What’s to stop this happening in YOUR neighbour’s backyard?
A wind turbine is being built in a residential street in Surf Beach. Whilst the push for sustainability should be encouraged, we cannot be blind to the effect of inappropriate development in the name of sustainability. This is where our council planning department is supposed to protect us.
Let us clarify, we are not talking about PV panels on a house (although the property in question has a great number of them – estimated at 50-plus by a neighbour) but an industrial-scale wind turbine that will be over 10m tall when constructed. We are not talking about a rural paddock somewhere but a street in Surf Beach.
It appears that under the current BCSC (Bass Coast Shire Council) planning scheme, a planning permit is not required for this situation, yet people need planning approvals for antennae, flagpoles and satellite dishes!
On Phillip Island there is a general building limit of 7m and to exceed this you need a planning permit. The structure certainly does not fit in the township character and amenity of Surf Beach. So how can a wind turbine of this size be built without a planning permit when it will affect neighbours and the suburb it sits in?
Consultation with local estate agents indicates that this construction will likely have a significant negative effect on property values, for direct neighbours and anyone in the sightline of. There is no indication of what levels of noise this turbine will generate, even though it will sit metres from a neighbour’s bedroom. The adverse impact of turbine noise upon human well-being has recently been explored with the Bald Hills wind farm situation and the Supreme Court found that owners of the turbines have a responsibility to treat noise issues seriously.
Other problems exist such as shadow-flicker effect, which is the change of light intensity as the blades move which will be very disconcerting in a home that is overshadowed by this structure. There may be issues for people with epilepsy who can be affected by flickering light patterns. There are reports of turbine failures, collapsed towers, blade throws or disintegration, hub fires and other issues have been documented. Consultation with an engineer who has specialised in the installation of large fans assures me that mechanical failure of any rotating machine is termed ‘catastrophic’ for a very good reason. There are also environmental issues involved, such as significant risk of bird-strike as the planned Surf Beach turbine will be on a Shearwater migration path.
Whilst these issues may be problematic if they arise in a paddock, how much more dangerous will they be if they happen in a residential garden? Due to the risk of these issues, experts recommended that residential wind turbines are monitored by someone on-site at all times, so that these issues can be dealt with.
The foundations for such a heavy and tall construction, that is likely to be subject to extreme wind shear, would surely be engineered to certain standards which would need to be passed by building surveyors. Surely there must be building permits required. And if not, why not? BCSC identified back in 2003 that there were significant gaps in their planning scheme that included renewable energy provisions, but they have not addressed this in the past 17 years!
Island Voice strongly advocates that the gap in the planning scheme regarding domestic wind turbine installation be addressed ASAP.
At a minimum we believe that people wishing to build domestic wind turbines in residential areas must lodge detailed acoustic reports, engineering reports on foundation construction, impact on birdlife, visual assessments and pre-building community engagement, with their development applications to alleviate affected owners’ concerns.
Whilst this incident applies to a single residential block, the planning scheme will not prevent it happening elsewhere, such as your neighbour’s garden.
Join with Island Voice to demand that council stops construction until the issue can be better understood and community consultation has ensued. With council about to enter caretaker mode on September 22, this has become urgent. Whilst council officers will continue working during the caretaker mode, your councillors are your representatives. Hurry and contact your councillors, BCSC CEO and our MP Jordan Crugnale, to voice your concern and demand immediate action.
Linda Marston, Hon. secretary, Island Voice (A0061223D).