There is some confusion as to the potential loss of community funds with the refusal of the two Spaldington windfarm applications. It would appear that supporters of the applications are peddling a rumour in that villages surrounding Spaldington will lose funding for community projects.
It is common practice for offers of community funding to be made by developers of windfarms and other energy providers and can be very controversial, with some looking upon it as a thinly disguised attempt at bribery i.e. “If approval is granted then we will give the area an amount of money each year – if you don’t approve then there will be no money”.
That communities gain direct benefit from development in their area is welcome. However the issue of community funds which are outside the control of the community does not sit comfortably with me as a member of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s Planning Committee. Particularly if the developer can threaten to withdraw local benefit if there is objection to their application.
When an application is approved to which community funding is attached, the money is in some cases paid directly to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council to be administered by a panel including representatives of the community, developers and the Council. In other cases the funds may be retained and administered by the developers themselves.
The conditions attached to the funds by developers can vary but they usually specify the area within which the funds can be used, and limit their use to specified purposes.
The areas benefiting from the money available tend to be restricted to the parish in which the development is located, and neighbouring parishes. However, there have been instances where the area of benefit extends further into the East Riding, but with the emphasis being placed on projects most closely associated with the development.
The purposes for which the money can be used, and the way in which it can be distributed, are always restricted in some way and may be limited to a narrow range of objects such as being energy or learning related. In other cases developers are more flexible with their requirements.
There is no information on the offers relating to Spaldington and whether or not those offers would be withdrawn if the applications were refused and went to appeal. However, I can recall only one occasion where a developer failed to offer a community fund during the course of an inquiry.
The bottom line is that offers to make payments into a community fund rarely carry any weight in the planning balance. We were reminded of this at the Planning Committee when the Spaldington applications were discussed and advised that any offers made should not be used as a reason for approval or refusal – and in my case I completely ignored the offer. My decision and my vote are not for sale at any price at any time.