Windfarm plan ‘is tearing lives apart’

A fundraiser at a Morpeth special school who lives in a newly built home overlooking the Northumberland coastal plain has serious concerns for the health of her family after a proposal to site five 350 feet tall wind turbines within 700 metres of her home. ''Sarah Shotton  with her autistic son James.
A fundraiser at a Morpeth special school who lives in a newly built home overlooking the Northumberland coastal plain has serious concerns for the health of her family after a proposal to site five 350 feet tall wind turbines within 700 metres of her home. ''Sarah Shotton with her autistic son James.

A FAMILY has called on windfarm developers to abandon their plans for Northumberland, saying they are tearing their lives apart.

Sarah and Martin Shotton bought their dream home near Longhorsley eight years ago as an idyllic rural retreat for their autistic son James and their younger son William.

The cottage was also a haven for Mrs Shotton, who is recovering from breast cancer and has suffered from Bell’s Palsy, a condition that causes temporary facial paralysis.

And the family have recently spent around £600,000 adding a self-contained extension for James, who is now 20.

But last July their peace was shattered when they returned from holiday to find that Mr Shotton was losing his job and there were plans for a five-turbine windfarm about 700 metres from their home.

Mrs Shotton, 47, who works as a fund-raiser at Collingwood School in Morpeth, said: “I know everybody has their hard times, but this is just one more thing for us to deal with.

“We had come back after a most fantastic holiday last July and that is when we got the consultation document for an anemometer mast, which is up now, and my husband lost his job.

“We have just finished the house because we have built an extension for James. We spent all this money building this self-contained accommodation so he can live there and his carers can come in, but now I just fear for his health.

“James is getting really anxious about the windfarm. I find it difficult because I keep breaking down and he gets really upset.”

She added: “Research has shown that living close to wind turbines can cause heart disease, tinnitus, vertigo, panic attacks, migraines and sleep deprivation. There are added complications in my family as James has autism and the frequency of the turbines and low-level sound emissions prevents people like James from living normally. There is also a condition called Fibro Accoustic Disease that can cause epilepsy and cancer.”

Mrs Shotton said the windfarm plans are already causing her stress levels to rise at a time when her husband has been forced to find work abroad in Dubai, and estate agents have warned that if the windfarm goes ahead it will reduce the value of their home by 40 per cent.

The family are not against renewable energy generally and their home benefits from a ground-source heat pump, solar panels and its own water supply.

However, Mrs Shotton says that windfarms are not the answer and the Government should review its priorities.

“It is not that we are against green energy, but it shouldn’t be like this,” she said.

“The Government should be looking at this and putting its resources into giving householders money to put solar panels in and things like that instead of ruining the countryside and possibly damaging our health with windfarms.”

She added: “I just want to enjoy this beautiful house and for all this to go away. I would love the energy company to say that it is going to withdraw these plans.

“This windfarm application is tearing our lives apart.”

Energiekontor UK is preparing an application for five turbines to be sited at Fenrother, just south of Longhorsley, saying the windfarm could generate power for up to 7,623 homes and will be sited at least 800m away from the nearest properties.

Project Manager Sam Dewar said the health concerns raised by Mrs Shotton arise from a study that has been dismissed by the NHS for showing no conclusive evidence as the study was too small and there was no comparison group.

He said the research advertised for people who already attributed their health problems to windfarms, with no independent assessment or medical history taken into account, and there was no specific geographical mapping of the complainants and their proximity to turbines.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change has also concluded that there is no evidence of direct health effects from windfarms.

Mr Dewar said: “The reference to this kind of research demonstrates the misinformation among objectors and we strive continuously to ensure that the correct information is made available at every opportunity.

“I completely sympathise with what Mrs Shotton has gone through and I am more than willing to meet with the family and talk through the application in depth so that they can increase their understanding of the project.”

He added that the Shottons’ home is 828m, over half a mile, away from where the nearest turbine would be.