The single-track road from Barrhill in South Ayrshire to New Luce in Wigtownshire, winds through conifer forests and across desolate moorland, where cattle and sheep calmly graze. A few miles from Barrhill, a potholed track leads for almost a mile to Dochroyle Farm, the home of Pat Spence. The cobwebs shimmer in the roadside reeds and thistles in the September sunshine. There is unseasonal high pressure, with cloudless blue skies and not even the slightest breeze. The 184 giant, industrial wind turbines that surround Pat Spence’s home stand idle, towering white monuments to the SNP government’s obsession with wind energy.
Pat Spence is 77 years-old. A talented musician and music teacher, she founded the Staffordshire Chamber Orchestra, which, she proudly says, is still performing today. After setting up a successful music publishing venture, she and her husband John moved to Barrhill in 1987. They needed office and storage space for their expanding business and when they saw an advertisement for Dochroyle Farm their excitement grew. The peace and tranquillity of the moors and forest above Barrhill seemed to be the answer to their dreams. There were barns which could be converted into offices and stores and even with the added upkeep problems of a long access road, a private water supply and 33 acres of land, the property was still a good investment. They sold their house in Staffordshire, moved to South Ayrshire and sank every penny into modernising their new home and converting the barns and sheds. Sadly, John Spence died of cancer in 1992. But Pat settled into her new rural lifestyle and in her own words “continued to do the work that I love to do.” She started the Ayr Camerata, which has been giving concerts in Ayr for more than ten years.
Pat’s rural idyll was soon to come to an abrupt end. Mark Hill wind farm with 28 giant turbines to the North of Dochroyle Farm, was granted approval in 2008. It was quickly followed by Arecleoch wind farm with 60 turbines, in 2009 and Kilgallioch with 96 turbines, to the South of Dochroyle, in 2013. Pat’s home is now effectively surrounded by a ring of steel. 184 enormous turbines dominate the landscape on every side. On windy days, even when there is a light breeze, Pat says the audible noise of the turbines is like living next to a motorway. But the audible noise is only part of the problem. She says the infrasound, or low-frequency sound waves with a frequency below the lower limit of audibility, are so distressing that she has been driven to the edge of despair.
When all 184 turbines that surround her home are churning away, Pat says the constant “thump, thump, thump” and mounting pressure, feel like someone is banging the back of her head. She suffers piercing pains in her ears. For days on end she cannot sleep or concentrate on her work. She has been given medication for high blood pressure and claims that her stomach churns incessantly, making her physically sick. On days of intense infrasound pressure in the house, even her cat Millie runs outside to hide under shrubs or bushes on lower ground. Pat says on some occasions, things become so unbearable that she has to flee in her car. Within half a mile, she says that the pain stops and she gets instant relief.
Now, Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) has applied for planning approval to construct an extension to Arecleoch wind farm. They want to erect 13 turbines, but these will tower above anything that has been put up before. The proposed turbines will be a mind-boggling 200 metres high to blade tip. They will be visible from miles around and will require red, flashing aviation warning lights on top of their nacelles, a hugely intrusive feature in the renowned Galloway dark sky biosphere. For Pat Spence, the Arecleoch extension is the last straw. Her health has been shattered. She is barely able to work. Her home has been rendered un-saleable. In desperation she has asked her lawyer to write to SPR requesting that they buy her property. There has been no reply.
The situation has been exacerbated by SPR applying for planning consent to erect a further 18 giant, 200 metre high turbines at Clauchrie, to the North-East of Barrhill and an additional 11 turbines at Kilgallioch. Now a public inquiry into the wind farm extension has been called and Pat has requested that all of SPR’s new applications should be considered together to clearly define the cumulative impact of the wind farms that surround Dochroyle Farm. She has also requested that SPR be forced to buy her property and other affected properties as part of any planning consent. However, it looks as if her request will be disregarded, with the Scottish government’s reporter claiming that only the 13 proposed turbines of the Arecleoch wind farm extension can be properly considered at the inquiry. It is a shattering blow for Pat Spence, who feels trapped and abandoned in her steel-encircled prison. She says that she feels as if she is being tortured by the energy company.
The SNP government has championed the race to renewables by littering the Scottish countryside with industrial wind turbines. The impact of these windfarms on human health in cases like that of Pat Spence, seems to have been swept under the carpet, collateral damage in the headlong charge towards a greener future. Too often the wealthy power companies trot out “so-called’ acoustic experts to argue that audible and low frequency noise from turbines is unlikely to affect health. But independent biomedical experts have come to very different conclusions, showing that living close to a turbine can cause headaches, dizziness, sleep deprivation, unsteadiness, nausea, exhaustion, mood-swings and the inability to concentrate. Pat Spence’s plight should be a wakeup call for the Scottish government. Her basic human right to the peaceful enjoyment of her property has been appallingly abused. Planning approval for the Arecleoch extension should be refused and SPR should be forced to purchase Pat Spence’s property at a fair market value.