Advertising adjudicator rules against anti-wind farm group

UK: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK's advertising regulator, has ruled against an anti-wind farm campaign targeting Iberdrola-owned Scottish Power.

Anti-Lenchwick campaign: censured by the UK Advertising Standards Authority
Anti-Lenchwick campaign: censured by the UK Advertising Standards Authority

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The group, dubbed ‘Vale Villagers Against Scottish Power’ (VVASP), had created a newsletter titled too Big too Near too Noisy too Costly’ that made a number of allegations about wind energy. The campaign was prompted by a planned Scottish Power development at Lenchwick in Worcestershire.

The ASA ruled that the newsletter contained a number of unsubstantiated facts. These included the allegation that wind turbines only had a 25-year lifespan, that noise can cause illnesses such as depression, headaches and memory loss and that wind farms reduced house prices by as much as 54%.

The ASA refuted all of these points and ordered the group to cease using the newsletter. It ruled that wind turbines could be replaced and even decommissioned and the land returned to its natural state. As to the harmful effects of wind turbines, the body found this was largely based on low quality research and anecdotal evidence, while in regards to property value it said proximity to wind farms was "not an issue".

Commenting on the ruling, an ASA spokesman said the initial complaint had come from a member of the public rather than Scottish Power.

"The complainant wasn’t happy with the substantiation of the claim," he says. "It was straightforward for us: you have to have the evidence and we weren’t satisfied. Opinion is very polarised when it comes to wind farm development but if you’re making an advertising claim you have to supply proof."

Responding to the ruling, the VVASP said it "strongly contests" the ASA’s decision. 2We believe we had taken all reasonable steps to ensure our leaflet was based on well-founded research from recognised experts and, further supported this with first hand evidence," a statement by the group says.

Despite the ASA being better known for its adjudications on multi-million pound advertising campaigns, the debate around UK wind energy takes up a lot of its time. Since 2006 it has received around 45 complaints, mostly about campaigns put out by anti-wind farm groups. The majority of these complaints were upheld.

"It’s an ongoing issue. Either side tends to launch complaints, usually about wind farm development," the ASA spokesman says.

Recent cases involving complaints against wind farm developments include Infinenergy’s Dorenell project on Moray, Scotland and Npower’s Llyn Alaw Wind Farm, Wales. Both of these complaints were upheld.

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