The advertising watchdog has ruled that campaigners cannot claim house prices will fall if a wind farm is built nearby.
The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that the claim – which the protesters said was based on the views of local estate agents who said house prices could fall by up to 40% – must not be repeated.
However, the views of the agents were only oral. None of the agents wanted to put anything in writing, apparently for fear of talking the market down.
The Stop Grange Wind Farm in Trowbridge, Wiltshire, put out a leaflet, making various claims including one that “home values will fall”.
The owner of the wind farm site complained that this was misleading and could not be substantiated.
The Stop Grange Wind Farm group argued hard for their claim.
They said that in preparing the leaflet, they had canvassed opinions from a number of local agents: all thought the proposed wind farm would have a negative effect and send local property prices down by between 10% and 40%.
However, while the agents were willing to give their views orally, they were unwilling to do so in writing.
The campaigners said the agents did not want to be seen to be talking the market down. Nor did they want to endanger any possible relationship with wind developers and other corporate entities who were potential clients.
However, the group did provide a copy of a letter from a local estate agent to the seller of a property which stated that a potential buyer had pulled out due to the proposed wind farm development.
They also provided copies of written comments from a partner of a local estate agent and a partner of a local chartered surveyor in response to a Wiltshire County Council consultation on wind farms. Both said property values would suffer.
They also provided a copy of a local newspaper article which quoted an estate agent in Devon regarding a local proposal for a wind development.
The protesters said it was self-evident that house prices were affected by proximity to large industrial-scale wind turbines. They said that at the very least it was likely to be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations on a property. They felt it was obvious that people would not choose to purchase a property near to a wind farm development because of issues with flickering, background noise and aesthetics.
They also provided copies of various press articles which referred to a ruling by the Valuation Office Agency which accepted that, for council tax purposes, wind turbines built near homes could decrease their value and that the VOA had moved such properties into a lower council tax band.
However, the ASA said that the claim “house prices will fall” needed robust documentary evidence in support. It did not consider it self-evident that property prices would be affected.
In relation to the letter from the local estate agent to the seller, the ASA said the letter did not state that the property had reduced in value. It stated that the potential buyer had withdrawn due to the wind farm proposal. The ASA said this was not sufficient substantiation for claims about house prices in the local area being reduced due to the proposed development.
The ASA also considered that the comments from the local estate agent and chartered surveyor were the subjective opinions of two individuals.
The ASA ruled that the claim breached advertising rules and has banned the leaflet.