An open letter to all councillors
Every week more and more evidence emerges from UK and world-wide sources on the adverse health effects to those living close to industrial windfarms such as the planned Viking Energy windfarm.
This windfarm project is part-owned and part-funded by Shetland Charitable Trust and supported by Shetland Islands Council.
In 2009 The World Health Organisation’s report Night Noise Guidelines for Europe identified environmental noise as a major public health issue. Since then a whole body of evidence has grown to support this and other reports’ findings.
In 2013 a study into the likely health impact on residents living within the planned Viking Energy windfarm was carried out by NHS Shetland’s director of public health Sarah Taylor. She concluded: “Wind turbines are known to cause a number of effects that have an impact on health”. Although commissioned by them, Shetland Charitable Trust noted, then binned her report, citing their failure to publish a Health Impact Assessment before planning consent as the reason for not being able to act on this report.
In April this year Professor Emeritus Alun Evans (Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Public Health, The Queen’s University of Belfast) has published a short paper entitled Wind Farms and Health. In this he concludes “there are serious adverse health effects associated with noise pollution generated by wind turbines. It is essential that separation distances between human habitation and wind turbines are increased. There is an international consensus emerging for a separation distance of 2 km, indeed some countries are opting for 3 km. The current guideline on separation distance is based on ETSU-R-97 and is manifestly out of date. It is only relevant to the small turbines of that era. The vastly increased scale of today’s turbines means that the current recommendation on turbine separation is grossly inadequate.”
Over 70 of the 103 Viking Energy industrial sized turbines will be within the 2km separation distance of dwellings where people living in them will have their health adversely affected. The government guidelines on minimum distance from dwellings at the time of submission of the Viking planning application was 2 km and these guidelines were ignored by councillors. Much of the Viking windfarm will be built on land owned by Shetland Islands Council. Shetland Charitable Trust has ignored Dr Taylor’s Health Impact Assessment and Shetland Islands Council have also failed to take any action to protect the health of residents within the 2km zone.
It is not just on health issues that evidence against building of windfarms close to dwellings is stacking up. A recent independent report by the London School of Economics is Gone with the Wind: Valuing the Visual Impacts of Wind Turbines through House Prices. This report concludes, “All the results point in the same direction. Windfarms reduce house prices in postcodes where the turbines are visible, and reduce prices relative to postcodes close to wind farms where the wind farms are not visible.”
I’m one of the lucky ones in that my house is not within the Viking Windfarm 2km zone but may well be within 2km of another industrial-sized windfarm which will need to be built to make any interconnector cable viable. It would not surprise me if, like Shetland Charitable Trust, most councillors continue to ignore the growing evidence on health and house prices. Perhaps they should take note of the many past construction practices that were formerly considered safe, such as using blue asbestos in buildings, that have come back to bite developers.
Perhaps councillors should be aware of advice recently published by the housing and homelessness charity Shelter Scotland on how to serve a “blight notice” against a council or other public authority.
A blight notice can be served if a planned public development, including windfarms by utility companies, affects the value of a home and is known as “planning blight”. If I lived within the Viking Windfarm that stretches across Central Mainland I would be getting my house valued now to obtain a benchmark house price to underpin my claim.