Wind turbines and windfarms

Many clients have come to us because of unbearable noise and vibration generated by nearby wind turbines. In other cases, clients are concerned about the visual impact a wind farm will have on the landscape. Whilst the benefits of renewable energy are not to be undervalued, these should not come at the price of the amenity of local residents or the preservation of a particularly special part of the countryside.

Some of our more significant cases involving wind farms are the following:

In Hoare, the Secretary of State agreed to quash its Inspector's decision to grant planning permission for 2 wind turbines on the ground that the noise condition imposed by the Inspector was unenforceable, unreasonable and imprecise. Following a fresh planning inquiry, the Inspector refused Ecotricity's planning appeal on the grounds that the points in favour of the scheme did not outweigh the materially adverse effect of noise from the turbines on the living conditions of neighbours.

In Lee, the Secretary of State agreed to quash its Inspector's decision to grant planning permission for 10 wind turbines on the ground that the noise condition was unenforceable.

In NOWAP, the Council agreed to quash its decision to allow the application for approval of details in relation to wind turbines on the ground that the Council acted in breach of a legitimate expectation and irrationally in determining the application for approval of details without consulting NOWAP or the Parham, Great Glemham or Marlesford Parish Councils or the public at large on the application prior to its determination.

Our partner, Susan Ring, appeared in the 2011 BBC documentary ‘Wind Farm Wars' acting for Mike Hulme who objected to RES's application to erect 9 wind turbines in a Devon valley celebrated by the poet Ted Hughes. Mr Hulme complained that (1) the failure by RES to provide him with the raw background noise data recorded by them at his property was unfair and amounted to a breach of natural justice (2) the Inspector expressly left out of account consideration of a key aspect of the planning balance - namely the extent to which the windfarm proposals would deliver the benefits claimed for it in terms of generating capacity and contribution to renewable energy targets (and thus reduction in carbon emissions) and (3) the noise condition was imprecise and unenforceable. In the High Court Mr Justice Mitting criticised the developer for withholding the information in the following terms: "The developer refused to produce the raw data for a variety of reasons, which for myself I find thoroughly unconvincing. First, commercial confidentiality; it is difficult to see how there could conceivably be any commercial confidentiality in the matter of wind noise anywhere, let alone on this site. Secondly, that Mr Hulme, unaided, would not understand them; that may well be so, but he had indicated a willingness to obtain expert advice to permit him to do so. Thirdly, that the developer was unwilling to spend professional time and cost in assisting Mr Hulme to understand the raw data; that too was not a sensible argument, because all that he sought was the data itself and not any explanation of it." However, Mitting J dismissed Mr Hulme's claim, holding amongst other things that he had not been substantially prejudiced by the withholding of the information. Mr Hulme appealed on grounds (1) and (2) above and was given permission to appeal by the Court of Appeal on the basis that the grounds were arguable, Lord Justice Laws commenting that Mitting J's criticisms of the developer seemed ‘excessively mild' in the circumstances. The Secretary of State and developer agreed before the Court of Appeal hearing listed for 25 July 2008 that the Inspector's decision should be quashed.

Susan has also been asked to represent residents who are experiencing nuisance from wind turbines that are now in operation; noise measurements suggest that low frequency noise from the wind turbines is interfering with enjoyment of their homes and causing sleep disturbance. The most high profile of these has been the case of Jane and Julian Davis, farmers in Lincolnshire, who started private nuisance proceedings against a subsidiary of the EDF Group and the neighbouring landowners complaining that the operation of 8 REpower MM 82 - 2 MW turbines (each with a hub height of 59 metres and a rotor diameter of 82 metres) on land close to the Davis's caused them sleep disturbance. The case formally settled on 1 December 2011, the terms of that settlement being strictly confidential.