opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development
REVOLT Newsletter 199
Revolt news 03/11/2005
1. CPRE takes a helpful stand in defence of the countryside. Current issues outlined in the latest edition of Countryside Voice focus largely on housing plans and the new planning system following the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. Another theme is tranquillity in the countryside. What a good word, tranquillity! It summarises what is most at risk from powerlines and windfarms, as well as from housing and traffic. CPRE want to produce tranquillity maps covering the whole country. BBC Radio 4 Today listeners were asked where they could find 10 minutes of sheer tranquillity. Seventy five places were successfully nominated, many in protected landscapes. But the government's annual State of the Countryside report has nothing to say about tranquillity. Walking the other day on the scarp edge of the North York Moors National Park near Scarth Nick, I was struck by the roar of the distant A19 traffic, even though I was hundreds of feet higher up and a few miles away. Is tranquillity vanishing from the English countryside?
2. A new report from EEF http://www.eef.org.uk/UK/ , the leading manufacturers' group in the UK, called (I think) the Engineering Employers' Federation, exposes the shortcomings of wind power. The EEF urges the Government to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, as part of a balanced strategy for acceptable long-term low- cost energy in the UK. It warns that gas shortages and high gas prices might damage industry and risk large scale shut-downs this winter.
3. Questions are being asked about the reliability of the Basslink project connecting Tasmania to mainland Australia (APPENDIX 1). Revolt news has heard much of the Basslink project and the objections it has provoked in Australia over the last few years. It looks like the cost is coming home to Tasmania, with a projected 2 billion dollars to fall upon them.
4. It's only a press article (APPENDIX 2) from the Sunday Times, but these words could signal a Scottish political sea change: "views within the executive had changed". The words are attributed to "an executive source" from the Scottish Executive. The source went on "and while ministers still see a role for wind farms under their target of generating 40% of the country's power from green sources by 2020, they are becoming keener on wave energy which is likely to provoke less controversy". It may have taken the media savvy of envisaging golden eagle corpses displayed in front of windfarms, but has the Scottish Executive now got cold political feet about the rush for wind farms in Scotland's best scenic areas?
5. A response (APPENDIX 3) to Dermot Finnigan's position with his property has been received from http://www.wayleave.co.uk , a firm of wayleave consultants. Revolt does not recommend any consultants as we sometimes receive negative as well as positive feedback, so landowners must make their own assessments. Nevertheless, the main message makes sense: don't sign wayleave agreements for peppercorn rents. And be cautious in any case, especially of effectively permanent problems arising from nominally temporary wayleaves. Some landowners on the Yorkshire line have been scrupulously careful in not signing anything and making it explicit that they give no agreement. They have refused the meagre rentals anyway, for fear of their being used to establish a contractual liability surreptitiously. If only the industry were open and above board in its dealings, landowners would not be faced with such sneaky problems.
6. One of the liabilities attaching to wayleaves is safety. Dermot Finnigan's case shows that National Grid think this liability even attaches to adjacent landowners where there is no wayleave agreement, either voluntary or compulsory. Meanwhile Dermot reports a DTI officer saying there should be a wayleave (i.e. when there is an over-swing and safety implication, even if in still air there is no oversail). See APPENDIX 4.
7. The High Court 28.10.05 dismissed on all counts Scottish Power's legal challenge to Ofgem's decision to approve National Grid's new charging arrangements for the high-voltage transmission network. Revolt welcomes this result. It means that grid charges will be more cost- reflective than those preferred in Scotland to subsidise transmission from already heavily subsidised remote wind farms. See APPENDIX 5.
8. On the subject of recognising medical conditions, I was absolutely delighted to hear (BBC online 1.11.05) of the landmark decision of the Pensions Appeal Tribunal (PAT) to grant a disability pension for Gulf War Syndrome to veteran Daniel Martin. With the onus of proof on showing there was such a condition, beyond normal military effects, the tribunal found "there is a Gulf War health effect". The MOD is reported as dismissing the findings, maintaining that the illnesses suffered by veterans are so varied there can be no distinct syndrome or a specific cause. So what! It's multiple causes (MOD generated too) and multiple effects. What very shameful government treatment of disabled veterans, using a smoke-screen of uncertainty and complexity to deny their injuries and pensions!
9. Following on from the above item, electro-sensitivity (ES), or electrical hyper-sensitivity (EHS), is the subject of a report today 3.11.05 from HPA-RPD (the old NRPB), "Definition, Epidemiology and Management of Electrical Hypersensitivity" by Dr Neil Irvine: http://tinyurl.com/73bkx There have been short delays in publishing this review, after HPA-RPD statements earlier this year that it would set the scene for ES being a recognised valid diagnosis, and then later statements that the HPA is not in a position to make a decision on whether ES is a "medical condition" or not, as that is for the medical profession to decide on an international basis. The HPA press release today says "the use of the term electrical sensitivity in the review does not imply acceptance of a causal relationship between symptoms and attributed exposure". People with symptoms of sensitivity to the growing "electro-smog" of modern life are concerned to have the condition recognised; see http://www.electrosensitivity.org.uk .
Mike Repacholi, of the WHO EMF team, has expressed sympathy but says research shows it is a psychological rather than physical phenomenon. APPENDIX 6 gives a Powerwatch Press Statement issued yesterday.
APPENDIX 1. Media Release 30 October 2005 Power shortages : Can Basslink realistically help the mainland?
Power shortages : Can Basslink realistically help the mainland? and Can Tasmania afford Basslink? will be the topics of discussion at the AGM of the Basslink Concerned Citizens Coalition on Wed 23 Nov at the Gormandale Community House.
Keith Borthwick Chair of the Coalition said that last week's announcement that Basslink will cost the state of Tasmania $2.2Billion comes as no surprise to the group.
"For five years, from our very initial calculations we have predicted that the whole Basslink project was going to cost Tasmania $90million a year for 25 years. We were told that the figure was nowhere near that and that any further figures were protected by commercial confidentiality. Indeed the Basslink Joint Advisory Panel itself said the project was marginal in its initial findings following the hearings held in 2002.
"However, last week's annual report from HydroTasmania finally admits to our predicted cost. It is also significant that Hydro Tasmania has declined to say how much power it expects to sell interstate and how much profit it hopes to make. (Mercury 28 Oct 05)
"If the average wholesale price for peak power remains at its current level, then we fail to see how Hydro Tasmania can realistically cover this cost. If the peak price rises Hydro Tasmania will face competition from a number of other projects on the drawing board waiting for the price to rise."
How reliable is Basslink?
"Furthermore," continued Mr Borthwick, "with Hydro Tasmanian dams currently at 38.8% capacity, it is unlikely that Basslink would have been able to provide power during times of peak demand even if the undersea cable had been operational. Simon Krohn, Hydro Tasmania's Group Production manager in an article in International Water Power and Dam Construction, 25 October 2005, admits that Tasmania is going to be dependent on Basslink for importing electricity and drought proofing Tasmania."
APPENDIX 2 The Sunday Times October 30, 2005 Ministers step in to bitter Skye wind farm dispute Jason Allardyce
THE former head of Channel 4, Sir Jeremy Isaacs, has won a partial victory in an angry dispute over the planned siting of a wind farm on the Isle of Skye.
The Scottish executive is to call in an application for the erection of 27 turbines at Edinbane, taking the decision out of the hands of local councillors who voted to approve the developments. A similar scheme at neighbouring Ben Aketil is also to be recalled by ministers.
Isaacs was one of a number of objectors, claiming the turbines would threaten rare wildlife, damage the landscape and harm the tourism industry.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds claimed that collisions with the blades could kill one golden eagle every two years.
The executive has now accepted that the plans could have a serious impact on some of the world's most endangered birds. Ministers want to consider them in detail before deciding whether the turbines should be allowed.
The move reflects growing unease about the impact of turbines on sensitive sites around Scotland.
The scale of concern within the executive is revealed in an exchange of private e-mails obtained using freedom of information legislation.
Dr Ian Bainbridge, the executive's chief ecological adviser, told colleagues in the environment and rural affairs department that he had "concerns about the possible effects on golden eagles from the two sites combined and, on the data provided, associated with the Edinbane case in particular".
He added: "It may well be sensible to call in both cases and give more consideration to the potential effects of both. We are beginning to see very clearly the need for cumulative assessments of the effects on gold eagles in particular."
His comments were in relation to a letter sent to the department by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Stuart Housden, the society's Scottish director, warned that new data gathered by the developer behind the Ben Aketil plan "establishes that a very high collision risk to golden eagles will occur if the Edinbane proposal is built".
He added: "This will impact on the golden eagle population for a large area of the western Highlands."
An executive source said it was now certain that the plans would be called in for ministers to consider, leading at the very least to a lengthy delay. Ministers may decide to order a public inquiry into the plans, demand that they be scaled down or reject them outright.
He said views within the executive had changed and while ministers still see a role for wind farms under their target of generating 40% of the country's power from green sources by 2020, they are becoming keener on wave energy which is likely to provoke less controversy.
"Basically people like Bainbridge have won the argument. There are still those who think the evidence that golden eagles are at risk is flimsy but we're not going to take the chance. The executive is going to take a close interest in these projects and that means calling them in," said one executive source.
Isaacs and his wife Gillian Widdicombe, who claim to have experienced abuse over their opposition to the plans, welcomed the change of heart.
"I'm very glad to know that some people in the executive now realise it isn't black and white and that they have to give thoughts to others as well as to their own predilections about arbitrary targets which are not joined-up energy policy," he said.
"We were concerned about important general issues. Onshore wind farms in some cases patently are a blot on Scotland's wonderful landscape, a threat to its wildlife and can damage Scotland's important tourism industry."
Isaacs said that he would continue to highlight the risks posed by wind farms "across the whole of Scotland and particularly in the Highlands and Islands".
Among them is a plan to build Britain's biggest wind farm on the neighbouring island of Lewis. The Western Isles council has backed the scheme but the application now looks likely to be called in by ministers, following warnings that it could kill at least 50 golden eagles, 50 merlin and up to 150 red-throated divers due to collisions.
APPENDIX 3. 400 kV swing envelope - Sale.
I read with interest REVOLT Newsletter 198 and earlier Newsletter items in connection with Dermot Finnigan's dispute with National Grid at Sale.
No wayleave exists across Dermot Finnigan's land but the swing envelope of the neighbouring 400kV power line impinges upon the property under conditions of maximum sag & swing.
Wayleave.co.uk has successfully concluded hundreds of compensation claims on behalf of owners throughout the U.K. whose land is over sailed by overhead powerlines including many instances where the lines swing across the property as they do in Mr Finnigan's case. We have been successfully acting for landowners since 1998.
Our web site at www.wayleave.co.uk illustrates that all electricity wayleaves (even small schemes such as wood poles, buried LV cables, staywires and the like) are, once completed, treated by the DNOs as though they were permanent rights. One lady who contacted us recently faced a demand of £15,000.00 from the incumbent Network Operator after it emerged that she had inadvertently constructed her garage 3" over a buried low voltage cable on her property.
The rule of thumb is "if you want it moved - you have to pay".
It is little appreciated that whilst the Electricity Act 1989 privatised the electricity industry - it also widened powers enjoyed by the regional electricity companies to retain wayleaves - one of a number of reasons we advise owners against signing so-called 'terminable' electricity wayleaves - for 'peppercorn' wayleave rentals.
We would be pleased to offer our experience in assisting any of your members or other contacts who have been asked to grant new wayleaves for anything from a pole to a pylon or who would like our assistance in formulating their claim for compensation for electricity apparatus.
I am attaching an extract of our web site, for your information.
David Phillips Principal - Swansea.
APPENDIX 4 Wayleaves and safety: Dermot Finnigan's case at Sale.
DTI has replied to Dermot that they have asked NGT to confirm in writing that the current installation complies with the regulations they enforce (namely, the Electricity Safety, Quality and Continuity Regulations 2002 or ESQCR).
DTI also refer to "more general Regulations which are also pertinent" though they do not say where they come from. Regulation 18(5) from this mysterious source requires electricity companies to ensure safe clearances between lines and buildings or trees, and 18(3) requires others such as landowners and builders to give reasonable notice to the owner of the line of any intention to build or plant trees close to the line.
The clearances then involved are referred to industry standards: the Energy Networks Association's Standard 43-8 'Overhead Line Clearances'. These standards are said to specify 5.3 metres' minimum clearance from the top of a climbable structure to the nearest live 400kV conductor and 3.1 metres from non-climbable structures.
DTI also refers to the Electricity Act Schedule 6 paragraph 4 (not the other way round as for the familiar wayleaves paragraph) which makes damage to electrical plant by any person an offence with liability to a fine up to level 3. However, this schedule and paragraph apply to "public electricity suppliers" which are defined in section 6 of the Act as suppliers to premises in their area, which does not apply to NG as a licensed transmitter, so the paragraph may not apply to NG lines.
DTI go on to say "Landowners also have a duty of care to avoid danger to themselves and others under other legislation"; it is helpful to point that out, but any such duty of care related to Schedule 6 appears to apply specifically to the local supply to the landowner and not to passing transmission lines.
Meanwhile Dermot reports another DTI officer saying there should be a wayleave, that is at his property where there is an over-swing (in the wind) but not a static over-sail. The Electricity Act (this time Schedule 4 para 6) implies that a wayleave is needed where "it is necessary or expedient for a licence holder to instal and keep installed an electric line on, under or over any land". It does not define "over" in respect of swing in the wind, although there are lists of definitions given (called "interpretation".
I have written to DTI for clarification on these points.
APPENDIX 5 Ofgem press release R/44 28 October 2005
JUDICIAL REVIEW ON TRANSMISSION CHARGES
Ofgem welcomes Judge's ruling
The High Court today (Friday) dismissed on all counts Scottish Power's legal challenge to Ofgem's decision to approve National Grid's new charging arrangements for the high-voltage transmission network.
The charging arrangements needed to recover the £1.7 billion cost of running Britain' s transmission network had been approved by Ofgem's governing Authority following extensive separate consultation by both National Grid and Ofgem.
Ofgem Chairman, Sir John Mogg, said: "We are of course pleased that the Court has upheld the Authority's decision on every count and believe our decision is the right one for customers."
"In Scotland these new charges have already helped reduce the impact of recent electricity price rises for both domestic and business customers. And the impact of the new charges on Scottish generation, including renewables, is broadly neutral."
Notes to editors
1. The new GB-wide electricity market which began in April 2005 and allows Scottish generators easy access to the larger demand for electricity in England and Wales. This is particularly important in Scotland where there is already surplus capacity and plans are in the pipeline to more than double the amount of renewable generation.
2. ScottishPower sought a Judicial Review of Ofgem's Authority's decision in February this year to approve National Grid's charging arrangements for the charges for the high-voltage transmission network which came into force when the GB-wide market was created. The Authority's decision requires National Grid to monitor and review certain aspects of the charging regime throughout the first two years that it operates and refine them if necessary.
3. A factsheet "British electricity transmission networks-future charging" is available from the Press Office section of the Ofgem website (www.ofgem.gov.uk).
APPENDIX 6 Powerwatch Press Statement 2.11.05 on EHS.
Powerwatch welcomes the Health Protection Agency Radiation Protection Division's (HPA-RPD) release of its long-awaited review "Epidemiology and Management of Electrical Hypersensitivity" by Dr Neil Irvine.
We believe that Electrical Hypersensitivity (EHS) affects at least 3% of the British population (maybe 2 million of the 17 million people currently suffering from long-term chronic adverse health problems). It is important that the association between exposure to electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) and ill-health effects is medically recognised so that Doctors can advise appropriate treatments. Sources of EMFs include microwaves radiation from mobile phones, cordless phones and phone masts, powerlines, etc. The current preferred method of treatment is using psychiatric drugs. This is unacceptable.
After press articles on 11th and 12th September in the Sunday Times and Daily Mail, the HPA-RPD issued a brief statement. "The report will be a scientific review of the topic of electrosensitivity with a public health perspective. It will not be a definitive statement of policy from the Board of the Health Protection Agency. The Board of the Agency is not in a position to make a decision on whether electrosensitivity is a "medical condition" or not. This is for the medical profession to decide on, on an international basis".
It appeared that the HPA were trying to distance themselves from the implications of the report, denying that they have any responsibility for affecting medical policy. An obvious question to ask then is "Did they collaborate with the Department of Health, before the review, or after the results of the review were known? What is the response of the Department of health to the findings?" GPs in other countries have reported dramatic health deterioration in their patients who live near microwave radiation sources. No such work has yet been carried out in the UK, or is even planned as far as we know.
Last week, on the 28th October, the HPA published another report on the burden of disease in the UK, that included: "A small percentage of the population may express an increased sensitivity to a range of electric and magnetic fields with symptoms including: skin sensitivity, dizziness, headache and fatigue. This has not been quantified but the symptoms and increased levels of stress and anxiety will contribute to health costs". This is a tacit acknowledgement of the problem of EHS, and its possible implications for an overburdened health service. So, what is being done to investigate it?
We hope that Neil Irvine's report has not just turned into a "literature review", as one HPA person suggested, nor has it been "watered down" to come in line with current WHO thinking that EHS is "all in the mind". However, we have been told that "People are just getting paranoid about reported so-called dangers of EMFs and it is this paranoia that is making them ill, not the EMF exposure" and when Mike Repacholi (of WHO's EMF project) was recently reported in New Scientist as saying that "the worst effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident are mental health problems brought on by too much worry", we do have to wonder what is going on in the minds of the people in charge of investigating these matters.
Perhaps a clue could be a sentence, discussing potential future research, from an HPA representative in a paper delivered at the Electrical Hypersensitivity Workshop in Prague, 2004: "An acceptance that EMF has a causal role in ES would have widespread implications for future policy on prevention and management." Maybe the HPA know that the report is going to show EHS to be a real, debilitating health condition that is affecting a significant proportion of the country's population? They are fully aware of the likelihood that the public will want someone to be held accountable, not only for the causation of the problem, but for providing the solution. Is it this accountability that they are trying to avoid? Of course, if the government's Health Protection Agency are unwilling to be accountable for the protection of the UK population's health from the effects of EMFs, who will? Surely that is what the HPA is for?
-- Mike O'Carroll
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