Substation noise ensures Mark stays sleepless in Tweedbank

It's been more than a year and a half since Mark Ross last had a proper night's sleep.

Back then, he was a happy family man who loved his job and, according to his wife Barbara, was a perfectly good sleeper.

Now, though, he’s lucky to get just a few hours rest each evening and the sleepless nights are taking their toll.

“I dread going to bed,” he told TheSouthern this week.

“It’s making me ill and, to be honest, I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long.”

Mr Ross’s problem began in July 2006 when he became aware of a constant low humming sound at night.

At first the couple thought it was coming from inside their Tweedbank house, perhaps the fridge or the recently-installed combi boiler.

But that wasn’t the case and the noise was eventually traced to a nearby Scottish Power substation about half a mile north of the family home.

What began as an annoyance became an obsession and now Mr Ross has resorted to sleeping at his mother’s home in Ormiston and is worried about the effect on his job.

“I’ve been noticing it more and more because I’ve become attuned to it,” he continued. “I can’t concentrate, I can’t drive. My boss has been really understanding so far, but I’m worried about losing my job.”

Mr Ross is not alone in his experience and, while neighbours in Tweedbank say they haven’t been affected by the sound, the phenomenon of low frequency noise is widely recognised and is understood to have a significant impact on sleep patterns, quality of life and even physical and mental health.

A recent report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) stated: “As a sound travels, its frequency content alters, making the low frequencies more prominent at greater distances.

“As with any noise, reported effects include annoyance, stress, irritation, unease, fatigue, headache, possible nausea and disturbed sleep.

“It should be noted that low frequency noise can disturb rest and sleep even at low sound levels and that a large proportion of low frequency components in a noise may increase considerably the adverse effects on health.

“The evidence on low frequency noise is sufficiently strong to warrant immediate concern.”

Despite this – and the intervention of local MP Michael Moore who recently took up the case with Scottish Power – Mr Ross’s appeals for help seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

“Mr Ross has suffered a great deal,” Mr Moore explained on Tuesday.

“I’m trying to get Scottish Power and Scottish Borders Council to do everything they can to isolate the causes and to shield Mr Ross from this noise.

“He has been patient, but he’s frustrated because it’s taking so long and it has had serious effects on his life.”

Mike Raw, an environmental health officer with SBC, said: “We try to mitigate where there is a problem and have arranged another meeting with Mr Ross next week when we will take up-to-date measurements and try to confirm the source in order to find a remedy.”

However, speaking yesterday, Jane Holmes from Scottish Power told TheSouthern that, although there were plans to spend 1-2million on upgrading installations in 2011, no further action would be taken to resolve the issues currently affecting Mr Ross.

She said: “We’ve carried out extensive tests with Scottish Borders Council last year and they have said there is no statutory noise nuisance.

“That means there is no requirement for us to take further action.

“Scottish Power take impact in the community very seriously and obviously we will consider any other issues that are raised.”

But that will come as little consolation to Mr Ross, who this week sought medical advice to help deal with the anxiety caused by continuing sleepless nights.

“I’m not getting any quality of life. Surely I’ve got the same rights as if the whole neighbourhood complained, but they just keep palming me off.”

“He was a happy family man and happy in his job,” added Mrs Ross. “But now he’s having to go to the doctor to get tablets to sleep. Why should he have to do that? It’s ridiculous.

“They say the noise isn’t bad enough to cause a nuisance, but it’s still affecting someone’s life. It’s awful to see the stress and depression that it’s caused.”