FENLAND: Anti wind turbine protestors criticised for misleading and untruthful claims
PROTESTORS made exaggerated, misleading and untruthful claims a wind farm in the Fens would make nearby homes worthless and ruin people s lives, the government s advertising watchdog has ruled. Leaflets sent to homes in Marshland St James by FLAT – Fenlan
PROTESTORS made exaggerated, misleading and untruthful claims a wind farm in the Fens would make nearby homes worthless and ruin people's lives, the government's advertising watchdog has ruled.
Leaflets sent to homes in Marshland St James by FLAT - Fenland Landscape Against Turbines - called on villagers to vote no to a wind farm in a parish poll.
They warned: "Your house could plummet in value and end up worthless and unsaleable if this goes ahead, and your life could be ruined by noise and disturbance."
Marshland Wind Farm, which hopes to build 19 turbines on land near the village, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority.
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And in a ruling published today, the authority upheld five complaints and found nine breaches of its code of conduct concerning truthfulness and substantiation.
On the claim homes would become worthless, the ASA said: "While we noted the wind farm might influence property prices, we considered that the leaflet described the most extreme circumstance which was likely to be realised in all cases. We concluded that the leaflet could therefore mislead by exaggeration."
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After researching FLAT's claim people's lives would be "ruined", it added: "We concluded that the claim was too bold and could therefore mislead by exaggeration."
FLAT also claimed 26 turbines would be built, adding: "We would suggest that this will surround the village and totally desecrate the area."
But the ASA found no planning application for 26 turbines had ever been submitted, the masts would not surround the village and the total number in a draft proposal had been reduced to 19.
It ruled "the claim could mislead" and the leaflet breached clauses of its code of conduct covering substantiation and truthfulness.
The leaflets were sent out last October, before a public meeting in Marshland. Five months earlier, an inquest heard Richard Herbert - who was one of a number of local farmers who had formed a wind farm consortium - drowned himself after opposition to the proposals mounted in the village.
Father-of-three Mr Herbert, 47, thought friends in the small Fenland community had been turned against him. His death came after landowners were sent letters threatening them with legal action if house prices fell and a test mast put up to monitor wind speeds in the fens was destroyed.
Last night Bruce Pittingale, spokesman for Marshland Wind Farm, said: "We are delighted that the ASA has condemned this material as exaggerated, misleading and untruthful. We have always maintained that the basis of the organisation's whole campaign against the siting of wind turbines outside the village of Marshland St James has been based on misinformation and has been untruthful.
"The results of the parish poll held last October and indeed the protestors' entire campaign have been discredited. We can now put the unpleasantness behind us and move on."
The ASA has advised FLAT to contact them before distributing any more leaflets. If it continues to repeat the untrue claims, it could face legal action.
Chairman Lyndon Mason said he would be responding to the ASA's findings later today..
An ASA spokesman said: "Protestors may feel strongly about what they're doing but it's important that people realise there are standards in all advertising, including leaflets, and there needs to be evidence behind any claims that are made."
Last week, campaigners fighting plans for a wind farm in Buckinghamshire were also censured over publicity material. Complaints against wind farm operators' claims about the amount of power generated or turbines' environmental benefits have also been upheld.
Marshland Wind Farm said it was drawing up a formal application to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform to build the wind farm.