In October 2009, Vale Villages Against Scottish Power (VVASP) issued a Newsletter with a copy of a banner we had displayed at the drop-in sessions hosted by ScottishPower Renewables (SPR). It compared the height of a 125m Wind Turbine with local buildings with several boxes on the leaflet explaining our concerns. This prompted someone to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
It is not unusual for wind farm applications to attract the attention of the ASA. Indeed, SPR were the subject of a complaint to the ASA over the size of the turbines illustrated in their leaflet last year. SPR accepted the complaint and have agreed their leaflet will not appear again. This is all the more remarkable, given the wealth of resources available to SPR, whereas we are a small volunteer group working in our own time. Nevertheless, the ASA suggested that SPR consult with them before further leaflets are distributed.
The first complaint against VVASP concerned the use of the word “forever”.
VVASP said that the turbines would “…change the landscape forever”. The complainant said the turbines only had a life of 25 years. We argued that the driving force for the generation of electricity from wind turbines is to reduce carbon emissions. If we are serious about climate change we must stop burning fossil fuels FOREVER not just for 25 years. Wind farms that we have visited are being enlarged or re-powered with larger turbines, so we believe it is naive to think that wind farms are only here for 25 years. According to the ASA this use of “forever” is misleading. We do not share this view.
VVASP believes that, by any reasonable interpretation, the term “forever” is relevant in this context and the complaint trivial.
What is not trivial is the subject of the second complaint concerning the potential for large-scale industrial turbines to have an adverse effect on the health and sleep patterns of people living closeby.
We quoted the work of the American Dr. Nina Pierpoint whom we believe has undertaken extensive research in the field and published a book on the subject. (See www.windturbinesyndrome.com). We also cited a 2009 report from Dr. Chris Hanning, one of the UK’s leading authorities in Sleep Disorders Medicine and even a recent report commissioned by the American Wind Energy Association.
The ASA decided that none of this research was sufficiently robust to justify our claim, despite the fact that we had also quoted first hand experiences of people whose lives had been blighted by wind turbines located close to their homes. Indeed, some people have had to vacate their homes due to the noise/sleep loss caused by the wind turbines.
VVASP argued that, if experts in this field express valid concerns, these should be taken seriously and Government should adopt the precautionary principle and accept the expert’s advice to only site turbines more than 2Km from homes.
If Wychavon District Council approves SPR’s plans we believe we shall have the largest turbines built closer to homes than anywhere else in the UK.
Despite this, the ASA dismissed all the experts’ views and first hand evidence and upheld the complaint concluding our claim was misleading. Again, we strongly contest the ASA’s decision. We also believe we had taken all reasonable steps to ensure our leaflet was based on well-founded research from recognised experts and, further supported this with first hand evidence.
Finally we quoted a 2007 report commissioned by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors concerning house price devaluation. The ASA concluded that the verbatim quote used was not representative of the report as a whole. We believe that by any measure of perceived wisdom, given two very similar properties, one in open countryside and the other with a turbine the height of a forty-storey building nearby, the latter would have a lower value.
The ASA disagreed and said it was misleading.
VVASP has agreed to modify the wording on the banner to comply with the ASA ruling
As an organisation, VVASP take great care to ensure all our work is of the highest standard, especially when it involves communicating with the public.
VVASP is extremely disappointed with the ASA’s ruling and strongly disagrees with its decisions, believing we took all reasonable precautions to justify our claims. We will continue to fight the proposed Lenchwick Windfarm and keep residents informed of any relevant information.
Whilst we have taken every care to ensure the above accurately reflects the ASA’s decision, the opinions expressed are those of VVASP and we cannot accept any responsibility for any errors, misunderstandings or omissions.
Contact VVASP info@VVASP.org.uk