Protection in policy
The Aylesbury Vale District Local Plan specifically guarantees to safeguard people’s homes from unacceptable development:
This development would shoehorn at least four massive rotating industrial turbines, each almost the size of The London Eye, into the small remaining area of open countryside between our eight settlements. We say “at least” because there is every chance that the developer will apply for even more if granted initial consent. The closest homes are just some 700 metres distant.
We have previously explained the harmful effects on this countryside, its landscape, its wildlife, the health of residents and the risks to aviation safety in such close proximity to people. Just as it denies these problems, the developer would also have you believe that the effects on local residents are negligible and the price to be paid for renewable electricity. Its application argues that no dwellings will be unacceptably damaged. Not a conclusion shared by their owners or compliant with current national planning policy as established by Appeals.
The Lavender Test
Appeal hearings now accept as grounds for refusal the precedent known as the “Lavender Test”, named after the Inspector in North Dover, who ruled :
“However, when turbines are present in such number, size and proximity that they represent an unpleasantly overwhelming and unavoidable presence in main views from a house or garden, there is every likelihood that the property concerned would come to be regarded as an unattractive and thus unsatisfactory (but not necessarily uninhabitable) place in which to live. It is not in the public interest to create such living conditions where they did not exist before.”
The planning consideration is therefore whether the harm caused by a development makes any property a significantly less attractive place to live. The applicant claims that none of the individual or combined effects of overwhelming visual intrusion, noise, or shadow flicker will cause such harm at Dorcas Lane. It reached this false conclusion without actually entering a single property affected. Its desk analysis considered just 51 dwellings and concluded that all 51 would experience significant visual effects. It then argued, despite this, that none would become sufficiently unpleasant places to live as to fail the “Lavender Test”.
SDLT has commissioned a specialist report from The Landscape Partnership which demonstrates that in reality many homes in our settlements in close proximity will be adversely impacted. Crucially at least 4 and probably 7 specifically fail the benchmark “Lavender Test”, and these are thus individually and collectively material grounds for refusal. There is no question that the residential amenity of many nearby residents will be damaged and there is no proportionate benefit from the development which would outweigh this. The full report is available in our Statement of Objection now submitted to AVDC and on their website.
One of the most intrusive, intolerable and potentially health-threatening impacts of turbines is the phenomenon of Shadow Flicker, caused when the sun is low in the sky behind rotating blades. It is akin to being exposed to a flashing stroboscope light in a night club on a regular basis inside your own home. For anyone predisposed to migraine or photo-sensitive epilepsy, it poses a dangerous threat to their health and peace in their home or workplace.
The applicant claims that just 12 properties might be occasionally affected and that they should close their curtains or grow bushes to avoid it. A response as arrogant as it is absurd.
The applicant has surveyed no properties. It fails to take account of elevated topography which further extends the range of these effects. It has not even realised the potential for extreme Shadow Flicker impacts on the RAF Stoke Hammond business units just 270 metres from the turbines. These are occupied full-time by 14 people creating turnover of £1.5m for the local economy. Shadow Flicker here will exceed all statutory thresholds and Impose levels and frequency of shadow flicker and stacked flicker which contravene the legal limits for epilepsy. They will render these premises uninhabitable.
The applicant claims that there will be no socio-economic impacts on the lives or prosperity of people in our eight local settlements. It is able to make this claim because it has carried out no local research at all but bases its submission on generic internet data.
We include in our Statement of Objection an in-depth socio economic analysis drawn from interviews with local businesses, local knowledge and specific case studies. From this we are able to show that there will be many detrimental impacts on local business and recreational/sporting activities, on employment and inward investment, on residential property prices and rental values, and that the economic circumstances of people in our eight settlements will be directly degraded. The quality of life for local residents in our pleasant rural villages and open landscape, which AVDC is pledged to sustain, will obviously be harmed when they are forced to live with four giant turbines looming above their villages in such close proximity. Nobody in these settlements has asked for this development. Nobody living here - except the landowners - benefits in any way. This is just naked commercial speculation in pursuit of a fast profit and we will pay the price indefinitely.
AVDC has undertaken two special studies of the economic conditions in rural settlements and its conclusions are published in its “Economic Development Strategy 2008-26” and the “Review of Rural Settlement Hierarchy January 2009”. These documents state that AVDC recognises the fragility of economic prosperity in rural communities and that it is committed as a matter of policy to safeguarding and enhancing the prospects of residents, employers and employees within these communities. The material threats posed by this development directly conflict with these policy commitments.
Small local businesses in the recreational and sporting sectors such as Aylesbury Vale Golf Club and the Three Locks Golf Club will have their open countryside views ruined by the imposition of four giant turbines alongside their courses. Their proprietors have objected and believe customers will move elsewhere. Local pubs and restaurants such as the recently refurbished Grand Union at The Three Locks will have their garden views filled with towering turbines, with the result that customers will not choose to use them. One local farmer running a riding stables and a specialist cattle breeding business predicts that she will be put out of business. The Soulbury Cricket Club, celebrating its 150th anniversary year in 2014, states that its pitch will become unplayable due to turbines rotating directly behind the bowler’s arm.
Numerous rulings by the Valuation Agency Office have established the legal precedent that house values can be degraded, typically by 25%, due to the proximity of turbines. It is therefore no surprise that already 109 local residents have formally warned the developer and landowners that they will take legal action against them if the wind farm is built and a nuisance is proven.
It is simply absurd to argue, as the applicant does, that four giant rotating industrial turbines, dominating all views, emitting harmful noise and shadow flicker, will have no material impacts on local residents. Residential amenity will be degraded; local businesses and recreational activity will be compromised or destroyed; the quality of life and prosperity of people in our settlements will be devalued. We contend that this contravenes AVDC’s policies and commitments. There is no balance of renewable electricity here which justifies this harm, and it cannot be effectively mitigated. AVDC should refuse this application.