Draft Minutes of meeting held at Oulton Congregational Chapel.
Paul Killingback, Vice Chair of Parish Council welcomed the speakers to the meeting: –
David Reger from Bernard Matthews
John Malone from Energy4All
Ian Booker of Farmwind Ltd
Matthew Rooke from Broadland District Council (BDC) Planning Department
Greg Peck, Chairman of Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) in Eastern England
Lorna Goodwin representing No Oulton Turbine (NOT)
And members of the public from both Oulton and other villages.
David Reger started the proceedings. He is Company Secretary/Director of BM green Energy. He summarised a list of achievements made by BM. In the previous year BM produced 137,000 tonnes of waste all of which was recycled apart from 1,800 tonnes which went to landfill – the target for eliminating this is 2020. The business uses 1.6 million cubic metres of water much of which is recycled in the Wensum – they aim to reduce this by 25%. The 71,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide produced will be cut by 35%. Energy usage is 72,000 megawatts. In the next 3 years this should be 100% offset by wind, solar, anaerobic digestion and possibly biogas boilers. He explained that these initiatives are very important to the business and underline the fact they try to minimise damage to the environment. Sustainability has a financial element and they do expect a financial return from their efforts. A letter in the EDP expressed concern that there was a financial element behind the co-operative proposal. David Reger assured the meeting that there is a financial element; the co-operative is not a charity and is set up to be a financial entity that must generate a profit for its members; the co-operative as a financial entity will pay BM a commercial rent of £30,000 pa.
He explained that some time ago a survey was commissioned of all the farm sites; 3 sites were seen as suitable for larger turbines (100 – 120 metres) and planning permission has been granted for these sites with a total of 9 turbines. 6 other sites appeared suitable for smaller, single turbines, including Oulton. Small equates to two-thirds the size of Swaffham. E4All was chosen as the partner because they have successfully launched 7 co-operatives. Each co-op allows the public to participate in the financial benefits that will arise and they will get a good return on their money. BM’s return is considerably reduced although it will receive a commercial rent of around £30K for a site but will have the satisfaction of knowing that green energy is being produced and money is put into a community fund. He considered it to be a win-win situation.
Mr Reger hoped to be able to dispel a number of fears although there was still a lot of work to be done on the proposal. The advisors, Farmwind, believe this to be a suitable site and will be collating information for a planning application.
John Malone from Energy4All outlined the operation of the co-operative. The four co-operatives in Scotland and the three in England have five and a half thousand individual members who receive an annual return. The share prospectus is published when the planning process is complete. The company is regulated by the FSA. The aim is to prioritise the share offer firstly for the local community and BM employees and it will be open for three months. Administration is done by E4All. The money for the community goes to the Norfolk Community Foundation; (- website address norfolkfoundation.com).
Ian Booker of Farmwind Ltd explained the company was formed in the mid 1990s and they now have the mature technology that works, with money going back into the local community. They have to go through a careful screening process even though in this case an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is not needed. This includes environmental, cultural heritage, noise and flicker assessments and is confident they have met all the outstanding issues. They are still carrying out robust assessments and will let the Parish Council have the papers as soon as they are ready.
[It was pointed out to Mr. Booker that the site sits between two heritage sites – views from both Blickling and Heydon should be assessed.]
As far as noise is concerned they follow national planning guidelines and the figures from Hayes Mackenzie will be in the assessment. Mr Booker was confident no properties would be affected by flicker and digital television signals would not be affected. He was asked about the effect on analogue radio but thought there would not be a problem.
The construction period would be 4 months; there would be 3 lorry movements a day and the journeys would be timed to be outside the school run and going-to-work periods.
In his view there were no ecological issues – bats have been surveyed.
[He was asked how often the assessments had taken place – he said there had been three visits. On further questioning he admitted they had all been during this summer, rather than over a complete year.]
The existing baseline surveys of fauna would be used which are routinely produced by organisations like the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.
As far as the effect on house prices is concerned, that is not a material planning consideration. Surveys had found that once a turbine had been erected there was little effect on house prices.
[Mr Booker was asked about aviation and radar. He replied that at present MOD were unable to comment and would not respond until the planning process had been gone through. It was suggested from the floor that this was an issue which should be investigated before going for planning permission.]
Matthew Rooke, Area Planning Officer, BDC said the planning officers would be looking at the submission and would cover all relevant issues. BDC have in-house qualified advisors who would cover the same points as in an EIA. Details of the submission would be on BDC’s website including all reports and comments. A copy of the planning application would be sent to Oulton Parish Council (OPC) plus neighbouring parishes and properties nearest the site would be informed. There would be 21 days for anyone, including OPC to make comments. Once the officers were satisfied that all points had been covered (and further clarification could be needed) then the application will be considered. If BDC get a direct request from the local District councillor then the matter will be put to the Planning Committee – which is made up of elected councillors..
[Alison Shaw, for OPC, stated categorically that such a request would be made.]
At the appropriate Planning Committee meeting the planning officer will present a report which summarises all the issues relating to the application, and makes a recommendation as to approval or refusal. Then any objectors have a turn to speak for a total of 15 minutes. This can mean that 3 objectors could have 5 minutes each. Oulton Parish Council then have 15 minutes to put their case. This is followed by a further 15 minutes for supporters of the application – again this could be 3 people with 5 minutes each. The District Councillor can then ask the Planning Committee any questions. After that point the Planning Committee discusses the application and then vote.
Parish Council Questions.
Alison Shaw asked the BM representatives what their views were on a Bill currently going through Parliament that was considering a minimum distance requirement from residential premises for wind turbines. Given the height of the turbine proposed by BM in Oulton the minimum distance would be 1,500 metres from the nearest residential dwelling.
In fact the proposed site is 450m from the nearest dwelling, there are at least 25 further dwellings within 1 km and many more within 1.5km. In view of this would BM like to reconsider this whole proposal as the site was simply too close to too many residential dwellings? Minimum distance requirements of this kind were already being used in Scotland and Wales.
Mr Booker stated that the buffer zone figure was not law in Scotland. He also commented that the English Bill have twice been thrown out of the House. Ms Shaw pointed out that this was not the case – the reason the Bill had failed was because Parliament had been prorogued (because of a General Election). It has now been reintroduced and had its first reading in the House of Lords. He further stated there was no factual basis for separation distances. Matthew Rooke added that all this would be taken into account by the planning officers.
Paul Killingback asked how much investment was needed for the proposal to succeed – i.e. do they need all of the 6 sites to be agreed? Mr Reger said it would be possible to proceed with a minimum of two sites. There would be a 50/50 split between the public investment and the bank; each turbine would cost £1½ million with an average investment per person of £2,000. So far 1,500 people in Norfolk and Lincolnshire had invested and David Reger was confident that the money can be raised. The limit was £20,000 per share; no matter how large a sum was invested, one member could only have 1 vote. The rent from the co-operative to BM would be £30,000 pa.
[David Ramsbotham asked if the shares were quoted on the open market and Mr Malone replied they were not and confirmed that the only way to recover the investment would be to find your own buyer].
Jane Morgan commented on the fact that the Parish Council was extremely concerned that an EIA was not to be produced. Sian Derbyshire, the National Trust’s Planning Adviser for East of England, in an email to OPC dated 23rd July 2012 had suggested to BDC that a full EIA should be carried out and that there should be a Heritage Impact Assessment and Landscape/Visual Impact Assessment as well. Matthew Rooke replied that a Heritage Impact Assessment would suffice as the application does not trigger an EIA as a requirement. If necessary a longer consultation period could be allowed.
Greg Peck, Chairman CPRE East of England Region stated that the CPRE campaigns for a living, working and beautiful countryside. They acknowledge the need to reduce carbon emissions and support this through their awards scheme and their Green Buildings in Norfolk open days where they try to encourage more people to green their properties. However wind turbines, almost uniquely for manmade structures are capable of altering the look of the landscape over a very large area of countryside. BM’s proposed turbine in Oulton will have a tip height of 80 m – compare this to most Norfolk churches which have towers that are around 20m or a mature oak tree which has an average height of 15 to 25 m. ‘Zones of visual intrusion’ maps relating to wind turbines often show an impact over an area delineated by a 20 km radius centred on the turbine site. CPRE Norfolk has produced a map which shows the impact of all turbine sites built, planned and in the planning process in Norfolk which can be viewed on their website (cprenorfolk.org.uk). He pointed out that aside from visual intrusion, wind turbines can produce a number of other detrimental side effects such as noise, flicker and light pollution, the latter coming from navigation lights which MOD is increasingly requiring tall structures to carry.
In an attempt to minimise the noise problems developers often seek sites in very rural locations – places that are generally shown to be the most tranquil on CPRE tranquillity maps and Oulton sits in one of these areas. The maps are independently and scientifically produced for the CPRE by Newcastle University and are on the website.
He suggested that E4All could tell us about their experience in Deeping St. Nicholas in Lincolnshire where residents suffered from severe noise problems. E4A made an out of court settlement with residents who lived 930 m from the wind turbine. The nearest house in Oulton Street would be much closer at less than 500m. Dr. John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation stated in an email that 500 m is too close for comfort. He further said that this sort of device will be presented as small to medium on the basis of its 500 Kw generator but its physical scale means that its noise properties are those of a large device. Mr. Peck said there were also concerns about the potential threat that turbines pose to bird and bat populations. In summary CPRE Norfolk have reviewed the details provided thus far by BM and oppose the construction of this turbine on the basis that it is an inappropriate site and will have a negative impact on the surrounding countryside.
He thought it ironic that the late Bernard Matthews was a great supporter of the CPRE and a generous donor to the charity.
He went on to say that the CPRE’s remit is landscape and the built environment and that will form the basis of their objection. However BM are making a big play of the community investment aspect of their proposal and he wanted to add a personal view and suggest that any potential investor does some serious due diligence before investing. He again quoted from an email from Dr. John Constable of the Renewable Energy Foundation who wrote that he noted that the projected load capacity of the turbine is 38% which was absurd and thought they would be doing well to get half that.
He suggested the meeting is told about the Fenland Green Power Co-operative Ltd who own two turbines. According to their annual report for the year ending 31 January 2010 they lost power completely in one turbine and it was further hit by a blade failure which put it out of commission for a total of 5 months. In addition the report also says that the months of February, April, June and October were in their words ‘particularly quiet for wind’. According to the report they had to secure an emergency loan of £50K and E4A agreed to waive their service fee in order, in their words, ‘to mitigate’ their cash flow problems. He wondered if that would be a typical year.
He went on to say that according to BM the first five years of the life of the turbine is covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. He wondered if after that, was the cost of repairs the responsibility of the co-op. Furthermore have BM factored in the reduction in the subsidy, plus a further reduction of between 25% and 50% which is expected in the next two years and potentially the total loss of the subsidy by 2020. Without subsidies wind turbines are not viable. He finally asked if individual members of the co-operative were liable if legal action is pursued against the co-op, for example in the case of a criminal negligence action if a blade flies off.
[John Malone intervened to explain that Fenland Green recovered money in warranties and emphasised that there was co-operation between co-operatives. He stated that the annual average return was over 6% after the first few years and emphasised that the scheme was FSA approved.]
Mr Malone was asked about an Advertising Standards Authority ruling that the company had been in breach of the ASA code and had published misleading information in previous leaflets, a complaint which was upheld. John Malone admitted this had happened but the leaflets have been rewritten.
Lorna Goodwin made a statement on behalf of NOT (No Oulton Turbine). She started by saying that they did not claim to represent the views of every single resident in the parish but of the dwellings in The Street, most had actively contributed to the group. She reiterated the point that the turbine is far too close to homes and NOT could not understand that a turbine could be built in some of Norfolk’s most beautiful and untouched conservation areas. Many of the homes are owned by the National Trust and there are strict rules to ensure that any development in the village is in keeping with the local conservation guidelines. Furthermore, NOT could not understand how the scheme was being considered without a full EIA. It was suggested that this 25 year experiment in wind energy may or may not be the answer to Britain’s energy needs and while they would not seek to debate the efficacy of inland turbines, they noted that there is much debate on the subject. NOT felt that whatever the realistic outcome in terms of production of the proposed development, the negative environmental impact to this area would be irreversible and far outweigh any environmental benefits.
Question and answer session.
John Mack (Bodham) has applied to have a turbine erected on his land and suggested that people go and look at the turbine at Long Sutton which is 74 m high and the nearest property is 460m away. He felt sure local people would be pleased to answer any questions.
Victor Morgan felt it could be the thin end of the wedge and that once there was one turbine, a further one would be added. Matthew Rooke replied that was unlikely and would require further planning applications.
Chris Lambert asked if they considered other forms of renewable energy. David Reger replied that they had looked at solar power but the sheds are old and not built to take weight. Other forms of renewable energy were being considered for other sites.
Simon Dunford asked if anything that had been heard this evening would lead to a change of mind. David Reger believed that this proposal was the right thing to do, John Malone believed it was a suitable site and Ian Booker believed it was a wonderful opportunity for communities to get something out of renewable energy. On being pressed again about holding a full EIA, Matthew Rooke was satisfied it was not necessary.
Sam Booker suggested that a 77m high object was completely out of scale for this area.
Dick Williams referred back to the proposed legislation regarding minimum distance requirements which had been researched. He asked if BM would wait for this legislation to be fully discussed in parliament. John Malone replied they would operate under current legislation and they were not prepared to wait.
Greg Peck asked if they reviewed their strategy after the court case at Deeping St. Nicholas when they were sued over noise disturbance. John Malone replied that Energy4All was not involved, despite Energy4All being responsible for administering the co-operative.
David Ramsbotham (Plumstead) asked if they would have the resources to pay compensation. He suggested that as a limited company they could go bankrupt and no-one would get any returns. Greg Peck pointed out that had happened in France. At Carcassone there groups of derelict turbines with blades awry and no-one was able to do anything about it as the companies were bankrupt.
Alison Shaw stated that the efficiency of wind power was not normally a material planning consideration. However, in the case of Weston Longville the whole matter had been politicised in that the decision to approve had been made on the basis of central government targets for renewable energy. Therefore the government have introduced the efficacy of wind power as a planning consideration. What are the views of BDC planning officers on this development? Mr Rooke felt unable to comment but noted that this was an issue.
Paul Killingback commented that in the same decision at Weston Longville the planning officer listed 26 conditions covering the two turbines. How would they be monitored? Matthew Rooke replied that BDC employ Enforcement Officers who would look into any possible breach of the conditions.
Paul Killingback replied that the experience of OPC with such conditions over many years was that such enforcement was very rarely carried out.
Tony Hall commented that if a wind turbine generating electricity was erected on a site that had previously been used entirely as a turkey farm, surely this would constitute a change of use – from agricultural to industrial. Mr Rooke noted this point.
David Jackson suggested that the guidelines ETSU-R-97 on noise levels were not stringent enough and that BS4142 should be followed which were much more rigorous. John Malone was asked if anything could be done if the wind turbines were too noisy when working and he replied that various things can be done to meet noise guidelines. When asked, he was unable to specify what these measures would be.
Simon Dunford said that BM has described this as a win-win situation for the local community. He asked whether if few people in this community wanted the wind turbine, would BM pull out. David Reger replied that they would not – and that they would approach instead the wider “community”.
Greg Peck asked why they were exaggerating the output of the turbine. There was no answer.
Keith Reeves asked if BM were prepared to fly a blimp. Ian Booker contended a blimp did not give an accurate idea of what the turbine would look like and he would present visuals on acetate which would go with the application.
Paul Killingback suggested that if cost is a consideration, the Parish Council were prepared to pay any expenses and were in a position to loan BM a blimp if we had permission for it to be flown from the proposed site.
David Reger replied that he would not give his permission as he considered a blimp to be ineffective.
Chris Lambert suggested that everyone would see the blimp and realise the true height of the structure. Ian Booker replied that a blimp did not represent the tip of a turbine.
Stephen Hagon asked BM to confirm what distance they believed his house to be from the site especially as he was the closest dwelling in The Street. He challenged the figure given as incorrect and requested that they recalculate the distances of all dwellings from the site. Ian Booker would look at the figures again.
The meeting closed at 11.15pm.
List of those present
David Reger Bernard Matthews
John Malone Energy4All
Ian Booker Farm Wind
Matthew Rooke BDC Planning Officer
Greg Peck CPRE and Oulton resident
Dr. Ian Shepherd CPRE
David Harrison District and County Councillor
James Joyce District Councillor
Helen Bailey National Trust
Kathryn Bradley EDP and N. Norfolk News
Paul Killingback Vice Chairman, OPC
Jim Agnew OPC
Jane Morgan OPC
Matt Phelps OPC
Alison Shaw OPC
Jacinth Rogers Clerk, OPC
Amelia Courtauld Matlask
John Mack Bodham
David Ramsbotham Plumstead
Karen Bailey Chris Stoneman
Pam Birtles Antonia Soto
Sam Booker Chris Tekkam
Sue Burton Kim Turner
Paul Carman Barbara Pert
Mrs Carman Fiona Withers
Peter Drinkwater Caroline Wood
Simon Dunford Alan Wright
Rita Durham Malcolm Taylor-Bennett
Mike Easy Vic Morgan
Fiona Glenser Ann Roy
Lorna Goodwin Keith Reeves
Stephen Hagon Lucy Stoneman
Sue Hall Sue Mather