Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence


Written Evidence from David H Insall

  1.  In response to the Press Notice of 25 October 2005, I hereby submit my evidence to the Inquiry.

SCOPE OF THE SUBMISSION

  2.  This submission is entirely concerned with Item 3.d., "wind farms", covering in particular the actual and predicted effects of the harnessing of wind power on the environment of Wales including:

    (i)  Wildlife—populations and their habitats.

    (ii)  Rural communities—the collapse of hill farming and social divisions caused by "wind farms".

    iii  Impact on alternative sources of income for rural communities, especially tourism.

    (iv)  The corruptive effect of the quasi-subsidies on the entire chain of command, from the higher echelons of Government down to landowner and farmer.

  3.  It includes case history of the micro-situations witnessed at first hand by the author from 1993 to the present day. Much of the case history focuses on facts surrounding the proposed "wind farm" at Mwdwl Eithin, within the Clocaenog Forest Strategic Search Area in the County Borough of Conwy.

QUALIFICATIONS OF THE AUTHOR

  4.  The author has sustained a life-long interest in conservation of natural and cultural environments, including many years service as a conservation adviser to the Government of the Sultanate of Oman. He has also worked for over twenty-five years as a hill farmer and conservationist in North Wales. He is currently employed as an international environmental consultant in the private sector.

  5.  Unlike most of those opposed to large scale development of electricity generation from wind power, I own land judged to have a high wind resource and am therefore a potential benefactor from the current régime. I have chosen to reject a substantial offer of money rather than inflict lasting damage on the natural environment of his land. As a state pensioner with no occupational pension, I have foregone the offer of a predicted payment of £30,000 annually for up to 25 years, rather than allow wind farm developers to inflict severe environmental damage on my land.

CORRUPTIVE EFFECT OF FINANCIAL INCENTIVES—CASE HISTORY TO DATE OF THE PROPOSED MWDWL EITHIN WIND FARM

INVASIVE APPROACHES BY WIND POWER PROPONENTS

  6.   1993. The Mwdwl Eithin project was first mooted in 1993 by a boundary neighbour of our farm, Blodnant. Unlike the other boundary neighbours, he was a multi-millionaire businessman who lives 19.5 km from the centre of the proposed development. He had sold a large electrical business and reinvested the money in farms, including the large hill farm of Bodtegir on our boundary. Having invited a developer to do a detailed survey he then approached me to ask me to participate.

  7.  His motive appeared purely financial, even suggesting that, if we had wind turbines on our land, I would not need to take up the appointment in Oman as an environmental adviser to help pay for our children's education.

  8.  When I put it to him, he agreed that he would not be happy if someone built a large wind farm behind his house near Ruthin.

  9.  After a visit to see a wind farm in Anglesey my wife and I rejected the idea as a gross affront to the beauty and dignity of the Welsh landscape around our home, making my views abundantly clear in writing to his developer, warning that I would vigorously oppose any wind farm on Mwdwl Eithin.

  10.   1996. A developer from another company, Micon, arrived unannounced at our house when my wife was alone. When she protested serious concern about any such development, he said that he would use larger turbines and would therefore need fewer. I then wrote to him asking him a number of questions about his proposals, but he failed to answer those that were important from an environmental point of view.

DISREGARD FOR PLANNING REGULATIONS

  11.  The same year a 40 metres high wind monitoring mast was erected by the summit of Mwdwl Eithin, with a bright red light on the top of it, without planning permission. When I objected to the planning authority, an application was then submitted and permission granted retrospectively on the grounds that it was a precursor to a wind farm were not considered sufficient to refuse permission.

2003:  MASSIVE NEW INCENTIVES OFFERED AS NUON TAKES OVER

  The same boundary neighbour contacted my wife to try to persuade her that we should join forces with him with turbines on our land, as a new developer, NUON, had bought Micon and was offering much larger rents for turbines, suggesting that we might have five on our land earning a rent of £5,000 each annually for 25 years. I wrote to him asking for a copy of the map which he had showing the proposed turbine locations, so I could see the full extent of what he was proposing, but he failed to send it. After I tried to persuade him to drop the idea altogether, sending him written scientific evidence of the inefficiency of wind power, he refused merely saying that "others wanted the project" and "they must be a good idea." I agreed with my family that we would let NUON come up with firm proposals, to see just what they were planning, before finally refusing to go along with them. They e-mailed me suggesting that, subject to further study, our land would be suitable for about four turbines of "up to 2 MW" installed capacity, of overall height "up to" 105 metres (345 feet) each, which "in a good year" would earn us a payment of about £6,000 each, plus additional payments for site disturbance etc. during construction. Despite further requests to see a site plan showing the proposed turbine sites, they never sent one, saying that the siting was still subject to further studies.

  12.   2004. In early 2004, I placed the whole e-mail exchange with NUON in the hands of the local press, without conditions, to show them the extent of what was being pressed upon needy farmers in our area.

  13.  For a short while I still maintained a dialogue with NUON's development manager for the project, who then pressed me for a final decision on our possible participation. It emerged that they had contracted someone to carry out an ornithological study of the development site which was "time critical". I gave permission for this, on condition that those doing the study gave us prior notice of their arrival, as I thought it would be helpful to have confirmation of our existing data, without any need to give a commitment to participate in the development.

A CURSORY ORNITHOLOGICAL STUDY

  14.  ADAS were subcontracted by Messrs Dulas on behalf of NUON to carry out a bird study. Of the visits that we were notified of, a different birdwatcher arrived on one day three times during the spring of 2004, mostly in appalling weather, and spent about four hours in the area. At least one notified visit was postponed but the man arrived on a later day. One of them said that he had also come earlier that week at sunset to listen for drumming snipe. (We will look carefully at the raw data for this study when the Environmental Impact Assessment is submitted with the planning application, assuming we are allowed access to it.)

  15.  Even assuming that their work conformed to existing guidelines, there is no way that they could have produced an accurate in-depth collection of data that represented the true situation on the development area.

APPARENT ATTEMPT TO SHORT CUT THE ECOLOGICAL STUDIES PRESCRIBED BY THE COUNTRYSIDE COUNCIL FOR WALES (CCW)

  16.  In early 2004 Messrs NUON approached CCW with a proposal to site 28 turbines on Mwdwl Eithin. (We were unable to get a copy of the map of this proposal.) CCW responded in writing to NUON with the advice attached at Appendix A, having already advised a reduction in the total number of turbines.

  17.  Messrs NUON then apparently instructed Messrs Dulas Ltd, themselves wind farm developers (but in my view incorrectly described to me in writing by NUON as "independent consultants"), to submit a scoping consultation document to Conwy LPA, which they did under cover of a letter dated 25th March 2004. Under the heading "5.4 Ecological issues" they described in a short 10-line paragraph their proposed ecological studies for the project. This was far short of the detailed prescription they had already received direct from CCW (Appendix A). For example, it includes the wording ". . . cursory inspections of mammals, reptiles and amphibians, and invertebrates." My personal view is that this was a deliberate attempt to abbreviate CCW's detailed advice, perhaps to lower the cost of the studies or to diminish the possibility that unacceptable impacts would be found as a result of the studies.

  18.  I therefore drew this to the urgent attention of Conwy LPA, whose Scoping Opinion:  Information to be included within the Environmental Impact Assessment dated 26 May 2004, at paragraph 12. makes it clear that CCW's advice (including Appendix A, as an enclosure to their letter dated 19 April 2004 is to be followed.)

  19.  So careless was the developers' field work that the Scoping Proposal submitted to Conwy LPA showed one turbine sited on our land, 57 metres inside the boundary fence, despite my giving them information as to my boundaries in that area.

INADEQUACY OF GOVERNMENT-PRESCRIBED STUDIES IN EVALUATING BIODIVERSITY RESOURCES

  20.  Whilst the CCW guidelines give practical guidance as to the minimum studies required, to meet a wide range of habitats, the reality is that they are only samples. The actual picture of biodiversity at the Mwdwl Eithin development site, assembled by me in 2004 and kept as a confidential document until now. I attach it herewith at Appendix B, but summarise the main points, with extracts from the appendix, as follows:

    (a)  Nature Reserves. There are three nature reserves in, or bordering, the development area:

    (i)  The Cader Dinmael Nature Reserve.   18.74 hectares. Regenerated heather moorland, with some scrub. Elevation ranging from 360 metres to 450 metres above sea level. Fenced with public funding from the Countryside Commission (through Clwyd CC) and Welsh Office Agriculture Department, for livestock and heather management. Wholly inside the scoping map boundary. 70% of its area is now designated as Access Land.

    (ii)   The Cae Enid Nature Reserve.   6.23 hectares. Elevation ranging from 350 metres to 420 metres above sea level.(Public funding as for 5 a.) Significant mountain marshland, with nesting birds and rare flora including Sundew, Butterwort and Bog Asphodel. Contiguous with the scoping map boundary.

    (iii)  The Coed Enid Badger Reserve.   0.89 hectares. Elevation: 350 metres above sea level. (Public funding, including purchases of native deciduous trees, as for 5 a.) Colonised by badgers in the 1990s after establishment of the trees. Only 300 metres from the scoping map boundary.

    (b)  Fauna.   Fauna recorded includes 46 species of birds breeding, feeding, resting or ranging, apart from sea birds, of which the Hen Harrier, Merlin, Red Kite, Peregrine Falcon and Barn Owl are high profile threatened species: only 16 pairs of Hen Harriers are thought to occur in the whole of Wales. The large numbers and diversity of smaller birds provide important prey for the threatened raptors. Mammals include the badgers, which have now been seen moving over the mountain well away from the main sett, hares which we protect because their numbers are in decline, and bats in large numbers which are seen regularly at night flying over the mountain. Reptiles are abundant, including common newts and adders.

    (c)  Flora.   The acid mountain marshlands support significant populations of Sundew, Orchids, Butterwort and Bog Asphodel, among other species of interest.

    (d)  Habitats.   At least 35 hectares of our land is unimproved heather moorland, marsh, or rough grazing. A further 92 hectares of similar land adjoins it as part of Bodtegir farm. Thus the wind farm development would impact on at least 127 hectares of unimproved natural habitat, now a rarity in that region of North Wales.

  21.  The fact that there are three nature reserves on my land, established by me in the early 1980s with the help of public funding, appears to be of no concern to NUON, as they are still pressing ahead with their development, despite appeals to the contrary. They are aware of the existence of nature reserves and records of threatened species, but I have hitherto declined to offer up the full data at Appendix B for good reasons. The financial incentives to them and the neighbouring landowners are so high that it would have been an unacceptable risk to do so, in my view, to reveal information that would prevent the wind farm from being built.

  22.   Bats.   I know for fact that no study of bats has been made at the significant habitat at Blodnant farm, nor of the recently recorded badger setts nearby (unless it was carried out illegally without our knowledge, which is unlikely). If a planning application is submitted in December, as recently predicted by NUON, then of course I will challenge the contents of its ecological studies.

  23.   Starlings.   are now in serious decline and their European conservation status has recently been upgraded. When a local group wrote to NUON concerned by the threat to the tens of thousands of starlings which annually feed in and fly through the development area, NUON responded in writing saying that their consultants had only recorded seeing them "in 10s" rather than thousands and suggested that they might be referring to a different mountain called Mwdwl Eithin. The evidence is clear from the photograph in Appendix B taken by my wife from our house, Blodnant, earlier this year. The same flocks are regularly observed by other residents on the opposite side of Mwdwl Eithin.

  24.  No rigorous and effective professional ornithological survey has yet been carried out on Blodnant land to our knowledge. With the Precautionary Principle as a basis for environmental assessment, only continuous surveillance over two entire breeding seasons for the above species would accurately confirm their status. This would account for alternative breeding site choice by some species. The view of conservation professionals is that extinction (local or worldwide) of a species is one of the hardest matters to prove by scientific research.

  25.   Habitat Linkages.   The wider and most important issue is that marginal habitats and their populations can be critical to the breeding encounters of any species. Safeguarding only the larger populations in key habitats can lead to genetic weakness caused by in-breeding. Just as ex situ conservation in zoos is only a temporary measure until wild habitat has been reclaimed and repopulated, so also in situ conservation of the smaller populations and their habitats is an essential part of overall species conservation.

  26.  Most other heather moorland in the region has been obliterated by recent farming development. The Mwdwl Eithin/Cader Dinmael massif is a distinct habitat block, which may (for a number of species) form an important link between other similar habitat, such as Mynydd Hiraethog and Llantysilio mountain near Llangollen. It is important that this habitat should not be degraded in any way that reduces its current ability to sustain the observed species: it should remain as a link between other habitats and be managed in a way that restores and improves it. This should be regardless of whether any of the listed species have become locally extinct in the recent past.

SPURIOUS CLAIMS AS TO THE BENEFITS OF THE DEVELOPMENT—IMPACTS ON BIODIVERSITY

  27.  The argument that a wind power development such as the one proposed for this site will deliver a significant benefit, through its effect on global climate trends, more than compensating for the damage to biodiversity and its habitat at wind farm sites, has been disproved by good science. The threat to these sites from habitat disturbance, permanent ground water damage and subsoil degradation cannot adequately be mitigated, nor can it be justified on emission savings.

  28.  These impacts will include:

    (a)

    Disturbance of underground aquifers by excavation for turbine bases (and 500 tonnes of concrete inserted in the holes), crane bases (for erection of the turbines), cable trenches, hardened access roads (for erection and subsequence maintenance), quarries and borrow-pits for hardcore building material and ancillary buildings. These aquifers support domestic spring water supplies, domestic animal water supplies and wetland habitat for wild fauna and flora. (The concrete turbine bases cannot be removed after decommissioning, so the subsoil and aquifer damage is permanent.)

    (b)  Destruction of natural surface vegetation and topsoil structure.

    (c)  Direct disturbance of flora and fauna in its habitat during construction, and to a lesser extent from routine maintenance traffic.

    (d)  Killing of wild birds and bats from turbine blade collisions. There is much evidence of this from the USA in particular. The wind industry denies bird-kills by wind turbines are significant but the studies which they have funded are seriously flawed. The ground has only been checked at intervals of several days, whereas scavengers such as foxes and crows remove the majority of bird carcases within hours, often in the night before anyone can record them. This is supported by a scientific study of grouse casualties at deer fences in Scotland, carried out by the Game Conservancy Trust. One study by NUON in Holland claims that road kills of birds by traffic are significantly higher than those by wind turbines. What, I ask the Select Committee, is the relevance of this statement? Is it not similar to the argument that the landscape degradation by electricity pylons is already worse than that of wind turbines? Do two wrongs make a right? One Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the south of England has recently received funding to re-route overhead pylons underground.

  29.  In a written answer to one of my letters, NUON claimed that:

    (a)  Landscape degradation.   The land in the development area had already been industrialised by modern farming operations over recent years.

    (b)  Comment.   This is in total contrast to the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) evaluation carried out in connection with our Tir Gofal application, which inter alia highlighted the important traditional field boundaries which we have retained throughout our farm. Their preliminary report included the following:

    (i)  Recommended a further visit to look at the historic environment in more detail, usually recommended for "about 20% of consultations and usually only where the farm contains quite complex archaeology . . ."

    (ii)  "This holding contains several interesting landscape features."

    (iii)  ". . . Irregular pattern of fields around Blodnant were possibly created at the same time or later than the Hafottai [mediaeval or late mediaeval buildings] . . ."

    (iv)  "Larger more regular fields in the centre and north of the holding . . . probably enclosed in the 18th or early 19th century when common land throughout Britain was enclosed."

    (c)  Emission benefits.   The benefits of the CO2 emission-saving over threats were likely to outweigh the effects of the development on wildlife and its habitat.

    (d)  Comments:

        1.  According to the latest accepted figures, the net annual CO2 savings of the now-proposed 22 MW of installed capacity (operating at a load factor of 30%) would be less than 4,000 tonnes of emissions per year (at 0.43 tonnes per Megawatt-hour). This is ahead of additional emissions to compensate for transmission loss and back-up generation.

        2.  This is just 0.043% of the UK Government's total target for emission reduction by electricity generation by 2010 (9.2 million tonnes per year).

        3.  With this Government target being less than four ten thousandths (0.0004) of total global emissions, the savings from the Mwdwl Eithin development would be less than two millionths (0.0000172) of total global emissions. It could not possibly make any significant change to global concentrations of CO2, let alone deflect climate change.

        4.  To further put it into context, this is just 0.77% of the annual emissions of a single jumbo jet flying daily from London to Miami. (520,000 tonnes—George Monbiot, The Guardian, 26 April 2005.

DEC 2004-JAN 2005. A FARCICAL NOISE ASSESSMENT BY MESSRS HAYES-MACKENZIE, ON BEHALF OF DULAS/NUON

  30.  When it appeared that no background noise assessment was to be made at our house, some 700 metres from (and overlooked by) one of the proposed turbines, noise-monitoring equipment was installed near our house at my request. There were severe gales and heavy rain for most of the week-long measurement and the equipment was blown over, the second time before the week had ended. The company did not consider there was any need to carry out noise monitoring in different weather conditions or during the summer months. The conclusion communicated to me by NUON direct was that most of the background noise was from a small stream (on the opposite side of the house) and that the noise of grazing animals in the summer would outweigh any noise from turbines. This belies the facts.

LOW FREQUENCY NOISE (INFRASOUND)

  31.  No evaluation of low frequency noise from the large number of upwind turbines has yet been given to us. The industry continues to deny that it is a threat to human health. The latest research includes the following conclusions on seismic vibrations and infrasound from wind turbines:

    (a)  Q.  Do Fixed and Variable speed wind turbines generate detectable vibrations? A.  Yes.

    (b)  We have clearly shown that both fixed speed and variable speed wind turbines generate low frequency vibrations which are multiples of blade passing frequencies and which can be detected on seismometer buried in the ground at significant distances away from wind farms even in the presence of significant levels of background seismic noise (many kilometres).

    (c)  Some of these are non-stationary at very low wind speeds where we clearly see variation in frequency over long and short time timescales and we postulate that these are generated by the interaction between the blades and the towers. There are other frequencies which are stationary and we postulate that these are caused by normal modes of vibration of the towers.

    (d)  We have clearly shown that wind turbines generate low frequency sound (infrasound) and acoustic signals which can be detected at considerable distance (many kilometres) from wind farms on infrasound detectors and on low-frequency microphones (Hayes pers. comm.)

WIND DEVELOPERS' IMAGE-BUILDING: NUON'S INVOLVEMENT WITH THE WORLD CONSERVATION UNION (IUCN)

  32.  Noting in 2004 that NUON were gaining good publicity from their involvement in a biodiversity workshop published on the Web, I wrote to the Chief Executive of NUON Renewables at their head office in Holland protesting that their UK branch were planning a potentially highly damaging project on Mwdwl Eithin, copying my letter to the Director-General of the IUCN. I also mentioned their proposal for a huge wind farm at Allonby in the North West, within the Solway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, "causing outrage' according to local press reports. My letter was forwarded to NUON Renewables (UK), who replied with assurances that the prescribed studies would be carried out but with no reply to the major issues.

  33.  NUON have now indicated that they intend to submit a planning application in December 2005 to erect 13 turbines of 22 MW installed capacity at the site. Meanwhile, a Google search on the Internet today reveals the extent of their increased involvement in IUCN as sponsors. It is clear that, as with the RSPB, who are both partners of the wind industry and at the same time fiercely opposed to specific wind turbine developments, the huge sums made available to wind power developers under the Renewable Energy Obligation, various grants and subsidies, and even Objective 1 European funding (eg the proposed Cwm Penanner development, currently awaiting an appeal hearing by public inquiry, following rejection by Conwy LPA).

ACCESS LAND, THE CROW ACT (2000) AND TIR GOFAL AGRI-ENVIRONMENT SCHEME—MONEY AS THE PRINCIPAL DRIVER OF WIND POWER DEVELOPMENT

  34.  In 2001 we looked at options for joining the Tir Gofal scheme. A detailed survey of our land was carried out by staff of CCW. During the course of discussions I mentioned that the owner of the neighbouring farm, Bodtegir, had instigated a wind farm project on the heather moorland adjoining ours. This caused some surprise, as he was already apparently trying to get a Tir Gofal contract for the same land. One of the conditions of the scheme was that open mountain and moorland would automatically become open to public access for the entire period of the scheme, ten years with a five-year opt-out.

  35.  When the Draft maps for Access Land under the CRoW Act of 2000 were published, he appealed against the proposed designation of his land. We also appealed against the detailed boundary proposed for access to our land, for several reasons including that some of it was cultivated grassland, and we appealed against the designation of Bodtegir land, on the grounds that an NFFO contract had by signed for a wind farm on the land turning it into an industrial site not suitable for public recreation.

  36.  Our appeal was partially successful, in that the boundaries were adjusted to remove the managed grassland areas from public access, as well as an area of activity with farm machinery including a silage stack. When the Provisional Map was published, we saw no legal grounds for appeal against our new reduced boundary. However the owner of Bodtegir appealed against this further listing. The grounds for his objection (as downloaded from the Planning Inspectorate website), included the following:

    (a)  The land forms part of the Alwyn [sic] Valley Shoot and is shot over regularly in the shooting season.

    (b)  Partridge pens are erected on the land during the rearing and shooting season.

    (c)  The area is possibly to become a wind farm. This project is under serious consideration at this moment.

  37.  The appeal was rejected by the Planning Inspector.

  38.  It was confirmed by a neighbour soon after, as we suspected, that the owner of Bodtegir already had a Tir Gofal agreement in progress which had been running for some time.

  39.  Thus, there was a scheme in progress paying large annual sums of public money to conserve the natural habitat of Bodtegir, under which provision of public access was obligatory. Yet at the same time it was seriously being considered for industrialisation as a wind power station.

  40.  We noted that there was no mention of this land on the Tir Gofal Access Land section of the CCW website as having permissive public access on it, despite the fact that the agreement had been in force for at least two years.

  41.  Furthermore, it appeared to contravene accepted basic principles of wildlife conservation that an exotic species of partridge had been allowed to be introduced for purely financial reasons, to do with a commercial shoot, when there existed a remnant and highly threatened isolated population of native Red Grouse on it. It is known that French Partridges impact on the food resources of Red Grouse habitat. This appeared to be contrary to the basic aims of the Tir Gofal scheme. Furthermore, the foreign partridges invade our own land, which shares the Red Grouse population which we have endeavoured to protect and conserve for many years, without ever shooting them.

  42.  I thus consider this to be further evidence of the damage being caused by financial interests associated with wind farm development to wildlife resources, as well as the public's enjoyment of the new right to roam our diminishing wildernesses.

SERIOUS FLAW IN THE CRITERIA USED BY MESSRS OVE ARUP AND PARTNERS IN DRAFTING TECHNICAL ADVICE NOTE NO 8 (TAN 8)

  43.  Paragraph 33 of the Draft TAN 8—Criteria used to determine the location and extent of the draft strategic areas—at the fifth bulleted point states:

  44.  "Each area includes some positive siting factors (defined in the project methodolgy as Forestry Commission woodland, due to single ownership and the presence of existing access tracks; or open access land, identified by CCW's open access land dataset) in at least part of the area;"

  45.  The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW)'s own guidelines for wind farms (A Checklist for Wind Turbine Development Proposals, under CCW policy on wind turbines) states at Paragraph 15.2:

  46.  "Are the individual turbines sited well clear of private or public roads, railway, rights of way, bridle ways, footpaths, gardens, picnic spots, and any other places people are likely to walk or gather in (in case one of the blades should snap), and are these expressed clearly as separation distances to be maintained?"

  47.  In my submission to the TAN 8 consultation I challenged the Arup siting criteria, but without effect. I now put it to the Select Committee:

  48.  If these clear, thorough Government guidelines for the siting of wind turbines state that they should be sited well clear of rights of way and "any other places people are likely to walk or gather in," how can Open Access possibly be siting factor in favour of wind farms? Is area access so much less dangerous or intrusive to public enjoyment of the countryside than linear access along rights of way? Does this mean that every turbine will have a (say) 300 metres circular fence built around it on Access Land to protect the public from blade fracture (as happened this year in Scotland) or ice-throw in winter?

  49.  I submit that this is further evidence of the callous drive for wind power at any cost, without regard for public safety or amenity.

LOCAL ATTITUDES

  50.  Local attitudes to wind power are influenced by the following factors:

    (a)  Our farming neighbours have become desperate to diversify to alternate sources of income. Until mid-2005 when I retired from salaried employment, my overseas salary provided employment for local farmers' families, including a shepherd to help my wife run the farm and others working as subcontractors. For the last five years my salary has subsidised the farm business to an extent of more than £10,000 annually. Many are now suffering severe financial hardship.

    (b)  The huge sums being offered as rents for turbine sites are seen by the lucky few as a lifeline, to help feed their families.

    (c)  The local community is tightly interrelated, so many of those who are strongly opposed to wind power (and cannot benefit directly from it) none-the-less afraid to speak out against their close relatives or, in many cases, commercial customers (as buyers of breeding and store animals at market, hauliers, shearers, farm salesmen etc.)

    (d)  Division of communities.   Government policy to promote wind farms has caused unpleasant disruption and division of rural communities throughout Britain. In Wales this is more serious because it has stirred up racial hatred. In our area it has divided both the indigenous Welsh-speaking community itself and relations with more recent non-Welsh-speaking residents who have bought property in the area.

    (e)  My wife and I witnessed an ugly incident at a public meeting at Llangwm on 27 May 2004 at which a councillor stood up and said (in Welsh) "There's one noise pollution worse than that of wind turbines and that is the sound of the English language being spoken in Llangwm." His speech was received with spontaneous applause. However it caused a furore and much embarrassment to the silent majority of our Welsh-speaking neighbours, who were reported afterwards to have been ashamed of what was said and gratified by the forbearance of the non-Welsh speakers present. After the meeting I went up to the councillor, an old farming friend. He shook my hand and apologised saying he had "got a bit emotional."

    (f)  Similar sentiments were expressed at other public meetings during the same few months in our area, including those to discuss the Wern Ddu proposed development, near Gwyddelwern. In some cases families have themselves been divided, including that of one Welsh MP as you will already be aware.

    (g)  The Nuclear Lie.   For many years "green" activists have been promoting the belief that wind power is an alternative to nuclear power. As our communities are vehemently anti-nuclear, this dishonest promotion for purely commercial reasons has taken a hold and is almost unshakable. Even the Welsh Assembly Government Minister for Industry, Mr Andrew Davies has promoted this lie on BBC Radio Wales in a phone-in earlier this year, saying "Well, wind is better than nuclear power". (I heard it myself and recorded it) The clear statement by Sir Jonathon Porritt, a leading promoter of wind power, in the Sustainable Development Commission Report "Windpower in the UK" of May 2005, nails this lie once and for all. He writes that it is "unrealistic to assume that wind power will replace any nuclear capacity."

    (h)  The majority of local people have no idea of the size of the latest new generation of wind turbines, having only seen those at Llangwm, on Anglesey and in Mid Wales. Even those erected at Tir Mostyn/Foel Goch at 1.3 MW rated capacity are much smaller than those which NUON are proposing to erect on Mwdwl Eithin.

    (i)  Although the sums now being offered to landowners and community funds appear high, they are minimal compared with the profits that the mainly foreign owners stand to reap. All this is paid for through our taxes and our future electricity bills, but this message has not yet reached the people who will suffer most.

    (j)  The belief is that wind farms are "clean and green", saving huge tonnages of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. However the evidence is now clear that the savings are minimal, the environmental impacts are large and, in the case of the concrete foundations (500 tonnes per turbine base) are irreversible. No-one will remove the subsoil concrete, which may already have damaged the soil structure and the aquifers which depend on it.

    (k)  The wind power industry appears to play down or mask the true facts behind their developments. Today the developers are almost entirely foreign companies selling foreign equipment to take advantage of the present government incentives. The Tir Mostyn/Foel Goch wind farm was sold to an American investment company even before it was built. Cefn Croes is owned by the Italian company Falck, successors in title to disgraced Enron. Even the Welsh-sounding "Tegni Cy"' of Llangwm is majority owned by two large German companies. These facts are not generally known by the rural communities who are most affected by wind power development in Wales.

IMPACT ON TOURISM

  51.  Whilst only a few people can expect to benefit from turbine rent on their land (about four or five families for the Mwdwl Eithin project), a far larger number have small family-run tourist enterprises: farm visitor centres, caravans, camping sites, bed-and-breakfast rooms and self-catering cottages.

  52.  Although the wind industry persistently denies that wind turbines deter tourists, my own evidence is to the contrary. My wife and I ran a self-catering cottage on our farm for many years from 1983, visited by people from many foreign countries and other areas of Britain. When the issue of Mwdwl Eithin came up in 1993, I made a point of asking them for their views. Without exception they were all horrified by the possibility, some having already seen those in Mid Wales. Of these many said they would not wish to return to stay at our farm if the Mwdwl Eithin wind farm were to be built.

  53.  I am sure members of the Select Committee are fully aware of the value of tourism to the economy of Wales, measured in billions of pounds and rising annually.

  54.  The majority of surveys of tourist and general public attitudes to wind turbines have been commissioned by the Government or by the industry itself, with loaded questions and flawed results. Questions have included "Would you rather have a wind farm or a nuclear power station near your house?" Notable was the Mori Poll of tourist attitudes to wind farms in Scotland which was later exposed as a thorough scam. One of the fundamental flaws in these polls has been that few of those questioned have ever seen the new generation turbines.

  55.  In contrast to the carefully prepared wind industry and Government polls, BBC Countryfile, on 26 October 2003 ran an instant telephone poll of listeners with the following question: "Would be happy to have a wind turbine near your home?" The response out of a total of 36,566 votes was as follows:
1.  NO—20, 234 votes —55%
2.  YES—16,332 votes—45%


  56.  These figures were at a time before any of the new generation of massive turbines had been erected in Britain, so the voters had no idea of the size and their impact during construction.

  57.  Any suggestion that wind farms can be a tourist attraction is negated by the closure of the Delabole wind farm visitor centre in Cornwall which became insolvent through lack of visitor interest. At least one similar closure has happened in the USA. If such a novelty, set up at a time the cost and environmental damage of wind farms was still not widely known, has failed, how is it possible that the many wind farms now being built all over Britain can interest tourists?

IMPACT ON PROPERTY PRICES

  58.  We believe that in 2002 we lost several thousand pounds on the sale of a cottage, when a keen prospective purchaser asked me if there were any wind farm proposals in the area and I told him of the Mwdwl Eithin one. He then dropped out of the sale, after which we accepted a lower offer from the current owner.

  59.  Manipulation of the facts. The Department for Trade and Industry website on "myths about wind power" at 04\DTI Renewable myths.htm states the following:

Myth: Wind farms devastate house prices

  The facts:

    —  A study by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors suggests that wind farms have no lasting impact on UK house prices.

    —  This study is supported by evidence at wind farms in England, Scotland and Wales.

    —  It shows that local house prices recover from any initial impact once a wind farm has been operating for two years.

    —  Evidence suggests that those living nearest to wind farms are their strongest advocates. 10

    —  People promoting fears of falling prices risk making them self-fulfilling.

  60.  I submit to you that this is little short of a brazen lie. The RICS report Executive Summary actually says the following:

    "60% of the sample suggested that wind farms decrease the value of residential properties where the development is within view"

    "67% of the sample indicated that the negative impact on property prices starts when a planning application to erect a wind farm is made"

    [and]

    "Once a wind farm is completed, the negative impact on property values continues but becomes less severe after two years or so after completion"

  61.  To any literate reader, the meaning of the words "becomes less severe" is very different from that of "house prices recover from any initial impact".

  62.  The well-known court judgement in Cumbria of course resulted in a substantial award of compensation to a house purchaser who was not told by the seller of an imminent wind power development near the house before he signed the contract to purchase it.

IMPACT ON WATER SUPPLIES TO NEIGHBOURING PROPERTIES

  63.  I have pointed out to the Local Planning Authority that the hydrological studies do not include physical sampling of geological structures below the surface. As several of our neighbours, our domestic water supply is extremely fragile, especially during drought conditions, although it has never dried up. We are privileged to own a wholesome private supply of drinking water. The LPA have not yet been able to give us a concrete assurance that they will guarantee to refuse permission for certain turbine locations if there is any risk to our water supply. (Although temporary disturbance may foul the supply during construction, that is not our primary concern: it the permanent damage that cannot be mitigated.) Initially it was suggested that it would be a contractual matter between the wind power developer and ourselves and that we would have to take him to court if our water supply was diminished.

  64.  That situation is totally unacceptable. There is no mains water within our valley, nor any prospect of its being provided, in view of the distance and altitudes involved. Nor do we wish to pay water charges for the rest of our time, for a supply that is inferior to our present spring water.

  65.  Thus our evidence is that if a wind farm threatens a private water supply, the public authority will not protect us from the development.

CUMULATIVE VISUAL IMPACTS—CREEPING BLIGHT: THE "THIN END OF THE WEDGE" TECHNIQUE USED BY DEVELOPERS

  66.  There is already ample evidence that wind power developers are abusing the planning system by a strategy to gain planning permission for a single or small group of turbines, with a limited visual impact, and then following this soon after with a further phase of development. The Hafotty Uchaf site at Llangwm is now at its third phase of development, having started with a single turbine, the first to be erected in mainland North Wales. Moel Maelogan is now about to enter a much larger second phase, having started with only three turbines. An example of the corruptive technique used through the Environmental Assessment process was published by Messrs Dulas Ltd on their website. In an abstract of their Environmental Statement for the Carno extension, published in 2004 on their website, they attempt to mitigate and justify the extension in the following words:

    "It is undeniable that the wind farm will constitute a new visual aspect in the landscape for users of the bridleway and the footpath. However, users of these public rights of way will already be accustomed to the existing Carno wind farm and the proposal for an extension to this wind farm will not constitute an entirely new element in the landscape."

CONCLUSION

  67.  I believe that the foregoing evidence, case history from the front line, shows how wind power development in Wales:

    (a)  Delivers net damage to the natural environment of Wales, much of which is irreversible.

    (b)  Damages human settlements, risking loss of water supplies, visual amenity and rural peace without compensation.

    (c)  Significantly reduces the value of domestic property.

    (d)  Makes insignificant contributions to the reduction in global emissions, so small that they cannot possibly deflect global climate change.

    (e)  Damages the economy of Wales through damage to the very foundation of rural tourism, the Welsh landscape and all that it contains.

    (f)  Directly damages small tourism-related farm diversification enterprises at a time when farm incomes are at their lowest ever.

    (g)  Drives development for financial reasons only, mainly by foreign developers, providing a market for foreign equipment, and as a fast-moving cash investment.

    (h)  Divides communities, exacerbating racial tensions in some areas, by benefiting a small number of farmers and landowners at the expense of the rest.

  68.  I conclude that, although there are many people working to protect the environment who genuinely believe that wind power will make a contribution to the long-term protection of biodiversity, the huge financial incentives now made available to investors from all over the world has corrupted the mechanisms by which non-governmental organisations interpret scientific research, even corrupting the scientific process itself. Wind power is now all about making money, the natural environment becoming the servant of big business which is now mercilessly exploiting it.

(Annexes not printed)

November 2005


 
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