Silton wind turbine inquiry: What is acceptable noise?
Thursday’s session of the Silton Wind Turbine inquiry concentrated on noise issues, with competing experts giving contrasting estimates of the sound that could be expected if the four turbines are given the go-ahead.
This is the part of the inquiry where North Dorset District Council, whose members refused the application by Ecotricity, is in difficulty.
When the application was submitted, NDDC officers recommended approval, and spent some time working with the applicant’s experts on an Environmental Impact Assessment which included noise surveys.
Members overturned their officers’ recommendation, but they did not include noise disturbance as a ground for refusal – so they were unable to take part in the section of the inquiry that deals with noise.
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The day started with more discussions about the blimp, flown by objectors’ group Save our Silton from the neighbouring Whistley Farm. Ecotricity and the owner of the land where the four Salisbury Cathedral-height turbines are proposed have consistently refused to allow a blimp to be moored where the turbines will actually be sited, on the grounds that the height would be unreliable.
Ian Barter had given details of the Whistley-moored blimp and they had not been challenged by David Hardy, representing Ecotricity.
But Save our Silton barrister Richard Kimblin wanted to be certain that the inspector, Neil Pope, would take the evidence of the blimp on face value, even inviting him to go to Whistley Farm and certify the measurement of the rope to which the little orange airship is attached.
Mr Pope said he noted there was no challenge, so he felt it would not be necessary.
The the SOS acoustics expert Mike Stigwood took the stand, telling the inquiry that the basis for measuring the sound impact of the turbines on the nearest properties was unreliable.
His company, MAS Environmental, had carried out many studies of wind farms and turbines in recent years, and research and experience had shown them that the monitoring equipment should be placed closer to the properties than was the usual practice.
His evidence was criticised by Mr Hardy, who told the inquiry that not one of the public inquiries or subsequent court actions had upheld Mr Stigwood’s opinions.
Ecotricity’s expert, Stephen Arnott, told the inspector that his extensive experience told him that the accepted methodology was effective and reliable, allowing that the measurement of background sound was not a precise science.
The Silton scheme had been carefully designed to minimise the noise disturbance to neighbouring properties, and while there would inevitably be some noise at some times, it would be within the accepted “trade off” levels approved for the establishment of renewable energy sources.
By Gay Pirrie-Weir
For more on the Silton Wind Turbine inquiry, see today's Blackmore Vale Magazine and This is Dorset for daily updates.