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Advertising watchdog slams protesters

PUBLISHED: 17:08 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:23 14 July 2010

A protest group that opposed a controversial wind turbine development at the Lotus test track has been slammed by the national advertising watchdog for making unfounded claims that were likely to mislead.

A protest group that opposed a controversial wind turbine development at the Lotus test track has been slammed by the national advertising watchdog for making unfounded claims that were likely to mislead.

Developer Ecotricity went to the Advertising Standards Authority after opposition group Runga (Are You Naïve Gullible Apathetic) distributed two leaflets in which it made unsubstantiated statements about the proposed development at the sports car manufacturer's headquarters at Hethel.

The scheme was refused planning consent in November by South Norfolk Council and Ecotricity is lodging an appeal.

Ecotricity had made nine complaints about Runga, all of which were upheld in the ASA adjudication published yesterday.

Dale Vince, the firm's managing director, had accused the group of “scaremongering” and “creating fear” circulated in the leaflets.

“They were put together with the aim to cause panic in the local community,” he said.

“Ecotricity is very diligent about all the information it puts out in the public domain and, unfortunately, groups like Runga don't feel the same obligation. The ruling should make clear to everyone living around Hethel who've been exposed to Runga that the group and the things they say about wind energy simply don't have any credibility.”

In its adjudication, the ASA criticised Runga for failing to respond to its inquiries, and found it had breached a number of clauses in Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code.

Unsubstantiated claims made about the Lotus development included constant noise would be heard up to five miles away, properties would be devalued by 15-20pc, photomontages had been “cleverly taken to deceive the true effect on the landscape”, and no research had been conducted on how wildlife would be affected.

It also claimed the three 120m turbines “will not even provide direct electricity to the Lotus factory” when the company had publicly stated the turbines would generate sufficient power for the entire site, avoiding more than 15,000 tonnes of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide being emitted annually.

The ASA has told Runga to remove the claims from future marketing, and chairman, Alan Benstead, told the Mercury he will comply and is taking them off their website.

“We have achieved our first objective (the refusal of the application) and we are going on to plan a county campaign,” he said, adding that he failed to respond to the inquiry because he was in the Middle East on a business trip.

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