© 2005 Don Brownlow Photography.
Berwick Town Hall is 150 ft. high (46 metres).
The 10 turbines would be
The planning process demands that the visual impact of a development such as 'Moorsyde' should be represented in the planning application by photomontages and other visual representations based on a selection of 'key' and 'representative' viewpoints. In the 'Moorsyde Environmental Statement [MES], Figures, Volume 2', Jacobs Babtie (consultants to Your Energy Ltd.) have consistently attempted to avoid 'key' or 'representative' viewpoints.
Ironically, NPower have provided more (and much better quality!) longer distance visualisations of the 'Moorsyde' turbine array in the Environmental Statement for the adjacent Toft Hill proposal than Your Energy's consultants have managed in four attempts.
The 'Moorsyde' photomontages also fail to meet the technical standards demanded for Environmental Impact Assessments:
SNH guidelines state that: "A full image 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".
YEL's photomontages range from 8 to 13 cm in height.
The SNH guidelines state: "A comfortable viewing distance of 30-50 cm should dictate the technical detail of their [photomontages] Production".
YEL play the usual developer's trick of using stitched 50mm lens images to construct a super wide panoramic image. They then specify a viewing distance that is supposed to give an impression of reality but which is neither practical nor realistic, in view of the technical defects of the images.
This directly contravenes guidance, see above.
SNH’s own Guidelines on the Environmental Impacts of Windfarms and Small Scale Hydroelectric Schemes identifies “a telephoto lens of around 80mm as more truly representative”. Documents published by the Welsh Assembly who have had much experience in this area state “that a more accurate impression of the perceived view is recorded using a 70 to 80mm focal length lens”.
"For over a decade, windfarm visualisations have been the subject of controversy. Many communities across Scotland believe that the photomontages presented in the Environmental Statements are misleading and do not provide an accurate prediction of visual impact.
This paper endeavours to lift the veil of technical complexity to give you the facts behind the issue and the new SNH guidance" [SNH guidance also informs ES work in England & Wales].
See: 'The Visual Issue' - Architech Animation Studios (UK) Ltd. (April, 2007). Available as PDF download from site.
© Architec Animation Studios Ltd.
Most of YEL's photomontages 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 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.
In view of these problems MAG has been forced to produce some images - including photomontages - that give a more honest impression of the site and its location and some idea of the real visual impact that this proposal would have.
But, it should be noted that all photomontages, like Your Energy's, do not include the 5.5km of access roads linking the turbines (additional to existing tracks), nor the control building and 'landing pad' (hard standing for cranes) at the base of each turbine mast, nor the control centre and the pylons required to link the site to the grid. All of these will further degrade and industrialise this landscape.
YEL also fail to underline that photomontages understate visual impacts. This is stated in the SNH guidelines and has been repeatedly underlined in planning enquiries:
Comments by Planning Inspector at Mynydd-y-Gwrhyd appeal.
It should be underlined that the few photomontages that Jacobs Babtie have managed to produce for the Environmental Statement are of such poor quality that they are not fit for their stated purpose.
They have repeatedly used 'masking' elements (houses, hedges etc.) to obscure turbines and settlements; all photomontages are supposed to present worst case, full face views of turbine blades, most of theirs do not. They consistently use stitched, wide panoramas with insufficient height and detail to even make out the turbines they are supposed to show; images have such poor contrast with whited-out, cloudy skies that many turbines are not visible. Nearly all their photomontages use foreground turbine mimics (poles, signs, trees etc.) to diminish the scale of distant turbines. They use foreground distractors (road markings, gates, hedges etc.) to distract from distant turbines. These are all deprecated in the Scottish National Heritage (SNH) guidelines they themselves reference (MES, 10.2.22 et al).
In attempting to downplay the visual impact of the development by using these techniques, Your Energy and Jacobs Babtie have behaved unprofessionally. Their attempted deceptions are also counterproductive: everybody we know who has seen this document has commented on its obvious attempts to avoid showing key views of the site in relation to the Cheviot hills, tourist routes and surrounding settlements.
Your Energy have at long last deigned to show us some of their photomontages - do have a look at them (links to PDF files on the News page of the Your Energy Website) and see why we have complained about the quality of their photomontages to
the planning authorities.
It should be noted that the hard copies (available at the Berwick planning office) are no clearer than the screen versions.
Need we say that the £5.00 offered to anyone who could find all the turbines listed in one of Your Energy's photomontages remained unclaimed (a choice of photomontages was offered).
Jacobs Babtie had their visual impact assessment mauled by the Council's independent Audit Report. On their website, Jacobs Babtie claim: "With more than 300 in-house specialists, we can provide a highly skilled, multi-disciplinary team able to meet the requirements at every stage of an environmental assessment - from scoping and feasibility through to report preparation." However, after two attempts, they still seem incapable of preparing adequate photomontages that follow good practice guidelines.
In the Addendum to their original Environmental Statement, Jacobs Babtie have provided six additional photomontages. Two were prepared to address representations made by the Coastal AONB, one from Ladykirk was originally asked for by Scottish Borders Council. Another, from Duddo Five Stones was done in response to representations by heritage bodies.
Needless to say, the remaining two do not remedy the weaknesses in viewpoint selection identified in the Audit Report - i.e. the lack of views in relation to the B6354, the Cheviots and nearby settlements. Yet again, they have chosen oblique views of the site from viewpoints that do not even appear in their own preliminary list of 'key viewpoints' in the Environmental Statement.
None of their original photomontages, which were criticised in the independent Audit Report for their use of, "repeated displays of obscured views" and poor technical quality (i.e. you couldn't see the turbines in them!), have been replaced. The 'new' photomontages still break the technical guidelines. We have no difficulty in preparing clear, well-lit photomontages that actually show the turbines, you would think that Jacobs Babtie - with all their skilled specialists - might be able to do the same.
Near the historic Halidon Hill battlefield, on the other side of the A1 from Berwick (10 km. from 'Moorsyde'/Toft Hill), there is a tourist viewpoint with interpretation boards naming features of a glorious panorama that spreads from the Eildon Hills to the Cheviots and the Heritage Coast. The 50 metre electricity pylons on the shoulder of Flodden ridge, 10-14 km. beyond
'Moorsyde'/Toft Hill are all too visible from this position.
Turbines that are 110 to 125 metres (360-410 ft.) high would dominate this panorama. The white arrows indicate the span of the proposed 'Moorsyde' turbine array; the Tofthill site (12 x 125m turbines) would stretch for ca. 1.4 miles (2.25 km) to the right of 'Moorsyde'. From this angle, the Barmoor/Brackenside array of 10 turbines would appear as a dense, overlapping cluster covering ca. 1.85 miles (3 km.) contiguous with the left hand side of the 'Moorsyde' site.
Just one of these massive turbine arrays would dominate this small plateau.
Perhaps that is why Jacobs Babtie chose a 'representative viewpoint' for their 'Moorsyde' Environmental Statement on the A1 at a point below the red arrow, only 27 metres above sea level down in the Tweed valley. Not surprisingly, neither the Cheviots nor more than a few turbine blade tips would be visible from this point!
Jacobs Babtie's photographer seems to have a predilection for crouching in the bottom of valleys (usually behind hills, hedges or buildings) - we wonder why, when there are (at present) so many attractive views across the 'Moorsyde'/Toft Hill site to ancient monuments, villages and hills?
This viewpoint is situated opposite the garden boundary of the Plough Inn, on the B6354, looking south. The B6354 road runs from middle left to the distance on the left of the turbine on the RHS of the image. The nearest turbine is 1.675 km away, the furthest 2.9 km. According to the ES, turbine 4 [formerly no. 8, RHS] would be sited within 200 metres of the road and turbine 5 [formerly no. 9, centre right] would be within 175 metres.
The site, with the other 3 turbines, extends for another 2.4 km (1.5 miles) to the right of this image. Jacobs Babtie have consistently avoided this viewpoint (or any others showing views south to the Cheviots and the 7 turbines next to the B6354).
In the scoping guidelines (Moorsyde Environmental Statement, 7, Scoping & Consultation), the applicants note that Northumberland Co. Council suggested that representative viewpoints should be considered "[...] on the ridge to the north of the site" (7.3.19). Jacobs Babtie, in the 'Preliminary Assessment of Visual Receptors' (E. S., Appendix J) acknowledge that West Allerdean and East Allerdean are settlements that have "open" views to the site which would have a "dominant" visual impact. They go on to list the "high sensitivity" of these viewpoints and the "major significance" of the visual impact before proceeding to ignore these and other settlements such as Shoreswood on the ridge overlooking the site, while finding space for viewpoints such as Etal and Bowsden in dips behind hills,
The only viewpoint they use that should fit this case is Shoresdean. However, here they use photographs taken from the middle of the estate, so that the turbines are partially masked and diminished in scale by houses immediately in front of the camera; they also chose to take photographs into the sun at midday, thereby 'losing' the Cheviots in haze. To lose a major range of hills once may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose them again in the only other image that might show them (taken from Chirnside, 12.3 km from the nearest turbine) looks like deception.
Surprisingly, the company have now made a few of their photomontages available on their website - do have a look at them (PDF files linked from the News page of their website) and see why we have complained about the quality of their photomontages to the planning authorities. We would recommend the Shoresdean image, where, as described above, Your Energy have disappeared the Cheviots!
Viewpoint at NT 936446 on road between Felkington and Grievestead. Looking North East to the ridge that runs for approximately 4 km to the north of the 'Moorsyde' site between East Allerdean and Shoreswood. The 50 metre [163 ft.] anemometer mast is visible in the centre of this image. The nearest turbine is 0.735 km from the camera, the most distant is 1.79 km away. The settlements on this ridge all face south, looking over the proposed turbine locations to the Cheviot Hills. Jacobs Babtie have consistently avoided viewpoints that show the relationship of settlements on this ridge to the 'Moorsyde' turbine array.
Ewe Hill is the highest point (91m.) on the ridge that stretches from Shoreswood to Allerdean, immediately to the north of the 'Moorsyde' site. The views from here show why it was chosen for the site of a High Frequency Direction Finding Tower during the Second World War, used to help trainee pilots and lost bombers returning from raids on the continent find their way home. The brick base of this historic structure now houses a viewpoint interpretation board
and is the focus of walks that provide glorious views to the Eildon Hills, the Cheviots and the Kyloe Hills.
This image gives some idea of just how close the 'Moorsyde' and Toft Hill sites are to each other (3 km.). The Toft Hill site begins to the right of the houses on Grindon Rigg [mostly hidden by woodland].
It also illustrates how damaging either development would be in relation to Duddo Stone Circle, a Scheduled Ancient Monument of national importance.
If you look at the relationship of this stone circle to the Cheviots, you will appreciate just how significant this landscape was for our ancestors, three thousand years ago. These 'primitive' people obviously had a more sophisticated eye for landforms than wind turbine developers do today!
Your Energy's Burton Wold power station, near Kettering, Northamptonshire.
Your Energy's Burton Wold Power Station, © Mark Wilson (Bucks Lacks Enough Wind)
Viewpoint is 10 miles from the site. The turbines are 100 metres (325 feet) tall,
10 m. smaller than proposed 'Moorsyde' turbines.
Burton Wold Power Station, © Mark Wilson (Bucks Lacks Enough Wind)
Turbines towering above the Northamptonshire town of Wellingborough.
Crystal Rig I, twenty 96 metre turbines [14 metres smaller than proposed 'Moorsyde' turbines], nr. Whiteadder Reservoir, Lammermuir Hills. Viewpoint: B6355, SW of site. The nearest turbine is almost exactly 5 miles from the camera (the larger 'Moorsyde' turbines would be 6 miles from Berwick).
An addition of 5 turbines was consented in 2004, an extension of fifty two (52) 110 and 125 metre turbines [Crystal Rig II] has recently been approved by diktat [a 'Section 36' decision] of the Scottish Executive.
These turbines are very visible on the skyline from the 'Moorsyde' site area, nearly 20 miles away.