of a wind power station can translate into property values. This has been confirmed in some parts of the country by the Valuation Office Agency, which sets property valuations for purposes of council tax. There is evidence that properties near to a wind farm can lose 20% of their value depending on proximity and visibility. Homes severely affected could lose considerably more. Certainly, the number of potential buyers of houses in the vicinity could be reduced. The more valuable properties tend to be disproportionately affected.
The main concern of the MOD will be interruption to radar, but this area is also regularly used for helicopter exercises. If helicopter activities were displaced from this area, they would need to be expanded elsewhere, which could have an impact on residents further afield.
The wind industry tries to persuade us that turbines have little effect on birds by pointing out that cars and cats also kill birds. We do not think that is a good argument for accepting yet more deaths. The population balance of certain species is delicate and it does not take many extra deaths to trigger a decline.
EDF’s survey reported 89 different bird species using the site itself, including 18 considered sensitive to wind turbines.
Birds of prey can be badly affected because, focussing on prey below, they are not used to an unnatural threat from above. In our area the birds at risk would include owls, buzzards, red kite, kestrels, sparrow-hawks and migrating ospreys. Other birds at risk include lapwings, golden plover, skylarks and gulls. Birds migrating at night such as swallows and house martins would be at risk. In some studies it has been noticed that certain species will move out of the area because they see the turbines as giant scarecrows. This can sterilise the surrounding area and reduce the enjoyment of the countryside for those who love watching birds in flight.
A study in Scotland found reductions of up to 53% of breeding birds within a 500m radius of a wind turbine. Studies in Belgium revealed that there can be up to 126 bird deaths annually per turbine, depending on siting.
EDF’s own survey revealed that 8 species of bats live in the woodland around this site, including three nationally rare species. EDF report that the “rarer species were found generally at low to negligible levels”. That’s alright then?
All bats are protected by law. A study at the University of Wisconsin was initiated to find out why countless bats were turning up dead near windfarms. Their research revealed how bats are killed by turbines not just through collision but by sudden changes in pressure around blades.
The noise output will be around 105dB at the blades. This is equivalent to a jet engine at 250m and only 35dB below the threshold of pain. Depending on wind direction, there could be a cumulative effect from 14 turbines.
One of the noise issues from turbines is in the form of low frequency vibration, which can travel several kilometres. It has been described as a “booming” sound. Studies have concluded that this impulsive sound cuts through background noise and barriers such as buildings. It is three times more annoying than traffic noise. Even when not audible, sometimes residents report a feeling of “unease” and disturbance of sleep. This has been found to be a significant problem because turbines can be at maximum noise output at the dead of night when every other natural and man-made noise is at a minimum.
In Scotland the recommended minimum distance between a residential settlements and a wind turbine is 2km when selecting sites. None of the turbines at Bullington would satisfy that condition. A number of councils in England, including Wiltshire, have adopted this separation zone.
Sun behind a rotating turbine can cause a strobing effect for distances up to 900 metres, with shadows and intermittent light moving across roads, bridleways and dwellings.
A small proportion of epilepsy sufferers can be affected by this.
A study on flicker commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change concluded “Under specific conditions the increased demands on mental and physical energy indicated that cumulative long term effects might meet the criterion of a significant nuisance.”
We believe this power station would add to traffic congestion on the A34 and the A303 during construction. EDF claim that the construction would take up to twelve months during which new roads would be built. We believe that the number of lorries driving in and out of the site would create huge disruption. The electricity company admits that some lorries carrying turbine parts will need to be more than 50m long.