Family living next to huge planned substation for offshore wind farm told no compensation
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
When Steve Hall looks out over the fields around his garden in Swardeston he can see trees, hedgerows and pylons.
But a new electrical substation, the equivalent height of a five-storey building could loom over his garden if plans for a new offshore wind farm go ahead.
It has stopped him from selling his detached family house, but he has been told he will not get a penny in compensation.
Hundreds of other people in the county, living on two cable routes for the world's biggest offshore wind farms, which are proposed off the Norfolk coast, are in a similar situation.
They will be affected by trenches being dug and substations being built to connect the new wind farms to the National Grid.
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But they will not receive any compensation from the energy firms unless they own the land being used for the schemes.
And it is unclear whether they will be eligible for a government compensation scheme.
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Danish company Orsted wants to build a wind farm called Hornsea Three, 120km off the north Norfolk coast. Cables for it will come ashore at Weybourne.
But to connect it to the National Grid a cable corridor 55km long and up to 80 metres wide needs to be dug through Norfolk from the coast to next to Mr Hall's home off the B1113 Main Road at Swardeston.
There a new substation will be built covering a maximum of 25 acres with another 25 acres needed for the construction area. The building for it could be at least 19 metres high.
The parish council said in response to Orsted's plans that 'clearly some parishioners will have their homes permanently blighted such that they will become unsellable'.
Mr Hall and his wife Natasha were hoping to sell their home and downsize as their three children are moving out, but now feel trapped.
'We are stuck until when they finish (the work), otherwise the valuation will just not be the same,' the 51-year-old gardener said.
In May last year the Halls were asked by Orsted if sound monitors could be put in their garden. Mr Hall said the new electrical substation was not mentioned.
He said it was not until August when he was told by the parish council about the plans he realised the scale of what was happening.
In September, the Halls went to a consultation Orsted held at the village hall and first got a sense of how huge the substation would be.
'You could put in your post code on a screen and it showed you what you could see from your house,' he said. 'It was a massive substation from the side and back of our house.'
And he then discovered the substation would be far closer to his home than he originally thought.
'We were gobsmacked,' he said. 'We thought it was up in the corner of the field, further away from our house.'
Orsted said it would put screening up around the substation and keep disruption to a minimum.
A spokesman also said they met the Halls in December and showed them the construction boundary would be moved further away from their property.
'We've offered to meet them again this spring to continue the discussions,' they added.
'We understand there is a lot of information so we have used various channels including informative events, which Mr and Mrs Hall have attended, to communicate and ensure people have access to the latest available information.
'We have also sent newsletters and letters to individuals in the Swardeston area, and in this case have met one-to one with Mr and Mrs Hall twice to listen to their concerns.'
At the December meeting with Orsted, Mr Hall said they were told the work could be done in stages, meaning it may take several years to complete.
If permission is given by the Planning Inspectorate next year, work on the wind farm could begin in 2020 and take 11 years to complete in the worst case scenario.
The Halls are also worried about the extra construction traffic using the country road. Figures from Orsted show HGVs will be using the road outside their house an estimated 114 times a day at peak construction.
'We bought this housing knowing what it was like with the pylons and road,' Mr Hall said. 'But we were looking to sell. The kids are moving out and we want to downsize.'
'We have not got the funds or know how to fight it,' he added.
And when questioned by the Halls about compensation, Orsted told them: 'I can confirm that the project would not be seeking to purchase your property.'
But when asked by this newspaper, Orsted said people living on the route who are not landowners may be entitled to compensation under something called the Land Compensation Act.
That applies to people whose property goes down in value by more than £50 because of new roads, airports or works 'provided or used in the exercise of statutory powers'. It is not clear whether that would include offshore wind farms.
Those claiming compensation must be affected by noise, vibration, smell, fumes, smoke, artificial lighting, solid or liquid discharge on to the property.
Orsted has also established 'community benefit funds' for past projects where they give a voluntary amount to communities affected.