The new Scottish Planning Policy (2014, para. 169) gives as one of its 19 considerations to be taken into account when assessing a wind farm application :
impacts on communities and individual dwellings, including visual impact, residential amenity, noise and shadow flicker
[Visual impact is dealt with separately on this website. Click here.]
Helensburgh’s community at risk
Attractiveness is the basis of Helensburgh. If it ceases to attract people its economy shrinks.
The population of Helensburgh has declined by 3% over ten years. Creeping degradation, especially of the town centre, has reduced attractiveness.
Improvements such as the CHORD project will help, But anything that worsens Helensburgh’s attractiveness will harm the town’s economy and future.
Large wind turbines directly above the town will reduce its attractiveness.
Population for prosperity
A&BC wants to increase Helensburgh’s population to boost its economy. It wants to add 665 new houses in the next ten years. At an average of two people per household, that’s a 9% increase. To achieve that, Helensburgh must revive its attractiveness.
Helensburgh’s countryside setting has remained attractive. Its network of countryside footpaths, created in the last 20 years, substantially by voluntary community effort with cooperation of landowners, has improved access. In addition, we now have the Three Lochs Way and the cross-Scotland John Muir Way. These serve the community and help to draw in new residents and visitors. The town’s countryside setting is a residential amenity and, by the Scottish Planning Policy, is a planning consideration.
A wind farm right in the middle of of that crucial countryside amenity would harm the attractiveness of the town, its setting and the area.
It would therefore harm the community and the town’s economy.
Improvement to health through outdoor activity is now fully accepted internationally. Hence the health importance of Helensburgh’s countryside setting.
Less well known is emerging evidence that wind farms may damage health of residents close to the turbines. At less than 2km. from the present town boundary, the Helensburgh wind farm would be close. Noise is of greater concern than shadow flicker, especially because of the sun’s arc relative to Helensburgh.
There is some evidence that wind turbines can disturb sleep and therefore harm both physical and psychological health. As so often with fairly newly identified phenomena, more research is needed before firm conclusions can be drawn. A “rapid, desk based analysis” (the researchers’ own description) carried out for the Scottish Government in 2009 by Salford University was cautious in its conclusions, but did say that most studies concur that that there is evidence of sleep disturbance in the presence of wind farms. The difficulty is identifying cause.
Prof. Chris Hamming, formally Consultant in Sleep Medicine, University Hospitals of Leicester, wrote in the British Medical Journal (March 2012) :
“The evidence for adequate sleep as a prerequisite for human health, especially for child health, is overwhelming. Governments have recently paid much attention to noise on sleep duration and quality, and how to reduce such noise. However, governments have also imposed noise from industrial wind turbines on large swathes of peaceful countryside.”
Professor Emeritus Belfast University, Alun Evans, has written (2014) “In conclusion, there are serious adverse effects associated with noise pollution generated by wind turbines. It is essential that separation distances between human habitation and wind turbines are increased.”
The issue has recently become a matter of intense debate in Australia where medical experts are in discourse about it. However, there does seem to be agreement that there is a worrying problem.
If we accept the precautionary principle, as is normal in planning, then wind turbines less than 2km. from Helensburgh’s town boundary must be unacceptable from the pint of view of health.