Green homeowner hit with noise abatement order; Wind turbine driving neighbours mad...
By Chris Brooke
Last updated at 12:29 AM on 27th May 2009
When Stephen Munday spent £20,000 on a wind turbine to generate electricity for his home, he was proud to be doing his bit for the environment.
He got planning permission and put up the 40ft device two years ago, making sure he stuck to strict noise level limits.
But neighbours still complained that the sound was annoying - and now the local council has ordered him to switch it off.
Officials declared that the sound - which Mr Munday says is 'the same pitch as a dishwasher and quieter than birdsong' - constituted a nuisance, and issued a Noise Abatement Order.
This is despite the turbine being more than 164ft from the nearest neighbour's house, as ordered by the planners. The ruling could have serious implications for the Government's drive to promote wind power and the use of renewable domestic energy if repeated across the country.
Electrician Mr Munday, 55, and his wife Sandra, a veterinary nurse, challenged the decision by the Vale of White Horse district council in Oxfordshire.
But Didcot magistrates rejected their appeal and they were left to pick up the £5,392 court costs as well.
The turbine generated five kilowatts of electricity a day - the equivalent of boiling 300 kettles - and provided two-thirds of the family's energy needs. It also saved them an average of £500 a year in electricity costs.
Mr Munday, of Stanford in the Vale, near Abindgon, said: 'I am very disappointed.
'We were trying to cut down on our electricity bills and help the environment but have been clobbered for doing so.
'Everyone is encouraged to be environmentally friendly and we wanted to do our bit. We never dreamed that going green would land us in court and £25,000 out of pocket.'
Michael Stigwood, an independent noise and nuisance adviser to the council, told the court that the noise affected people's ability to 'rest and relax'.
'The noise was continual,' he said. 'It's irritating and gets under your skin and is intrusive.'
Neighbour Virginia Thomasson, 49, said: 'I can hear it inside and outside my house - at night, in the daytime, all the time.
'I cannot sleep with the window open.
'I am a tolerant person but with this noise it superimposes itself over everything I hear.'
Another resident, Michael Brown, 49, added: 'The rhythmic mechanical noise is very irritating and incessant.'
Chairman of the bench Liz Holford told the Mundays, who represented themselves in court, that the council's order was 'reasonable and necessary'.
Now their only option is to appeal to the High Court - but they cannot afford to do so.
According to the BWEA, the wind industry trade body, more than 10,000 small wind turbines have been set up since 2005 and an estimated 600,000 could be installed by 2020.