|Molesworth Wind Farm Action Group|
|Say NO to the Molesworth Wind Farm - Bythorn, Molesworth, Keyston, Brington, Clopton, Old Weston, Titchmarsh, Catworth, Leighton Bromswold|
Molesworth Wind Farm Action Group does not oppose wind energy. We broadly support wind energy's role in developing more sustainable sources of energy and in reducing CO2 emissions. Anyone objecting to a wind farm is open to the accusation of NIMBYism. However, in this case, Npower really are proposing to put turbines in our back yards!
For a reasoned discussion of this, it's worth looking at Alexander Chancellor's Guardian article, which can be viewed here.
Any proposed development should be examined on its merits. We need to reduce CO2 emissions, but we need to do so on a relatively crowded island where the construction of large energy-generating facilities has to fit in with other environmental and human factors.
Off-shore vs On-shore
Where wind farms are sited off-shore great numbers of larger turbines can be built to take advantage of strong and consistent winds.
However, where wind farms are sited on-shore they generate relatively small amounts of power and can have a major negative impact on people and the surrounding countryside. The benefits have to be weighed against the negative impact.
Molesworth Wind Farm
We object to the proposed wind turbines at Bythorn / Molesworth primarily on the following grounds. We consider that these negative factors far outweigh the possible benefits:
The size, scale and extent of the turbines would:
The proposed development site is a tranquil, rural, "green field", farming environment. The landscape comprises wide views punctuated by small villages, church towers, trees and some woodland. A valued aspect of the landscape is the wide skies with spectacular cloudscapes and sunsets.
Into this particular landscape, Npower propose to insert eight identical, angular metal structures, each more than 50 feet taller than the dome of St Paul's Cathedral (108m - still a dominant feature of the London skyline) and each around three times as tall as the wind turbine at Wood Green Animal Shelter (43m). For further comparison they would be 27m (74 ft) higher than the turbines at Kettering and Warboys.
Npower have stated that 127m is only the maximum height that they would apply for and that the actual turbines might be shorter, However, we must assume that they will build the largest possible turbines to maximise power generation.
Combined with their height, the angular, metallic, identical nature of the turbines would be completely at odds with the landscape described above. The character of the landscape would be destroyed.
The report "Wind Turbine Development in Huntingdonshire" commissioned by Huntingdonshire District Council in March 2005, whilst broadly favourable to groups of up to 12 turbines in the area, states that "key landscape values" could be affected where the development impinges on "the site or setting of valued landscape components". It adds that such groups "could affect the serene tranquil character of parts of the landscape" [page 70]. The report "guidance notes" [page 72] state that such a development should:
Huntingdonshire Disctrict Coucil's Keyston Area Character Statement says:
It is worth noting that in Scotland, in relation to visual impact and the location of turbines near local communities, Scottish planning document PAN45 confirms that development up to 2 km is "likely to be a prominent feature in an open landscape". Accordingly, the Scottish Executive supports 2km as a separation distance between turbines and the edge of villages (lesser distances requiring case-by-case basis justification). (Scottish Planning Policy SPP 6 Renewable Energy).
See also paragraph 190 of the Scottish Planning Policy document of February 2010.
For more detail on the 2km setback, click here.
Bythorn, Molesworth and Keyston all fall within 2km of the proposed turbines.
A brief landscape history
The landscape around Bythorn and Molesworth contains traces of a history that tells us what the area was like 1000 and, in some places, even 2000 years ago.
name Molesworth indicates a settlement that was in place at least as long ago
as Anglo Saxon times. The Worth element equates to wyrth, a
defended settlement and the Mole element probably represents the name of the
owner. Bythorn is more enigmatic, appearing as “Bierne” in Domesday
Book and “Bitherne” in later charters. The most likely origin of the name
is by-aern, meaning "dwelling place" and referring to a
stopping place on the drove road. The Anglo Saxon word aern is
often used of buildings where goods were processed, eg Bruerne (brew
house), but can also refer to hill forts and other enclosures and this seems
the most likely derivation in this case and is likely to be a translation from
an earlier form2.
This route is part of a larger network of drove roads that has been traced as far as Stamford by W G Hoskins in his book Fieldwork in Local History. Parts of this network appear on what is known as the Gough Map of 1360, so it was clearly well-established by then.
name Warren Lane reminds us that Titchmarsh Warren was sited just north of
Bythorn. Rabbits are not originally native to Britain and were
introduced by the Romans who corralled them in warrens and harvested their meat
and fur. Up to mediaeval times and probably later, this management
provided an accessible and reliable source of meat when other types of food
were at risk from weather and disease. Once again, we are looking
at a snapshot of a landscape that is a minimum of 800 years old.
1 For more on this, see Trevor Rowley: Villages in the Landscape, London 1978.
2 This is covered in more detail in Margaret Gelling: Signposts to The Past, London, 1979.
Visual and other amenities
The turbines would completely dominate the landscape with out-of-scale industrial features alien to and out of keeping with it.
This drastic change would detract from the visual amenity of the landscape and affect the enjoyment of the area by all countryside users - including residents, walkers, cyclists, riders and visitors.
Walkers & Cyclists
Visitors / Tourists
Effect on local roads
The construction / commissioning phase would last approx. 12 months (source Npower Scoping Report 5.7.1).
Based on figures provided verbally by the developer we can expect 60
truck deliveries of concrete per day in the first week, and 4 loads a day thereafter, theoretically along the B663 from Junction 16 of the A14. The technical annex to the Molesworth scoping report says that construction is usually restricted to 7am to 7pm on weekdays and 7am to 4pm on Saturdays. Short-term extensions to this may occasionally be granted.
In addition, sections of turbine up to 40m long would be
delivered on special large low-loaders via a new access road near Tollbar.
All of the approach roads are small and rural and the condition
of the road surfaces is seldom particularly good - often necessitating
piecemeal edging repairs. There are relatively few off-road riding opportunities, which means that horse and pony riders constantly make use of the B663 along the same stretch that the concrete lorries will be using.
It is likely that the additional traffic and its heavy nature would cause both congestion at the site access and damage to the road surfaces necessitating more extensive and disruptive repairs.
The A14 junction at the top of Bythorn Hill is not grade-separated and is totally inadequate to allow access for heavy traffic to and from the B663. The provison of a temporary Traveller site on empty ground to the east of the junction precludes the immediate provision of grade-separation here. Tight turns and short slip-roads at the Brington bridge almost certainly prevent access from the eastern end of the B663 as well.For an analysis and illustrations of the devastation caused by a wind farm under construction, see what happened at Cefn Croes
The soil in the area is heavy clay and drains poorly with extensive downhill run-off. Bythorn village drainage system is effectively non-existent and the B663 at the Main Street/Clack Lane junction floods easily in heavy rain.
Unless proper attention is paid to drainage when the site is planned, these issues will only be exacerbated.
For a report on sustainable drainage for windfarms by McCloyConsulting, click here.
Perhaps most worrying is that there are plenty of examples where the grant of planning approval for a wind farm "opens up" the area for further wind farm development.
If 600m from the nearest village is seen as acceptable then one can imagine many "suitable" sites along the high ground between here and Cambridge or Kettering - with the devastation to the landscape which that would entail.
For a ready-made Google search for A14 wind farms, click here.
Subsidies for Wind Farm Developers
At present, there are huge subsidies available (via the Renewables Obligation (RO) system) to energy companies who build wind farms. However, increasing energy prices and changes in the energy sector have rendered them unnecessary - although energy companies still receive them and taxpayers still pay for them.
Based on recent industry figures quoted in the press, each turbine at Molesworth would generate power worth around £200,000 on the wholesale market, plus a further £300,000 of subsidy from taxpayers. With a turbine cost of around £2m the net profit over the proposed initial 25 year life of the wind farm would be around £3.36m a year. [source - report by the Environment Editor of The Sunday Times, 27/1/2008 - click for article]
In January 2007, Ofgem, in its response to Government consultation on the subsidy system stated:
Ofgem goes on to state that:
[NB. Ofgem is responsible for administering the RO system on behalf of the Government but does not set the rules. Responsibility for the policy itself lies with the Dept for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).]
Whilst there are clearly benefits for the environment in terms of reduced reliance on fossil fuels, the extent of these may not be as much as is claimed.Npower state that the maximum generating capacity of a site with 8 turbines of this size would be 24 megawatts a year and that the likely output would be at least 16 megawatts. This, according to their estimates, could meet the electricity requirement of between 6,900 and 10,000 homes.
Wind turbines can only produce electricity when the wind is between around 10 and 56 mph. Electricity demand varies considerably at different times of day and year. There is no way to store electricity; demand must be met by immediate supply. Since there is no way to control the wind and determine how much electricity a turbine will produce at a given time, other, traditional energy sources are still needed in order to ensure supply. Thus, the building of wind farms does not mean that other power stations can be decommissioned.
A comparative study by the Royal Academy of Engineering of the costs of generating electricity from various sources can be found here.
The construction of a wind farm is not in itself "carbon neutral". The manufacture of huge metal turbines, their delivery on specialised lorries, the delivery of huge quantities of concrete for their bases and their actual assembly clearly expend large amounts of energy - most of it fossil fuels.
The extent to which overall CO2 emissions are reduced is not clear cut and, in the past, claims made by Npower have been found by the Advertising Standards Authority to have breached their rules on "truthfulness", "substantiation" and "environmental claims" - (see 2007 decision on ASA website).
For a discussion and interviews on the question of whether the benefits of wind farms are being overstated, listen again to BBC Radio 4's "Costing the Earth":
An article by Fiona MacRae in the Daily Mail of 17 August 2010 suggests that many wind farms are operating at less than their claimed efficiency, with Burton Latimer coming in at a mere 19%. Read the full article here.
Noise & other health issues
The issue of noise produced by wind turbines is controversial. There are widely conflicting views, an apparent shortage of scientific research and planning regulations which are based on outdated data.
It seems that no one can be certain exactly what the noise implications would be until the site is operational. By then it would be too late to do anything about it.
Wind turbines produce three types of sound - (a) mechanical noise from the gearbox and generators, (b) aerodynamic noise from the movement of the blades through the air and (c) low frequency infrasound. Research has shown that low frequency sound can cause serious health problems for people sensitive to its effects. People living near wind turbines have been reported to experience health problems including sleep difficulties, headaches, irritability and stress.
The following factors are worth noting:
How noise is measured
Wildlife & Ecology
At the exhibition in Molesworth Village Hall (8/9 October 2010), several of us were assured by the developer that there is no significant wildlife in the area. They claim to have a survey to this effect, but this needs to be challenged and we need as much detail as we can get.
Birds & Bats
Great Crested Newts
A colony of this protected species exists at Moleswrth base and features in the MOD's Conservation Update brochure of Summer 2008.
Any loss of wildlife will detract from the amenity of people enjoying the countryside.
According to the BBCs online wind-farm assessment tool - provided to assist wind farm developers - a wind farm located in Bythorn (grid reference TL055762) may affect up to 390 homes by interfering with transmissions from Sandy Heath and Waltham.
The BBC and Ofcom both recognise that wind farms have a disruptive effect on television reception - see their joint report "The Impact of Large Buildings and Structures". According to this report "Wind turbines affect reception up to a maximum distance of 5 km".
Although the focus of the report is on looking at steps which developers can be encouraged to take to remedy reception problems, it is acknowledged that "it is often impossible to avoid such problems completely" and that "both analogue and digital terrestrial reception can be affected."
Npower has confirmed that "Wind turbines do have the potential to affect television reception to those homes using the analogue system".
The onus would be on the householder to get Npower to do something. There is no guarantee that they would do so speedily and, as the BBC / Ofcom have stated, it may be impossible to rectify the poor reception.
House Prices / Saleability
The loss of amenity in an area will have an adverse effect on property values.
A court has recently ruled that living near a wind farm decreases house prices and it awarded a householder a discount on her council tax because her £170,000 home had been rendered worthless by a turbine 1,000 yards away. (For more details see the Telegraph report 26 July 2008)
In a 2004 court case where a seller had failed to disclose to the buyer that a wind farm was about to be built nearby, the judge ruled that the value of the property reduced by 20% by the presence of the wind farm. For a report on the case from the Westmoreland Gazette, click here.
Much depends on proximity and visibility. Clearly the prices of nearby houses in sight of the turbines would be affected.
The wider effect is likely to be linked to the extent to which the presence of the turbines changes the character of the landscape. In the case of Bythorn and Molesworth the negative effect on the landscape would be profound.
Would you prefer to buy a rural house in a village with eight of the biggest wind turbines in Britain looming over it or one in a rural village without the turbines?
A report by Dr Sally Sims and Peter Dent, Oxford Brookes University (23 March 2007) is available on the RICS website.
What happens next?
If you believe the developer, after a life of 25 years, which is how long the planning permission lasts, the turbines and towers will be removed and the site returned to agriculture. Pressing them further reveals that the concrete bases will not be removed, but they assure us that, as they're 6 feet below the ground, they'll have no effect.
Anyone who is familiar with aerial archaeology will be aware that even quite small walls will show up in photographs as stunted crops or dry areas during the summer and are a valuable way of finding otherwise unknown structures. Blocks of concrete this size will have a commensurably greater effect on the soil above them.
When pressed, the representative of Yes2Wind, who were at the Molesworth exhibition (8/9 October 2010) to advise and support the developer, said that his knowledge of a windfarm in Durham led him to suppose that, as the end of life cut-off approached, an application to upgrade the turbines would be submitted. In effect, they're here for ever.
27 May 2017
Radio / TV
The BBC website contains a number of video clips from features related to wind farms - click here
BBC Radio 4 - Costing the Earth - 30th
For an interesting TV broadcast on the effects of wind turbines on local residents - especially the noise - see the LBV Television programme available on the Wadlow Windfarm website. [This is a large file. It may take a very long time to open - but is well worth listening to].
Web Pages / Articles
"Wind farms alone won't solve our problems" - CPRE
RSPB policy on wind farms
RICS commissioned report: What is the impact of wind farms on house prices?
in Denmark - Dr V C Mason (Sept 2007)
Perception and annoyance due to wind turbine noise - E Pedersena and K Persson Waye - J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 116, No. 6, December 2004 (PDF file)