The independent Audit Report on the Moorsyde Environmental Statement is available as a download (MS Word) on our Downloads Page.
Section 1.4 of the Addendum Report sets out a summary of the proposal. This differs significantly from the original description in the Environmental Statement which set out a specific turbine type, albeit one that was no longer in production, and a total generating capacity of 38.5 MW that gave a capacity factor of 27%.
The revised description of the proposal, far from bringing greater clarity, introduces significant confusion and uncertainty. This is despite the fact that the applicants have been monitoring the wind resource at the site for almost 2 years and must know what turbine capacity it will support.
The description of the proposal in the Addendum Report now gives a total capacity of between 28 and 42 MW and a capacity factor of between 23% and 30%. This group has examined a wide range of wind farm applications across the country and has not come across a single proposal that has been described in such vague and confusing terms in a planning application.
Despite the vagueness of the proposal, the Addendum Report is quite specific in its claimed electricity production figures for the proposal. Meanwhile, the applicants' website (as of May 2006) is offering figures that are at variance with the Addendum Report.
If the applicants are claiming specific outputs and carbon savings, it is our view that they should explain and validate their figures. It is not possible to rely on their figures as presently submitted. If it is a question of commercial confidence, we would suggest that they be asked to submit the baseline data, including their wind data, turbine model and calculations, for scrutiny by an independent expert.
Recently released data from the DTI indicates that wind farms in the North East of England operate at an average capacity of 21%.1 The applicants have acknowledged that, "The fact that Felkington is on a low lying plateau means the wind conditions are relatively low ...".2 Yet they are now claiming that they might use a 3 MW turbine on this site. As far as we can see, the only 3MW turbine that the company might use on this site is described by its manufacturers as a "high wind and offshore turbine", which would clearly be unsuitable for the wind conditions on this site.
The main argument for onshore wind power proposals is their capacity to substitute for fossil fuelled electricity production and hence to reduce C02 and other greenhouse gas emissions. The accurately calculated benefits of a proposal must be weighed up against the impacts. The benefits of the Moorsyde proposal are vague, exaggerated and unsubstantiated. It is our view that it is unacceptable to submit a proposal on this basis.
The requirement for amphibian and bat surveys was clearly set out by the County Council and the Borough in the original scoping responses to the Moorsyde proposal. 3 Whilst we welcome the fact that these surveys have eventually been undertaken, we would make the following observations:
Great crested Newts
According to the applicants, the surveys were undertaken at "a less effective period" (AR 2.2.3). There is no reason why these surveys could not have been undertaken at a more suitable time if the applicants had taken cognisance of the scoping consultations.
The bat survey was also undertaken at a less favourable time of year: late September and early October rather than the recommended period of May to September (AR 2.3.5). Again, the survey could have been carried out at a more suitable time if the applicants had followed the recommendations of the County Ecologist in the scoping consultations.
The survey states that no bat roosts were identified (AR 2.3.8). Although bat roosts within 500 metres of turbine sites were not identified, there are several known bat roosts on the boundary of the site, close to turbine locations: eg. The Gables, Duddo; North Ancroft and Old Shoreswood.
Birds and bird surveys are addressed at 5.6, below.
IF 5.3 (3) "Further viewpoints should be illustrated and assessed in detail for a representative assessment"
Whilst we welcome the submission of additional photomontages and wireframes in the Addendum Report Figures, Volume 2, it is to be regretted that the applicants did not choose either to discuss further viewpoint selection with local communities or to recognise representations regarding their original selection of viewpoints. Public consultation and participation in the selection process is recommended in the SNH guidelines referenced by the applicants in the Environmental Statement.
We do not consider that the submission of these additional photomontages answers the issues of viewpoint selection and technical quality that were made in the Audit Report with regard to the original photomontages.
Viewpoints 1a, Beal and 2a, Goswick
MAG welcomes these visualisations. We note that these photomontages do meet SNH guidelines on worst case (i.e. full-face) representations of turbine blade angles.
We would, however, observe that, while the photomontages are of substantially better technical quality than those in the original Environmental Statement, they still fail to meet the SNH technical guidelines discussed below.
Viewpoint 3a, Berrington Lough
It is not clear how this photomontage addresses the reference to, "... it was suggested that an additional photomontage prepared for a location to the southwest of the site would further aid the consideration of likely visual impacts" . Berrington Lough is, as AR 3.1.7 makes clear, "to the southeast of the site".
There is no clear justification for the selection of this viewpoint which is on an unclassified, minor road with no significant receptors. Berrington Lough is not even listed in theapplicants' own Preliminary Assessment of Visual Receptors (ES, Appendix J) unlike important receptors with a clear view over the site such as Allerdean, Shoreswood and Shoresdean at a similar distance. This viewpoint cannot be seen as being representative of views from this distance.
Landforms and vegetation obscure the site from this viewpoint making it less suitable than other available viewpoints at the same distance with clear views over the site.
Unlike the more distant views from Beal and Goswick, this photomontage clearly breaks SNH guidelines by not presenting a worst case view. It further breaks the size and quality guidelines discussed below.
Viewpoint 4a, Duddo Stone Circle
We welcome visual representations from this viewpoint. Unfortunately, this photomontage clearly breaks SNH technical guidelines on quality, the baseline image was taken in bad light at 5.20 pm in November.
Unlike the more distant views from Beal and Goswick, it does not present a worst case view. The closest turbines are all presented side on with insufficient contrast in the sky area. It also breaks the SNH size guidelines.
Viewpoint 5a, Ancroft [unclassified road near Ancroft Northmoor]
The applicants claim that this viewpoint was selected to be "representative of views from properties in this area and from vehicle travellers on the B6354" (AR 3.1.10) It is not. The predominant experience of views of the site for travellers on the B6354 is looking south to the Cheviots or north to Duddo Tower and the settlement ridges to the north. Equally, most settlements in the area have a southerly outlook. This view is to the west and avoids showing the relationship of the site to views of the Cheviot Hills.
Unlike the more distant views from Beal and Goswick, it does not present a worst case view and breaks the SNH technical guidelines on size and quality.
Viewpoint 6a, Ladykirk We welcome the inclusion of this viewpoint that was requested by Scottish Borders Council during pre-scoping consultations.
The applicants note that MAG and others consider, "certain views , particularly those from the north and northwest of the site, to be underrepresented". The Addendum Report fails to address this point.
Northumberland County council specifically requested that, "The selected viewpoints should include locations close to the site where views of the development will be prominant in the view of passing motorists". The applicants have still failed to include any viewpoints which relate to the B6354.
The importance of the site in relation to views of the Cheviot Hills is underscored by the Berwick-upon-Tweed Local Plan which emphasises the relationship of the intermediate landscape of this part of the Borough to surrounding landscape features:
The Council will adopt a policy framework which acknowledges the important role the landscape plays in defining areas of open space in scale with the Cheviots, The North Sea and the mixed moorland ridges. In these areas the intention will be to ensure that development proposals will not have a detrimental impact on the long range views important to the character and quality of the Borough landscape.4
The Local Plan reflects the concerns expressed in the landscape appraisal work that was carried out by the University of Northumbria which is also embodied in the Regional Renewable Energy Strategy: "In the north of the Borough turbines should be sited so as not to impinge on principle views of the Cheviots." 5
The additional viewpoints do not include any that examine the relationship of the site to the Cheviot Hills or the B6354, the main route through the site. Nor do they address the issues identified by the Audit Report in relation to the original 10 photomontages:
A high proportion of the chosen viewpoints have obscured or partial views ... There are no views from the closest receptors (eg. Grievestead, Shoreswood, Felkington, B6354 near Ancroft Northmoor) Objectors claim that open views from the north of the site (eg. Thornton area) are under-represented
And: "Guidance recommends that chosen viewpoints should be of both key locations and representative locations and that limited value is gained from repeated displays of obscured views" (IF 3.3.2)
The applicants claim in paragraph 6.3.84 that the statement in the Audit Report that, "the viewpoints chosen are reasonably representative of those available from the receptor and do not deliberately seek to use foreground detail to reduce or obscure the background", contradicts the later statement that, "a high proportion of the chosen viewpoints have obscured or partial views demonstrating low impacts". It does not.
The first statement was aimed at MAG's attribution of intent in the use of foreground objects. The second statement is a matter of fact: Appendix J of the ES (Preliminary Assessment of Visual Receptors) uses precisely these terms - 'screened', 'obscured', 'partial' and 'oblique' - to describe views obtainable from receptors which were subsequently chosen as viewpoints. No justification for the repeated use of such viewpoints is given in the Addendum Report.
It is noticeable that the applicants have chosen to use more open viewpoints in their supplementary photomontages, even though the choice of viewpoints remains open to criticism.
IF 5.3 (4) "Photomontages should be printed larger, with correct viewing distances stated, to convey a realistic impression of visual impacts"
The applicants admit that their ES photomontages fail to meet the best practice size criteria that they reference in the ES. The sizing of the page is irrelevant, the SNH guidelines state that: "A full image [our emphasis] size of A4 or even A3 for a single frame picture, giving an image height of approximately 20 cm, is required to give a realistic impression". 6
The applicants' additional photomontages are, at 13 cm in height, marginally better in size than the ES ones which were of 8 to 12 cm. They still fall far short of best practice guidelines.
The viewing distances argument at AD 6.3.86 - 6.3.88 is based on a false premise. Viewing distances are not supposed to be predicated on the size of the photomontage. The SNH guidelines clearly state: "A comfortable viewing distance of 30-50 cm should dictate the technical detail of their [photomontages] Production". 7 Taken with the SNH size guidelines, this clearly states that photomontage size and detail should be based on the viewing distance, not vice versa.
The viewing distance issue is largely irrelevant to the original photomontages where many are of such poor technical quality that it is impossible to make out many of the turbines that they purport to represent at any viewing distance. This is the case even with the aid of viewing aids and directly contravenes the SNH guidelines which state that:
The quality of photographs and photomontages is very important. Photographic work should be carried out in good weather conditions, offering clear visibility.
The worst case scenario of turbines seen against a strongly contrasting sky (e.g. Bright blue or dark grey) should always be shown. 8
The 60 km baseline for looking at cumulation issues that the applicants question [6.3.90] is clearly set out in the SNH's guidelines that the applicants themselves reference:
The CLVIA [Cumulative Landscape and Visual assessment] should show all those windfarm proposals which are in the 'public domain' which are sited up to 60 km from the proposal under consideration. 9
MAG welcomes the Addendum Report's recognition of the importance of visual impacts on cultural heritage sites in the area in any assessment of the Moorsyde Application.
We particularly welcome the recognition of the impact on Duddo Four Stones, a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance which has been described as, "... undoubtedly the most complete and dramatically situated" [of Northumbrian stone Circles].10 Unfortunately, the photomontage that the applicants have submitted from this viewpoint is of particularly poor quality, and clearly breaks SNH guidelines on quality described above.
With reference to Duddo Tower, we also welcome the recognition that, "The turbines will form a new backdrop to views of the tower from the south and west." With a 'substantial' impact significance. Unfortunately, the applicants have not produced any visual representations from the B6354 to the south of Duddo, which would illustrate the visual impact.
We do have some concerns at the very limited nature of this section. The cultural heritage sections of other EIA's that we have seen routinely take into consideration impacts on, for example, National Trust properties and local tourist attractions. It is noticeable that the castles at Etal and Norham are not included and that the selection of sites is limited to Northumberland. We would also have thought that the visual impact on views from the Flodden battlefield at Branxton should have been considered.
IF 5.1 (1) "Confirm that the emissions calculations are based on a currently accepted and representative standard"
The Sustainable Development Commission (a renewables advisory body) and the BWEA (the wind power developers' trade body) are not generally regarded as setting the 'currently accepted and representative standard' for emissions calculations (AR 6.3.5).
The DTI suggest using a grid average figure of 0.43 tonnes CO2 per Mwh,11 as do the Carbon Trust who are the recognised authority in this area, having done baseline research on intermittency and substitution for the DTI.
OFGEM, the industry regulator, also recommends the use of a grid average figure of 0.43kg per kWh (i.e. 0.43 tonnes per MWh) when converting Renewable Obligation Certificates to Emissions Trading Scheme credits. 12
DEFRA's Guidelines for the Measurement and Reporting of Emissions by Direct Participants in the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (June 2003), again uses an averaged figure of 0.43kg Co2 per kWh (i.e. 0.43 tonnes per Mwh). 13
IF 5.1 (2) "Confirm whether or not specific alternatives have been considered, giving outline details of the alternatives and the reason for their rejection in favour of Moorsyde. If no alternatives have been considered explain why Moorsyde has been chosen out of the potentially suitable area of search south west of Berwick-upon-Tweed."
In responding to these points the Addendum Report does not answer the questions directly, although it is clear from this report and the original Environmental Statement that no alternative sites were considered. This point is further validated by para 8.3 of the Ironside Farrar report which states, "In particular there is no indication that specific alternatives were considered".
An explanation for the choice of the Moorsyde site from the broad area identified by the GIS study is given in AR 6.3.12, which states that the site was identified taking account of "ground topography, residential developments, likely grid connections and similar factors". One aspect of this is expanded upon in AR 6.3.13, which states, "a major constraint on wind farm deployment is the effects of noise and visual amenity on residences. It can be seen that the Moorsyde site is not compromised by scattered settlements and farm dwellings found throughout the Region."
This, as an explanation for the selection of this site, entirely lacks credibility. It is worth noting that this section of the Addendum Report has not been completed by Jacobs Babtie Ltd, but by the applicants themselves. One of our main criticisms of the original Environmental Statement was that it sought to significantly understate the level of residential settlement in the areas immediately surrounding the site and the impact on the amenity of these settlements. It is our view that it would be difficult to find a site and a design within the broad area of search, or indeed within the wider sub region of Northumberland, which has a greater impact on the amenity of households.
The Ironside Farrar report suggests in para 8.3 that "the ES should provide further information to demonstrate that this is the best available site and that there are no others in the area in which impacts would be significantly less". The Addendum Report makes no attempt to address this question. The site is entirely surrounded by settlements, will significantly impact on key views of the Cheviots, is located on unstable ground which prevents an accurate layout being presented and poses a potential threat to the main drinking water supply for Berwick. On this basis we would suggest that it would be very hard to identify a site with greater environmental impacts, not only within the limited area of search, but within the wider Northumberland sub region.
IF 5.1 (3) "give details and an assessment of impacts for the grid connection."
This section of Addendum Report (6.3.16 - 6.3.17) has been prepared by the applicants rather than their consultants and presents a simple list of possible connection options without any assessment of impacts.
The applicants suggest that Scottish Power has identified three possible connection points. The report indicates that a connection to the Loaning substation near Berwick is the most likely option. This opinion from Scottish Power has never been evidenced by the applicants and contradicts evidence provided to this group that a 33 kV connection to the Loaning substation would be highly unlikely on technical grounds.
This view is supported by the fact that Catamount/Force 9 Energy, who are seeking to develop the Barmoor proposal have included a detailed description of a connection to the Eccles substation north of Coldstream in their environmental assessment. Npower, the developers of the Toft Hill proposal, have also told us that they will connect to the Eccles substation. Both of these proposals would have a lower capacity than the lowest capacity given in the Moorsyde Addendum Report (28 MW).
Paragraph 6.3.17 of the Addendum Report inexplicably states that, "it will not be possible to finalise the grid connection point and the line design until the capacity of the wind farm has been defined through consent." We would suggest that it is up to the applicants to define the capacity of their proposal and to supply a detailed assessment of how this capacity will be connected. The grid connection is an integral part of the application. It is not sufficient for the applicant to imply that the role of the planning authority is downgraded to that of a consultee under Section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989.
IF 5.2 (1) "Provide an assessment of groundwater impacts arising from grouting operations"
According to the Environmental Statement, "The available mine abandonment plan indicates most of the site to be underlain by mine Workings...". 14 Any work to stabilise the ground will involve substantial interference with the geology and hydrogeology of the area. The impact of the various solutions on the ground and surfacewater regimes can only be predicted after detailed ground investigation In a consultation response, the Environment Agency, stated:
The site itself lies on a minor aquifer (Scremerston Coal Group); however directly beneath this formation lies a major aquifer (Fell Sandstone). [...] The groundwater in the major aquifer is of excellent quality and provides the source for a public drinking water supply at GR NT 9460 4575 (Bleak Ridge borehole). It can be seen from the draft layout that Turbines 6,7, 8 and 9 are less than 500m from the public supply borehole. It is because of these factors that the groundwater is considered highly sensitive in the area. The Environment Agency will require that the Environmental Impact Assessment to comprehensively address the risks to groundwater. 15
The ES and the Addendum Report have signally failed to address this issue. The suggestion that Ground Investigation should be conditional upon the Planning Approval should be unacceptable, in the light of the potentially severe impacts of the suggested remedial work on the highly sensitive water resources.
The potential impact of the development on groundwater is simply mentioned without without proposing any specific details or solutions. The addendum also remains silent on the fact that this is not 'ordinary' groundwater, but an important and unusually pure aquifer that is the source of Berwick's water supply.
Ironside Farrar's audit said of the grouting proposal that the ES "does not adequately consider impacts on water resources", and also stated that, "there is no mention, however, of the implications of grouting operations on groundwater. This is a serious omission as grouting can affect groundwater quality." 16
The applicants assert that the grout does not present a risk to groundwaters when set, but ignore the issue of pollution as the cement and other constituents bleed into the displaced water, as well as possible damage to the aquifer during the drilling and grout pumping process. Nor is the possibility of pollution due to the disturbance of mine waste and contaminated water in old workings during drilling and grouting operations addressed. There is a very real danger of displaced mine water polluting groundwater during grouting operations.
The proposed grouting material would contain cement, pulverised fuel ash and a range of additives, all of which in their unset state can be highly deleterious and which would be undesirable whether in a public water supply or an SAC designated tributary. Whilst the mixture may be more stable after hardening, there is considerable opportunity for contamination during the construction work. PFA has also been shown to leach contaminants which exceed the Water Quality Limits. 17 There can be no assessment of the quantities of grout, with its comcomitant chemical load, that would be involved in the grouting process and in forming the foundations without a thorough ground investigation. The applicants themselves admit, "... The environmental impacts of the grouting process cannot be quantified until the extent of grouting and specific ground conditions are known ..." (AR 6.3.21).
Pressure grouting in voids and fissures can be a hit or miss affair, sometimes travelling considerable distances without ever achieving its purpose of stabilising the intended location whilst causing other problems. Vague suggestions that permeable barriers and water treatment measures might be used in the event of problems do not adequately address the technical difficulties of such remedial work. The suggestion that turbines might be 'micro-sited' to avoid mine workings also lacks evidence; the applicants at present admit to having no clear idea of the extent of mine workings or how far turbines would have to be moved to avoid them.
Without the essential information from a thorough ground investigation and expert opinion on possible impacts on groundwater, the project is being proposed and considered 'blind'. The impacts of the entire project on the ground and surface water have not been adequately addressed and cannot be left, like so many other issues that are not properly addressed in the Addendum Report, to post-approval monitoring or remedial action after serious damage has been caused.
IF 5.2 (2) "Provision of more detail on pollution containment and drainage arrangements for both groundwater and surface water."
The applicants recognise that the River Tweed has now been adopted as a Special Area of Conservation which extends to protection of its tributaries, one of which transects the western half of the site. The applicants acknowledge in the ES that this watercourse is particularly vulnerable to pollution from surface water run-offs. The applicants entirely fail to address the issue of possible groundwater pollution and displacement runoffs from flooded mine workings, a problem that is widely recognised in the local area.
In the Hydrology section of the ES, they acknowledge that , "Without mitigation and appropriate construction methods, the impact on stream quality could be substantial and may affect water quality of the River Tweed". 18 They further note that it will be necessary to construct two bridges over this stream, "which increases the risk of a contamination incident occurring". 19
There is no discussion/justification of track routing in terms of environmental impacts and pollution risks. Nor is there any indication of how any pollution incidents affecting this stream will be contained beyond a referral to a reprint of best practice guidelines.
There is no indication of how concrete and grouting mixes are to be delivered, whether by a batching plant on site or by external delivery. If concrete is delivered by lorry, large scale cleaning facilities will be required. We would have expected more site-specific detail on how polluted waste water will be handled on site in response to the Audit Report's concerns rather than just a reprint of best practice guidelines. We would also note that remedial foundation works will add substantially to the CO2 burden of the construction process in the use of cement and in transport and will substantially reduce the claimed carbon benefits of this proposal.
IR 5.2 (4) "Confirm bird survey methodology is appropriate and/or carry out more detailed survey."
The applicants respond, "English Nature has confirmed that they are satisfied that the populations of greylag geese utilising the site are not sufficient to warrant [sic] a significant effect. No additional surveys are therefore required." (AD 2.1.10)
We have not had sight of this letter. The phrase 'utilising the site' suggests that the respondents are referring to birds grazing or roosting on the site, whereas the major concern is with bird movements through the site. This response would anyway be the unsupported opinion of a consultee, not a confirmation of the appropriateness of the bird survey methodology.
The applicants were asked to undertake a wintering bird survey whose parameters were clearly set out by the County Ecologist in the NCC scoping consultation document (ES Appendix D). This stated that: "A wintering bird survey should be undertaken , comprising a number of site visits between early September and late March".
The ES survey consisted of only four visits between mid-November and mid-January (13/14 November, 19/20 December, 16/17 January and 6/7 February). The applicants state that conditions on two of these days (ie. a quarter of the survey) were 'sub-optimal' with rain and wind (ES Appendix I, 2.1.2).
The methodology of the survey was further weakened by a lack of detail on walkover routes and times. The surveyor was based in Manchester and it is important to know when his surveys began and ended because most goose movements occur soon after daybreak and towards dusk, as birds move from roosting grounds to grazing areas and vice versa. Nor is there any detailed description of weather conditions which good practice would require.
The survey managed to miss the fact that, accoding to local residents, several hundred greylag greese were actually grazing and roosting on the site in a field next to the anemometer mast for several weeks during the period of the survey. Extensive logs of bird movements kept by Dr Johnson, a local bird expert, who has a view to the site area from Oxford, to the north east of the site, recorded large flocks of geese moving through the site area before, during and after the survey period.
A resident of Grievestead has kept an impromptu daily log of geese and swans spotted during a daily twenty minute walk on the western edge of the site during the period 1 October to 12 November (day before the ES survey began) in 2005. This recorded over 3,300 geese and 8 swans flying through the 'Moorsyde' site. 20 Observations show that geese fly through the site area in large numbers from September to May, Indeed, flocks are still being seen on a daily basis at the time of writing (3 May 2006). This highlights the total inadequacy of the chosen survey period.
The local representative of the RSPB who was directly concerned in scoping consultations and site visits, initially described the wintering birds survey as "a snapshot, not a survey" and "flawed". 21 In a subsequent letter, this officer stated that "the bare minimum" had been done to assess the site for the presence of geese and that, "information contained in future applications needs to be much more Detailed". 22 She further observed that "This [local] information indicates that geese use the area surrounding the site of the proposed wind far more heavily than the information contained in the ES Indicates." 23
The breeding bird surveys were equally cursory, comprising only four visits. The survey missed 12 species that, according to local birders, habitually breed on the the site; this is a 20% under-recording which casts real doubt on the usefulness of the survey. There was a marked under-recording of raptors and owls, species that are particularly vulnerable to turbines. The lack of owls in the records again raises the questions of the times when survey walks were undertaken. As with the winter surveys there are no records of times and weather conditions, contrary to good practice.
The applicants have had both the time and opportunity since they were given the findings of the Audit Report to undertake a properly conducted wintering birds survey that would address the shortcomings identified by the Audit Report and also meet the original baseline criteria set out by the County Ecologist in scoping consultations and the good practice guidelines for bird surveys. . The applicants have not carried out a proper survey nor justified the methodology of the existing bird surveys.
As with many other issues in the Addendum Report, the applicants are offering post-approval monitoring in lieu of properly conducted research into the impacts of their proposal. We cannot see how the application can be approved without properly conducted surveys.
IF 5.2(9) "Justification (is) required of use of low noise mode in calculations and / or further assessment of noise levels"
The importance of modelling the likely noise levels and assessing noise impacts from wind farm developments is universally accepted. The Ironside Farrar report concluded that the original noise assessment for the Moorsyde proposal fell short of the requirements of the EIA regulations for 'a description of the likely significant effects of the development'.
In para 6.3.55 of the Addendum Report it is stated that assessment is carried out on the basis that as long as, under worst case propagation conditions, turbine noise does not exceed specified noise limits, then the impact is not significant.
The original noise assessment work carried out as part of the Environmental Statement was clearly flawed as it was based on a redundant turbine and on calculations based on the lowest noise output of the particular machine and certainly not on worst case propagation conditions. the Environmental Statement states:
Noise predictions have been based on sound power levels of a Vestas NEG-Micon NM80 2.75 MW wind turbine. This turbine can be configured to operate with varying levels of trade-off between noise and output power at sensitive wind speeds. This assessment was carried out with the turbine operating in 'Mode 4' which gives the lowest noise output.
The Addendum Report does not provide any revised or additional assessment of noise levels, nor does it justify why the initial modelling was carried out using a turbine operation mode which gives the lowest noise output. It attempts to suggest in para 6.3.59 that the original assessment was based on worst case propagation conditions, a statement that is clearly inaccurate.
As with other areas of concern, we note that the applicants are suggesting addressing the problem after approval of their planning application. The Addendum Report suggests that a planning condition relating to a requirement that noise does not exceed the noise levels required by PPS 22 could be applied. This would seem to be a significant departure from the way in which noise assessment work is normally handled in association with wind farm applications where EIA's are required to produce evidence of impacts rather than vague promises of post-approval remedial action.
The Addendum Report also indicates the potential to use larger and therefore noisier machines. As discussed elsewhere, the applicants are not even in a position to finalise the exact location of turbines due to geological problems (AR 6.3.19). Given the significance of the issue of noise on the amenity of local residents, this failure to provide an appropriate assessment of noise, based on a potential worst case scenario, is totally unacceptable and it would seem to be impossible to determine this application given this significant gap in information.
IF 5.2(14) "The section on socio-economics should review impacts on residential property values".The Addendum Report responded to this in para 6.3.68 by stating, "Residential property values are not a material consideration in the planning process and there is therefore no requirement to assess these in the Environmental Statement".
Whilst we accept that impact on individual property values may not be a material consideration in terms of determining planning applications, the housing market cannot be isolated from an assessment of the broader economic impact on the area.
This, it would seem, is supported by the applicants themselves, who in a submission relating to another of their proposed developments, published in the same month as the Moorsyde Addendum Report, stated:
The presence of wind turbines in cherished environments is a sensitive issue and evaluating the public perceptions of wind farms is important in order to identify the anticipated effects on tourism, local prices of property and housing and the general perceived effect on lifestyle and quality of life. These elements will be addressed in the Environmental Statement using research conducted on similar schemes in representative locations that are comparable to the Isle of Wight. 24
The Addendum Report includes a 'Sustainability Report' (Appendix 4). Because this has no relevance to the planning application we have chosen not to comment on it in any detail.
In section 1.5, it does, however, make contentious reference to Regional Policy and targets and in particular to the draft Regional Spatial Strategy. Of particular concern is the fact that the applicants are still trying to interpret the RSS as providing site specific guidance , as demonstrated by para 1.5.8 of the report which states "The specific location of the Moorsyde Wind Farm site is mentioned as a preferred area following the regional assessment".
Having participated in the Examination in Public of the Regional Spatial Strategy, we understand that the following points have been recognised and re-affirmed:
In our considered opinion, the Addendum Report embodies very significant failings:
The capacity, output, efficency and claimed carbon savings figures for this proposal are now vaguer than at any time in its history. The claim that it will only be possible to finalise the capacity of the proposal after consent is risible. The applicants have produced differing figures in their project specification brochure, Environmental Statement, Addendum Report and on their company website. It is now impossible to judge the potential output, efficiency or carbon savings of their proposal without accurate and substantiated data.
A firm proposal for grid connection has not been supplied, justified or its impacts examined. The applicants have merely supplied a list of options. Their preferred option lacks any technical justification and goes against the technical opinion that informs other, and smaller, developments in the area. Without any justification, the applicants are claiming that they can only reach a decision after planning permission has been granted.
The original 'best case' noise modelling, based on the lowest output setting of a redundant trubine has not been justified nor have the applicants undertaken any new modelling based on current turbine models. The applicants merely assert that noise levels will not exceed permitted levels and that the planning authority can set threshhold conditions after the proosal has been approved.
The possible consequences from grouting old mine workings in order to build turbine foundations remain unexamined. Contrary to technical evidence from UK research, the applicants deny that grouting can cause any problems to water quality. They admit that the environmental impacts of the process cannot be quantified until a ground investigation has been carried out - after approval.
They have offered no further information on what remedial measures might be undertaken in the event of damage or pollution being caused to the aquifer which supplies Berwick's water.T
hey are offering similar unsubstantiated assurances with regard to surface water contamination and the admitted risks of pollution to an SAC designated tributary of the River Tweed.
The applicants have produced a small number of additonal photomontages which still fail to meet referenced technical guidelines. They have not produced replacements for their previous photomontages which have been criticised for their repeated use of obscured views and which are of such poor technical quality that they entirely fail to show the turbines that they list. There are still no adequate photomontages which examine the impacts of the site on views from settlements on the ridgelines to the north of the site, or of views to the Cheviots and from the B6354.
The applicants have failed to produce a new wintering bird survey or to justify the methodology of the existing one which entirely fails to meet the scoping criteria or to follow best practice guidelines. The applicants are offering to carry out post-approval monitoring of bird mortality rather than providing adequate evidence of the populations that are at risk.
If the applicants show no inclination to undertake simple, low cost work on such things as noise modelling, bird surveys, grid connection and the production of adequate photomontages when there is the massive incentive of gaining planning consent for a hugely profitable proposal such as this, then we can have little confidence in their vague undertakings to carry out expensive, detailed and long term work on ground investigation, water quality monitoring, bird monitoring, pollution control, remedial work on noise etc. This, please note, when approval has been granted.
We would urge the planning authority to proceed immediately to determination of this application on the basis of the information that the applicants have provided rather than vague and unsubstantiated assurances. On the basis of the information provided, we are of the opinion that this application should be emphatically rejected.
On 7 March 2005, MAG submitted an eleven page letter to John Hayward, Development Services Manager at Berwick Borough Council setting out our initial response to the Environmental Statement submitted with the planning application.
"Having considered the document in some detail, in our view the information provided is often misleading and lacks objectivity, whilst the failure to follow good practice recommendations and guidelines in many areas results in a highly questionable piece of work. Our overall view is that the Environmental Statement, which in effect represents the Planning Application, is in places of such poor quality, that it would be impossible to make a determination of the application based upon it. We therefore urge Berwick Borough Council to ask the applicants to withdraw the application and to re-submit it only if and when they can demonstrate that they have followed appropriate good practice guidelines and are able to provide all the information required in a transparent and objective way."
Read the full document below, together with MAG's 'Response to the Planning Statement'.
"The main areas of concern, in relation to the lack of information or inaccurate information in the Environmental Statement can be summarised as follows:
- An assessment based on a turbine that is no longer manufactured and is unrepresentative of any turbine type that could be used on this site within the constraints of the planning application
- A potentially very significant over statement of the potential output and environmental benefits of the proposed development
- A failure to reveal the wind resource data despite planning permission being granted for a meteorological mast specifically to gather this information
- A failure to meet the requirements of EIA good practice in relation to the site selection process
- A total lack of any meaningful public consultation
- Extremely inaccurate use of photomontages and viewpoints, which seek to deliberately play down the visual impact of this development
- Ignoring planning guidance in relation to the assessment of the impact of grid connections
- An inaccurate portrayal of the local area, its population density and its landscape value
- Failure to ascertain geological conditions on the site, which potentially render this a wholly inappropriate location for this type of development and could lead to major impacts on safety, disturbance and pollution of both the Tweed and the public drinking water supply
- Wholly inadequate bird surveys that do not follow clearly stated good practice and very significantly mislead in relation to ornithological activity on and around this site, which would be severely affected should the development proceed
- A deliberately misleading approach to analysis of noise assessment
The cumulative effect of the issues described above cannot be dismissed as minor omissions or errors, nor can they be simply rectified. We believe that, in submitting a planning application of this quality, the approach of Your Energy Ltd to this development is highly speculative, unprofessional and without any care for the local environment or population. We again urge the Local Authority to seek an immediate withdrawal of this application."
This letter represents the initial response from the Moorsyde Action Group to the Environmental Statement, prepared by Jacobs Babtie, to accompany the Moorsyde Wind Farm Planning Application. The Moorsyde Action Group (MAG) is an unincorporated community group formed at a public meeting of local residents held on 10th November 2004. The overall aim of MAG is to represent the local community and act as the principal community response group to the proposed wind farm development.
Having considered the document in some detail, in our view the information provided is often misleading and lacks objectivity, whilst the failure to follow good practice recommendations and guidelines in many areas results in a highly questionable piece of work. Our overall view is that the Environmental Statement, which in effect represents the Planning Application, is in places of such poor quality, that it would be impossible to make a determination of the application based upon it. We therefore urge Berwick Borough Council to ask the applicants to withdraw the application and to re-submit it only if and when they can demonstrate that they have followed appropriate good practice guidelines and are able to provide all the information required in a transparent and objective way.
In this letter we have concentrated solely on the headline issues of greatest concern. We are in the process of preparing a more detailed response to the document. This is however a significant undertaking for an unresourced volunteer community group. Therefore before committing more time to this work we will be seeking an urgent meeting with either yourself or colleagues from the Local Authority, to ascertain the Borough's initial response to the concerns we are raising, and the clear shortcomings in this application.
MAG has already prepared a response to the Planning Statement prepared by Jacobs Babtie and so is not at this stage commenting further on the Policies and Plans section of the Environmental Statement.
1.1 Jacobs Babtie has provided no information about the company’s relevant experience in preparing Environmental Impact Assessments for this type of development. We believe that it would be appropriate for the Environmental Statement to make reference to their track record in this area of work.
1.2 The Environmental Statement describes Your Energy Ltd as a leading independent wind energy developer. Your Energy has no track record of wind energy development.
1.3 Nor is Your Energy Ltd an independent organisation. Mistral Invest Ltd, a venture capital company incorporated in the Bahamas, has at least a 51% voting right and therefore effective control of Your Energy Ltd.
1.4 Moorsyde Wind farm Ltd, the shell company set up by Your Energy Ltd to progress this application, has as its registered office the London Office of Mistral Invest Ltd. The two Directors of Moorsyde Wind Farm Ltd, Richard Mardon and Alexandre Labournet are also Directors of Mistral Invest Ltd.
1.5 Although we have never been able to successfully engage in anything like a meaningful dialogue or discussion with Your Energy Ltd, we have been made aware of points of contact within the organisation. Initially this was one of the organisations Directors, Mr Charles Sandham. It appears that Mr Sandham left his position within the Company before Christmas. Our point of contact then became Mr Bill Richmond, the Chairman of the Company. We are now reliably informed that he too has left.
1.6 We have not been informed of any further point of contact. According to Companies House, The two current Directors of Your Energy Ltd are Mr Richard Mardon and a Mr Thomas Rottner, both also Directors of Mistral Invest Ltd.
1.7 We have also been informed that action is being taken to remove Your Energy Ltd from the register of Companies by Companies House and would draw your attention to the following extract from an e-mail from Companies House dated 25 February 2005:
"Thank you for your e-mail received 22nd February 2005 with regard to the overdue documents for the above company. Unfortunately despite several letters having been sent to the registered office address of the company in pursuit of the overdue documents, the company record has still not been brought up to date. I can confirm that we are currently taking action to remove the above company from the register"1.8
The Environmental Assessment indicates that this proposal was initiated by ATCO Power Generation Ltd and the interest was transferred to Your Energy Ltd in August 2004. We believe that in the interests of transparency and openness the Environmental Statement should indicate the reasons behind ATCO withdrawing their interest in the project.
2.1 The turbine considered for the purposes of the Environmental Impact Assessment is the Vestas NEG-Micon NM80 turbine. This turbine is no longer manufactured and it is therefore wholly inappropriate to base the application on this machine.
2.2 We do not believe that there is a turbine currently manufactured which meets the proposed specification, i.e. with an overall height of 110m and a capacity of up to 2.75MW.
2.3 Your Energy Ltd should be required to nominate one or more current turbine types to form the basis of the EIA. They should also be required to demonstrate that the turbine selected is suitable for the wind conditions found on this site.
2.4 In our view basing the EIA on a redundant turbine potentially significantly overstates the upper generating capacity of the proposed wind farm and therefore the potential benefits in terms of avoidance of CO2 emissions.
3.1 Despite the fact that the wind conditions have been measured on the site for over a year, the calculations in relation to generating capacity are based on assumed wind data. We feel that the actual wind data should be made available, as part of the Environmental Statement, and calculations should be based on this information.
3.2 Your Energy has publicly admitted in the Berwick Advertiser on 21st October 2004 that the wind conditions at Felkington are relatively low. On the same day at the Public meeting at the Plough Inn, Charles Sandham, a Director of Your Energy at the time described the wind resource at the site as "disappointing".
3.3 Despite this acknowledgement, the capacity factor (% of theoretical maximum energy output) used to calculate anticipated units of electricity that the Moorsyde wind farm would generate is 27%. According to DTI figures published in July 2004, the achieved capacity factor for UK installed wind power generation is given as 24.1%
3.4 The annual average household consumption figure used by Your Energy to calculate the equivalent number of homes that would be supplied by the Moorsyde wind farm is 4,345kWh. Even the wind developers' own trade association now recommends a figure of 4,700kWh.
3.5 The figure used to estimate the carbon dioxide savings is based on replacing a mainstream form of generation that emits 0.86 tonnes per MWh. This is a figure typical of a coal-fired power station. Wind generated electricity does not however solely displace coal fired power stations. The grid average emissions figure is 0.43 tonnes per MWh. The DTI recommends using the grid average figure to calculate emissions savings.
3.6 Even assuming that 2.75MW turbines can be used on the Moorsyde site the combined impact of these exaggerated figures is significant. If it transpires that the Moorsyde site is only able to accommodate less powerful machines of say 2MW, such as those used at Crystal Rig, a windy upland site north of Duns, the impact would be even greater. This is illustrated in the table below.
|Your Energy claimed figures||Revised figures based on 14 x 2.75MW turbines||Revised figures based on 14 x 2MW turbines|
|Capacity||Up to 38.5MW||Up to 38.5MW||Up to 28MW|
|Units of electricity per annum||Up to 91,060MWh||Up to 81,280MWh||Up to 59,113MWh|
|Equivalent to local homes supplied||Up to 20,957||Up to 17,409||Up to 12,661|
|CO2 savings per annum||Up to 78,225 tonnes||Up to 34,950 tonnes||Up to 25,418 tonnes|
The Environmental statement makes no attempt to address the issue of alternative sites or site layouts. This is despite the fact that alternatives should be considered in accordance with Schedule 4 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 1999. This good practice is detailed in the following extract from the RTPI web site:
It is now a statutory requirement that the environmental impacts of alternatives studied be described in the environmental statement and that the reasons for choosing the proposed development, taking account of the environmental effects, should be justified. The purpose of this description is to demonstrate that the environmental impacts of alternatives have been considered as an integral part of the design process.
The consideration of alternatives (including alternative sites, alternative site layouts, alternative processes and alternative phasing of construction) is justifiably considered to be good EIA practice. If the EIA starts at the stage of site and process selection, as it should, the environmental merits of practical alternatives can be properly considered. The main alternatives considered should then be outlined in the ES. The best practicable environmental option (BPEO) should be described and any variation between the proposed development and the BPEO should be explained. The "do nothing" option (that is, the possibility of not carrying out the proposed development at all) should also be set down.
It is particularly important to justify convincingly why it was decided to choose the site proposed. The choice of the preferred alternative should involve a comparison of the magnitude and significance of the effects of the alternatives considered. Where no alternative sites were considered, the reason why alternatives were not feasible should, where appropriate, be explained in the ES.
We would suggest that this site was originally selected solely on the basis of Landowner compliance and convenience to the Developer.4.3
The environmental statement makes reference to the Developer's own site selection objectives. We would suggest that they have not even followed these, extracts of which are detailed below:
"In accordance with our site selection philosophy we are looking for sites in the semi rural / industrial areas near towns and cities [...] near other infrastructure such as commercial or industrial developments, roads and railways to help mitigate the limited environmental impacts arising from the development By focussing development near towns or cities or close to other infrastructure we intend to minimise the chance of any noise nuisance."
(Your Energy web site)
5.1 The Developers have failed to follow anything remotely akin to good practice in relation to consultation with the local community. They have also completely failed to follow the guidance given in PPS 22 and reproduced below:
Developers of renewable energy projects should engage in active consultation and discussion with local communities at an early stage in the planning process and before any planning application is formally submitted
5.2 The first any member of the local community became aware of the proposal was 3 days before the public exhibition held on 21 October 2004 when seemingly randomly selected properties in the vicinity of the proposed site received a brochure and letter notifying them of the proposal. This excluded all 28 properties in the village of Shoresdean. A single advertisement on the day of the exhibition also appeared in the local paper.
5.3 Despite repeated requests, no attempts have been made to provide follow up information since the exhibition despite this being offered on the day.
5.4 Several attempts have been made by this group to set up meetings with Your Energy Ltd without result. This is despite a public offer being made during a joint interview on BBC Radio Newcastle when amongst other things the Your Energy representative said the following in relation to the public exhibition held later the same day; "This is a long way from a done deal. This is part of the consultation process. We are a company that I think are very good at consultation."
5.5 Your Energy has stated that it would be holding follow up consultation presentations via the parish councils, presentations to the Tourist Board and organised visits to Crystal Rig Wind farm for local residents. None of these has materialised.
6.1 It is our belief that the visual impact assessment contained within the Environmental Statement has set out to significantly play down the impact this development would have and we would at this stage wish to highlight the following outline concerns;
6.2 Whilst the applicants claim to have selected the original broad list of viewpoints in consultation with statutory consultees and the local planning authority, there is no evidence that the final list has been endorsed by these bodies. Nor that there has been any public consultation or participation in the selection process as recommended in the SNH guidelines.
6.4 We are firmly of the opinion that the viewpoints selected do not achieve
as represented in the SNH guidelines referenced by the applicants. We consider that the applicants have consistently chosen viewpoints which underestimate visual impacts by the use of screening objects in direct contravention of the guidelines.
6.6 The SNH guidelines referenced by the applicants contain the following guidelines on photomontages:
The applicants have not observed the above guidelines.
6.7 The applicants have further contravened explicit guidelines on photographic techniques, including turbine blade angles, weather conditions and image contrast. We would further question the consistent use of stitched or joined panoramic images which directly contravene good practice guidelines for height and detail required to give "a realistic impression of reality". The applicants have also consistently used foreground distractors and 'turbine mimics', which minimises the visual impact of turbines in their photomontages.
6.8 In response to initial consultation Borders Council specifically requested a viewpoint from Ladykirk. No such viewpoint is included.
6.9 Likewise Northumberland County Council sought a discussion about the best and most useful locations for photomontages, including close to the site where views of the development will be prominent in the view of passing motorists. No such viewpoints have been included and in particular the failure to examine the impact of the turbines to the east of the B6354 on users of that road is a significant omission.
6.10 Regional and local planning guidance seeks to protect the long-range views of the Cheviots, however not one single photomontage shows them. In the only two selected viewpoints where they should be prominent, they have been rendered virtually invisible.
6.11 The Environmental Statement acknowledges that the character and scale of the landscape will be substantially altered in an area of less than 3 km from the site. It recognises the potential visual dominance of the development on the settlements and residential occupiers within this range. Almost no attempt has been made to represent this situation through the viewpoints selected.
6.12 In terms of assessment of cumulative impact there has been no attempt to include any proposed developments in England. This is despite the fact that Alnwick District Council highlighted three potential developments in their area during the initial consultation exercise.
6.13 We are also aware of two further proposals in the area to the South and West of Berwick and would suggest that these also now need to be taken into account in any such assessment.
6.14 We consider the ZVI limit of 30 km to be arbitrary and not to reflect the applicants' referenced guidelines. The SNH's 'Recommendations for ZVI radius in relation to height of turbines' is for a ZVI radius of 35km for turbines over 100 metres in height including rotors. This document further states, "The distance will need to be increased to take account of any cumulative effects with other windfarms." The applicant's chosen limit of 30 km results in the exclusion of the Crystal Rig wind farm from consideration in cumulative impacts, despite this windfarm being visible from a wide area in and around the Moorsyde site, including being clearly visible, for example, from the applicant's viewpoint at Holy Island.
7.1 Despite clear Regional and Local Planning guidance requiring investigation into ways of minimising the impact of new grid connections, the Environmental Statement has sought to ignore this issue altogether.
7.2 A brief reference is made to the preference of Scottish Power to connect into the Loaning substation off Etal Road to the south west of Berwick. This is however entirely unsubstantiated.
7.3 We are reliably informed that to connect into the Loaning sub station would require a considerable upgrade of that facility. It has therefore been suggested that the more likely connection point to the grid will be at either the sub station at Low Cocklaw or to the Eccles sub Station at Coldstream. This would involve a new overhead line crossing the Tweed at some point.
7.4 We believe the connection arrangements cannot be divorced from the current application and that the Environmental Statement should provide a clear and evidence based explanation of the likely grid connection route, determined in conjunction with Scottish Power.
8.1 Throughout, the Environmental Statement describes the immediate area surrounding the site as being sparsely settled and suggests that there are low numbers of visual receptors. This is not the case. In the immediate area defined by us as being within 2.5km of an individual turbine there are an estimated 219 dwellings. In addition there are two public houses and three campsites.
8.2 Appendix J of the Environmental Statement, setting out a preliminary assessment of visual receptors clearly demonstrates the consistent understatement of the number of visual receptors. To give three examples, Ancroft North Moor has been described as 2 houses, whereas it in fact consists of 6 properties. Ancroft South Moor is described as a single farmhouse but consists of 4 dwellings. Shoresdean is described as being approximately 14 bungalows whereas it is in fact 28 properties.
9.1 The fact that most of the site is underlain by mine workings and that even the records available are clearly incomplete, in our opinion makes this site wholly inappropriate for development of this kind for a range of reasons.
9.2 The Environmental Statement acknowledges the significant difficulties posed by this situation both during the construction and the operating stages. It indicates that 10 turbines have an instability risk and that subsidence due to the presence of shallow old mine workings is a high risk extending to the long term.
9.3 The Environmental Statement clearly recommends a detailed ground condition investigation is undertaken This is also the recommendation of the UK Coal Mining Gazetteer, which designates the areas of Ancroft Southmoor, Thornton and Felkington as needing a detailed ground condition report before development takes place.
9.4 Whilst the applicants seem reluctant to undertake such investigation, without it the appropriateness and impacts of mitigation in the form of piling and / or grouting cannot be quantified. These could have a significant impact on the level of construction disturbance, the potential to trigger subsidence and possible impact on the aquifer, which supplies much of Berwick's drinking water.
9.5 In addition without this information it would seem to be impossible to determine the final layout of the site or to determine the risk of placing such large structures in this location.
10.1 The site sits on top of a major public water supply. It also forms part of the Tweed catchment and a tributary of the Tweed runs through the site. Even without the added complications of major tunnels and mine workings, this would seem to render the site as unsuitable for such a major construction undertaking.
10.2 Both mine workings, blocked literally with tons of grout, and piling have the potential to adversely affect groundwater. The potential for contaminants to migrate both into the drinking water supply and the Tweed are very real. Monitoring only highlights this sort of damage once it has occurred.
10.3 The Environmental Impact Assessment should comprehensively address these risks, since without accurate information the pollution impacts on groundwater and the aquifer are real, unquantifiable and not currently addressed.
11.1 Only 4 visits took place to conduct the Breeding Bird survey from late April to early July. Good practice suggests that a minimum of 6 visits should take place starting in March and including an additional visit in May. No record of the weather on the dates of visits is given.
11.2 This failure to follow best practice results in a significant under recording. At least 12 species known to be breeding on the Moorsyde site have been missed. This is a 20% under recording.
11.3 Both Northumberland County Council and Berwick Borough Council specifically stated as part of the scoping exercise that the Wintering Bird survey should comprise a number of site visits between early September and late March. In fact the visits that made up the survey took place on 13-14 November 19-20 December 16-17 January and 6-7 February. There are no records of dusk flying birds, suggesting that visits ended before dark. Tawny Owls present across the site in considerable numbers, but are not recorded.
11.4 The most striking omission is the lack of sighting of geese and swans. No attempts have been made to consult with local organisations or observers. Had this happened, extensive evidence based on records kept over a number of years and personal evidence from a considerable number of people living close to the site indicating large flocks very frequently flying through the area at heights between 50 and 600 feet and also roosting in the area, would have been revealed.
11.5 The Environmental Statement indicates only two flocks of greylag geese, both at great height and the largest being 89 birds. Local records show flocks of up to 1000 birds flying across the site at varying heights depending on the conditions at the time. Geese can also frequently be heard crossing the area at night at low level, when they would be particularly at risk.
11.6 In addition to greylag geese, small numbers of both Brent geese and Pinkfoot have been recorded. The site is overflown by flocks of both mute and wooper swans and mute swans are known to breed on ponds near the site and may possibly also breed on the site itself.
11.7 The Environmental statement admits that geese and swans are particularly vulnerable to turbine strikes.
11.8 Given the failure to follow recognised good practice and the fact that findings bear no resemblance to reality, it is essential that both breeding and winter surveys are undertaken again, correctly and preferably by clearly objective and independent third parties.
12.1 Noise predictions in the Environmental Statement are based on the redundant NEG Micron NM80 wind turbine and are therefore of no value for this purpose. New noise calculations should be carried out based on an existing machine that meets the specifications described in the application.
12.2 Appendix M of the Environmental Statement, dealing with noise calculations states that the chosen turbine can be configured to operate with varying levels of trade-off between noise and output power at sensitive wind speeds. This assessment has been carried out based on the turbine operating in "Mode 4", which is described as giving the lowest noise output. This flies in the face of good practice guidance, which suggests that worst case scenarios should always be quoted. In addition no adjustment has been made elsewhere in the document for the predicted power output as a result of running turbines in "mode 4" only.
12.3 Although the Environmental Statement suggests that the principal sources of noise are from the blades passing through the air and from internal machinery, this claim is not backed up by recent research. Nor is it backed up by residents living near to other similar installations. This evidence suggests that the main component of nuisance noise derives from the low frequency impulsive noise (blade thump) generated by the blade passing the turbine mast.
12.4 The issue of low frequency noise is dismissed by the Environmental Statement in two short paragraphs, which deal exclusively with infrasound. Problems of low frequency noise from wind turbines are not however dismissed by emerging research, empirical observation and evidence. Nor is the DTI able to continue to dismiss the issue and indeed has commissioned a study into the issue of low frequency noise which will report later in the year.
12.5 The presentation of the noise assessment in the Environmental Statement appears to be entirely theoretical and is highly inaccessible to the layperson. The fact that the sites chosen for monitoring background noise do not take into account the direction of the prevailing wind (south-westerly) is of concern. As is the fact that the Environmental Statement seems to claim that traffic noise from the A1, some 5 miles from the site contributes to background noise. The reality is that background noise in the vicinity of the site, particularly at night, is virtually non-existent.
12.6 Given the high number of residential receptors in close proximity to the site and the evidence of extreme noise disturbance reported by people living in close proximity to existing wind farm developments, extreme caution needs to be exercised in relation to this issue. We would urge the Local Authority to examine closely the emerging evidence, await the outcome of the DTI study and seek an alternative view from properly independent experts.
The purpose of this letter is to highlight the main concerns of the local community in relation to poor practice identified to date in the Environmental Statement and the planning application it seeks to support. It is certainly not a comprehensive list of all concerns, but does highlight those areas that we believe need to be re-addressed if this application is to proceed. Other issues of concern, not identified in this letter, include the analysis of shadow flicker and shadow cast, traffic distraction, provisions for decommissioning and the very significant issue of the adverse economic impact this development will potentially have on the local economy.
The main areas of concern, in relation to the lack of information or inaccurate information in the Environmental Statement can be summarised as follows:
An assessment based on a turbine that is no longer manufactured and is unrepresentative of any turbine type that could be used on this site within the constraints of the planning application
A potentially very significant over statement of the potential output and environmental benefits of the proposed development
A failure to reveal the wind resource data despite planning permission being granted for a meteorological mast specifically to gather this information
A failure to meet the requirements of EIA good practice in relation to the site selection process
A total lack of any meaningful public consultation
Extremely inaccurate use of photomontages and viewpoints, which seek to deliberately play down the visual impact of this development
Ignoring planning guidance in relation to the assessment of the impact of grid connections
An inaccurate portrayal of the local area, its population density and its landscape value
Failure to ascertain geological conditions on the site, which potentially render this a wholly inappropriate location for this type of development and could lead to major impacts on safety, disturbance and pollution of both the Tweed and the public drinking water supply
Wholly inadequate bird surveys that do not follow clearly stated good practice and very significantly mislead in relation to ornithological activity on and around this site, which would be severely affected should the development proceed
A deliberately misleading approach to analysis of noise assessment
The cumulative effect of the issues described above cannot be dismissed as minor omissions or errors, nor can they be simply rectified. We believe that, in submitting a planning application of this quality, the approach of Your Energy Ltd to this development is highly speculative, unprofessional and without any care for the local environment or population. We again urge the Local Authority to seek an immediate withdrawal of this application.
1.1 This document has been prepared by the Moorsyde Action Group (MAG), an unincorporated community group formed at a public meeting of local residents held on 10th November 2004. The overall aim of MAG is to represent the local community and act as the principle response group to the proposal by Your Energy Ltd to develop a 14 turbine wind farm near Felkington in Northumberland (Planning Application number 04/B/1107 - Moorsyde Wind Farm). The proposal was first brought to the attention of members of the local community a few days before Your Energy Ltd put their plans into the public domain at an exhibition held in the Plough Public House, West Allerdean on 21 October 2004.
1.2 MAG is not opposed to the concept of wind power generation, provided that it is sensitively and appropriately located and is of a scale suitable to its surroundings. We are however against the unplanned opportunist siting of massive turbine arrays, without regard to the landscape, the environment and local communities, such as the Your Energy proposal at Felkington.
1.3 Despite the almost total lack of consultation and engagement with the local community by the developers Your Energy Ltd and the deliberate policy of withholding information about the development, MAG has on a number of occasions attempted to engage representatives of Your Energy Ltd in discussions. From the time that we first became aware of the proposal in late October 2004, we have indicated a willingness to explore potential for siting appropriate wind power generation in this location. Despite our best efforts in this regard Your Energy Ltd have failed to respond to any of these offers. This approach by the Developers is contrary to all good practice guidance relating to the development of wind farm projects.
1.4 This document is our specific response to the Planning Statement prepared by Jacobs Babtie and submitted with the Moorsyde Wind Farm planning application. This document does not represent our response to the Environmental Statement, also prepared by Jacobs Babtie. MAG will be submitting both a preliminary and detailed response to the Environmental Statement.
1.5 Despite the fact that the Planning Statement prepared by Jacobs Babtie indicates that there is no planning history relevant to the determination of the current proposal we believe that this is not entirely accurate. In the spring of 2003 a Canadian Company called ATCO Power Ltd consulted with Duddo Parish Council about a proposal to submit a planning application to erect a meteorological mast to measure wind conditions on the site. This application was subsequently granted planning permission.
1.6 The representative from ATCO assured members of the Parish Council that the local community would be fully consulted on the development of any proposed wind farm that might result, prior to final plans being drawn up and submitted. This was the last that was heard from ATCO on the subject. We are lead to believe that following the initial process of conducting an environmental impact assessment ATCO withdrew from the development and the interest in the site was transferred to Your Energy Ltd around August 2004.
1.7 We are aware of the fact that Jacobs Babtie has had a lengthy relationship with ATCO, dating back to April 2002. The following case study description appears on the specialist wind energy section of their web site:
Jacobs Babtie Power Consultancy has been commissioned by ATCO Power to provide expert advice as they enter the UK Wind Energy market. Jacobs Babtie prepared an outline business plan for ATCO, including timeline and activity chart for development and construction, development budget, capital cost analysis, contracting strategy, operation and maintenance options / costs and plant life assumptions.
Jacobs Babtie is also conducting studies on behalf of ATCO to identify potential sites suitable for development as Wind Farms. This involves assessment of the economic viability of each site based on energy yield predictions in comparison to overall project costs including turbines, foundations, connection to the electrical grid, access roads etc. These site prospecting studies are carried out using our in-house GIS system that allows planning, technical and environmental constraints for any site in the UK to be identified instantly.
1.8 An article that appeared in the Sunday Herald on 19 January 2003 also confirms details of this relationship.
1.9 The only other case study example that appears on this section of their web site, relating to work undertaken between October and December 2003 reads as follows:
Babtie were commissioned by leading windfarm developer Your Energy to produce maps of various English districts showing technical, environmental and economic constraints to windfarm development. The maps were created using constraints and presentational formats chosen by the client. In addition to the data held by Babtie, supplementary data was collected and custom templates and legends were used to create maps which met the client's requirements for the unique format of the deliverables.
1.10 Whilst not being specifically relevant to our response to the planning statement MAG believe that in the interests of transparency it would be appropriate for the following to be clarified:
2.1 This document aims to give a broader comment on and assessment of the adopted and emerging planning policies and other material considerations relevant to the Moorsyde proposal than that which is contained in the Jacobs Babtie Planning Statement. Despite the fact that the document states that it sets out the arguments both for and against the development this is not our interpretation of it. In our view the main purpose of the Planning Statement is to attempt to support the planning application submitted by Your Energy Ltd.
2.2 In our opinion The Planning Statement has set out to achieve this objective by viewing the individual planning policies in a most selective way. More particularly it is our belief that it has attempted to convey the following inaccuracies:
That the various policies indicate that approval should be granted to the site specific planning application rather than merely setting a strategic context and providing guidance for the determination of planning applications
That the process of determining individual applications does not require detailed consideration against stated criteria at a local level
That the wind resource areas define suitable locations as opposed to setting out broad areas of least constraint, which whilst they may contain suitable locations for certain types of development, will also contain locations that when judged against the stated criteria will be found to be unsuitable for some or indeed all types of wind farm development.
That certain policies lend support specifically to medium scale wind farm development whereas in fact the potential range of suitable developments that may be acceptable within the broad areas of least constraint is far broader.
That the landscape in which the proposed development would be located is of low value, rather than of intermediate value and of crucial importance to the overall wider landscape of the area as a result of its inter-relationship with the broader area
2.3 The attempt to portray the wind resource areas as zones suitable for specific development is surprising, given the stance of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) on the subject. BWEA is a trade association representing the interests of some sectors of the wind energy industry. Both Your Energy Ltd and Jacobs Babtie are members of the BWEA and indeed the Chairman of Your Energy is a member of the BWEA Board. The BWEA is on record as saying the following:
"Industry requests that planning authorities do not attempt to zone or identify sites for wind farms but instead provide clear criteria based policies to inform and guide developers as to the planning considerations in the plan area" 1
2.4 In objecting to the proposed modification to the Northumberland County and National Park Joint Structure Plan policy setting out the areas of least constraint the BWEA made the following comments:
"It is unnecessary and potentially detrimental to allocate sites at a local level - for a variety of reasons the feasibility of a particular site may change with time (landowner agreements, grid connection, technological advances, MOD)"
The BWEA objection also later states:
"….identification of particular areas can lead to issues of cumulative effect within those areas; it is important that development is encouraged elsewhere in order to take some development pressure away from the identified areas" 2
2.5 In seeking to provide a broader response MAG has focussed its attention on the broad details of the following:
We are not at this stage looking at specific details in relation to the following:
MAG will however be responding to many of these issues in our initial and subsequent detailed response to the Environmental Statement and challenging many of the findings and claims made in it in relation to a number of these issues.
As detailed in the Planning Statement, the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act requires planning applications to be determined within the provisions of the Development Plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. The Planning Statement then goes on to say that the Moorsyde proposals are in accordance with many relevant provisions of the Development Plan (The Local Plan and the Structure Plan) and should therefore be recommended for approval. We would suggest that no such recommendation can be made until the actual determination has taken place and that this determination should be undertaken by the Local Planning Authority, weighing up all aspects of the development plan and other material considerations, not just those highlighted by the Planning Statement.
We would also suggest that the following broad guidance detailed in PPG1 should be taken into consideration:
"The appearance of a proposed development and its relationship to its surroundings are material considerations in determining planning applications and appeals"
"Local Planning authorities should reject poor design… poor designs may include those inappropriate to their context. For example those clearly out of scale or incompatible with their surroundings"
"(Local Plan) Policies should be based on proper assessment of the character of the surrounding built and natural environment and should take account of the defining characteristics of each local area, for example local or regional building traditions and materials. The fact that a design or layout is appropriate for one area does not mean it is appropriate everywhere. Plan policies should avoid unnecessary prescription or detail and should concentrate on guiding the overall scale, density, height, landscape, layout and access of new development in relation to neighbouring buildings and the local area more generally"
PPS 7 deals with sustainable development in rural areas and seeks to encourage the following:
We acknowledge the suggestion that PPS22 seeks to see proposals for renewable energy developments considered in a more favourable light and guides Local Planning Authorities to consider wider social benefits of such developments as well as more local issues. We do not however accept that the intention of PPS22 is to override the local planning process. We acknowledge that PPS22 indicates that renewable energy developments (covering a range of options, not just wind farms) should be able to be accommodated in locations where the technology is viable and environmental, economic and social impacts can be addressed satisfactorily. Determination of this must however happen at a local level against clearly stated criteria.
PPS22 also offers the following guidance, which we believe is relevant to the determination of this proposal:
It has been suggested that PPS22 has shifted the balance and somehow diminished the local role of determining applications and the ability of local people to have an involvement in the process. This is not confirmed by those responsible for the development of the policy. This is best summarised by comments of the Government Minister with responsibility for energy policy, Mike O Brien, The Minister for Energy and E commerce. In response to this very suggestion he is on records as saying the following:
"It is in no one's interest to put wind farms in the wrong locations. This is why the government insists that all renewable energy projects must be considered as part of a formal planning process that gives people the right to express their views and have them taken into consideration" (Hansard 25 Oct 2004)
"We want the impact on the environment, the local community, the landscape and the country's energy needs to be weighed up fairly and fully in the balance, PPS 22 enables local people to have their rightful and democratic say within the checks and balances of the planning system". (Hansard 25 Oct 2004)
Regional policy in the North East of England is acknowledged as being progressive and is actually highlighted as an example of good practice in the guidance notes that accompany PPS22. Therefore the easiest way to summarise regional guidance is to quote directly from this guidance.
The guidance highlights the Regional Spatial Strategy draft indicative diagram, which highlights broad areas where hydro, biomass and wind projects may be considered appropriate. [our emphasis]
The guidance then details the following policies:
c) Particular encouragement should be given to the development of small to medium wind farms in the locations broadly indicated (including a broad area to the South and West of Berwick). [our emphasis]
d) Encouragement should also be given for wind developments in other parts of the region
f) In all cases proposals must be fully assessed against policy RE3 [our emphasis]
- Residential amenity, in terms of physical separation, to limit noise disturbance and visual dominance
- Safe separation distances
- Nature conservation features
- Appropriateness of the location and the scale of the proposed development in relation to the sensitivity of the intrinsic characteristics and visibility of local and wider landscapes
- Heritage designations
- Green belts
- Ways of minimising the visual impact of new grid connection lines
This report was commissioned by the Government Office for the North East in November 2002 to prepare a regional strategy for renewable energy and assist with the development of the Regional Spatial Strategy, which would in turn inform local development plans.
The final report was released in July 2003 and a consultation summary was published in October 2003.
Of particular relevance is the suggested spatial pattern for renewable energy developments and the publication of a draft indicative diagram, which amongst other things highlighted potential wind resource areas. These were identified as a result of the Geographical Information System (GIS), incorporating landscape and grid studies and identified broad areas of least constraint. The findings in relation to the area to the South and West of Berwick suggested potential for small or medium scale wind farms, clustered and / or separate from one another [our emphasis]
The applicant has repeatedly set out to misrepresent the findings of this strategy and to convey it as a site selection study rather than setting out broad areas of least constraint. This is demonstrated by the following quotes:
"The site of the Moorsyde wind farm was identified as suitable for a medium development of up to 25 turbines". (Your Energy's 'Moorsyde' Brochure)
"A year ago the North East Assembly published a paper entitled 'Towards a Renewable Energy Strategy for the North East', this report identified a number of potential wind farm sites in the North East region, this scheme was one of them."(Your Energy website)
The actual purpose of the GIS is described in the strategy as follows:
For Developers it could assist them in identifying possible broad locations for turbines
- For local authorities it will assist in including relevant policies and proposals in their forthcoming Local Development Frameworks and in responding to developer proposals
- For the North East Assembly it provides a key tool for monitoring Regional Spatial Strategy
Much of the information used to determine the absence of constraints relates to objective information such as estimated mean wind speeds and potential for radar interference. It also drew on the more detailed landscape appraisal for onshore wind development, carried out by the University of Newcastle and published in July 2003. This report highlights the fact that as a strategic landscape study it does not remove the need for detailed and site specific planning and evaluation.
The University of Newcastle study defines the area of open rolling farmland to the South and West of Berwick as being of medium sensitivity, scoring a 3 on a scale of 1-5. The definition of medium sensitivity is described as follows:
Key characteristics of landscape are susceptible to change but with some ability to absorb development in some situations without significant character change; thresholds for significant change are immediate. Some aspects of wind energy development relate to landscape character [our emphasis]
In summarising the physical criteria of the broad area the report states the following:
Wind energy development could relate well to the smooth gently rolling landform, medium to large scale and openness of this landscape. Settlement is sparse and there are no obvious infrastructure elements and little modern development. Wind energy development could interrupt the openness to some extent and would form a dominant focus in a landscape with a strong rural character, but could also relate well to its simple visual composition. Development should not impinge on key views where the distant rounded hills (The Cheviots) form a dominant focus [our emphasis]
The summary of the perceptual criteria is as follows:
The landscape has open, elevated character and therefore a degree of exposure thus giving some rationale for wind energy development. It appears to be a little visited area. Although intensively farmed, it has an undeveloped and strongly rural character which wind energy development could compromise [our emphasis]
Policy M4 of the recently adopted plan sets out how the implications on the interests detailed below need to be assessed:
Policy M5 states that Local Authorities should take into account identified areas of least constraint for major wind energy developments including the area south and west of Berwick described as having potential for medium scale development.
Northumberland County Council has highlighted the importance of the fact that the policy refers to medium scale development and that this might include either small or medium size individual windfarms.3
Policy M5 also states that Local Planning Authorities should include criteria based policies having regard to policy M4. In responding to the initial proposal to designate the area of least constraint, Berwick Borough Council indicated that further assessment should be carried out on the local landscape. The Borough also highlighted the need to protect designated sites of heritage or nature conservation importance, the effect on residential property, access and the impact on the roads network, tourism and employment. The effect on views, particularly of the associated infrastructure, including transmission lines and pylons should also be carefully considered.4
Throughout the local plan there is recognition of the importance of the local environment and the need to protect it. This is set out in various sections of the plan as detailed below
The Borough has an outstanding natural and built environment. It is important that development can be accommodated in a way which accords with the environment and does not damage its interests and value.
One aspect stands out within the Borough’s portfolio, as a long term asset which the majority of other places can not match – The environment – and does so within the context of increasing environmental awareness at a global level. The environment is the key to sustaining and enhancing the quality of life in the Borough
To conserve and enhance the environmental wealth of the Borough, as a means to sustain and promote the quality of life of its residents; to ensure that their development needs are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs; and for its own sake
1. To conserve and enhance the Borough’s landscape and coast, its native biodiversity and its human heritage
2. To sustain and promote economic and social opportunities
3. To ensure that these opportunities can be realised without compromising the Borough’s environment, in the short and medium term and for future generations
Conclusions of the landscape assessment provide systematic support for the long held view that the landscape of the Borough is unique in its variety and overall quality
Open rolling farmland… is dependent on the sense of scale brought to it by neighbouring zones including the Cheviots. They too are dependent upon the open farmland to provide the dramatic visual lead up to them.
In the intermediate areas, The Council will adopt a policy framework which acknowledges the important role the landscape plays in defining areas of open space in scale with the Cheviots, The North Sea and the mixed moorland ridges. In these areas the intention will be to ensure that development proposals will not have a detrimental impact on the long range views important to the character and quality of the Borough landscape.
The area of open rolling farmland to the south and west of Berwick is defined in the plan as being an intermediate area of Landscape Value. This is the designation that covers the bulk of the Borough's area in the plan.
Policy F4 states that In the intermediate Areas of Landscape Value development will be permitted provided that it accords with its surroundings by virtue of its scale, density, height, massing, materials and It will not have a detrimental impact on long range views important to the character and quality of the landscape, including the National Park.
A small section of the plan looks specifically at wind turbine developments and states that factors which may influence the size and number of turbines in a development include the physical nature of the site and the capacity of the local electricity distribution network.
Policy C28 looks specifically at proposals to develop wind farms within the intermediate Areas of landscape value, and states that particular regard will be given to the following issues:
Policy C23 states the same in relation to the Tweed valley area of high landscape value, as does Policy C 26 in relation to the Kyloe and Glendale area of high landscape value.
Until the planning application has been fully considered and determined at a local level, there is nothing to suggest that this proposal is in any way suitable for its intended location. Strategic guidance does suggest that the proposed site does not fall within a designated area which rules out major wind farm development. It further suggests that the proposed site lies within a broad area where certain constraints to wind farm development do not exist.
Strategic planning guidance at every level does however indicate that the proposal must be thoroughly considered against a range of criteria as part of the development control process. In particular the following need to be considered:
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