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UK addresses challenges in assessing wind farm noise

Human impacts, News, Wind turbines Add comments

England’s primary environmental agency, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), has commissioned a study to improve techniques for assessing wind farm noise.  “There is a possibility that local authorities are not currently investigating complaints about noise from wind farms due to the absence of any formal technical guidance,” an internal document reads. “Defra wishes to let a contract to provide local authorities with a methodology by which to investigate noise from wind farms, to support local authority enforcement of statutory nuisance legislation.”  According to the Telegraph, the report is due out later this year, and should make it easier for local councils to respond to noise complaints.  A recent survey suggests that about one in seven UK wind farms have spurred noise complaints; noise campaigners contend that many people who are bothered do not file formal complaints, since they are rarely acted upon.

(UPDATE, 8/2/10): Apparently, the news report cited above was about a call for proposals, or plans to let the contract; in August, Energy Minister Charles Hendry announced that the consulting firm Hayes McKenzie had been hired to conduct this review of noise assessment techniques.  The firm will begin work in September and is expected to complete its report by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, also in the UK, the Bradford Planning Inspector upheld a ruling by the city Council to deny a permit for building a single large turbine at a factory in town.  The applicant had appealed the denial, since its noise studies showed that that the turbine would be in compliance with the federal noise code ETSU-R-97, which is the only code named in the statutes.  However, the investigating Bradford Council Environmental Health officer used several other noise level methodologies when he visited a similar turbine in Norfolk. Using World Health Organisation and British Standard guidelines and codes of practice, as well as ETSU-R-97, he came to the conclusion that the Princes Soft Drinks turbine would cause a noise nuisance for nearby residents. The Planning ruling noted that even according to the company’s modeling, “for some dwellings under certain conditions, the emitted turbine noise is likely to lead to complaints. Furthermore, according to WHO standards, there would be times when this noise could result in sleep disturbance, or prove to be a serious annoyance to residents. I find this to be unacceptable.”

Councillor John Ruding said: “I am delighted that the inspector agreed with the local community and their voices have been heard. “These proposals were an experiment on people’s lives which was not acceptable.”  Earlier, at the time that the company appealed the initial denial, another Councillor, James Cairns, had noted, “The Council has done its best. Its officers didn’t believe it was feasible in the area. Bradford is not against wind turbines – if you go up onto the moors, you will see them. But turbines of this size have not been tried and tested in urban areas.”

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