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11:00 - 30 December 2004
A power giant has been told it will have to carry out a background noise survey before controversial proposals to build three giant wind turbines on Westcountry farmland can move forward.

South Hams District Council and residents campaigning against the plans for three 100-metre high turbines in Goveton, near Kingsbridge, said that Npower, which has lodged the proposals, had hoped to carry out the survey after the plans had been considered.

But the district council's environmental health departments says the survey "needs to be done".

The background wind and noise survey will reveal how much, if any, ambient noise there is in the area.

NPower had told residents that there was a high enough level of background noise in the area to cover up the sounds made by the three structures, which would be built on land near the A381 between Kingsbridge and Totnes, next to the turning for Goveton in the South Hams.

But the company's findings were based on a computer calculation of the ambient noise in the area and they have since accepted they will have to carry out actual readings. Now readings will be taken in five parts of the area and are expected to take around a month to complete.

A spokesman for South Hams District Council said: "Originally NPower wanted to do the noise testing after the planning application had been considered. But the Environmental Health department said it needed to be done beforehand. The survey will inform the planning decision so it needs to be done before the plans are moved any further forward.

"They were hoping to do the noise survey before Christmas but it's now a matter of Npower speaking with other residents to try and get it done."

Because the readings will take a month to carry out, it is thought any decision on the application will be put back even further. The application has been received by the district council but has not been scheduled in for discussion, and it is thought that planning officers have not made any recommendations about whether it should be approved or refused.

Residents battling against the plans believe it will cause a delay. Dave Mitchell, secretary of South Hams Opposed to Unsightly Turbines (SHOUT), said: "NPower were trying to get provisional planning permission, after which they were going to do the tests. They have now said they are willing to do so, but that is because they have no choice. It's going to be well into January or February before it happens now.

"We have been told it could take many months before they start doing it because they have agreed with Environmental Health about four out of the five sites, but apparently there is a dispute about where they will carry out one of the tests "It will delay the planning application because the minimum time they have to do this is a month."

NPower were yesterday unavailable for comment.