Friday, September 10, 2010

Community funds attached to windfarm applications - a thinly disguised attempt at bribery?

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There is no information on the offers relating to Spaldington and whether or not those offers would be withdrawn if the applications were refused and went to appeal.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.


Anonymous said...

I hope that any community funding is better "sewn up" than the promised play area that was supposed to be provided as part of the planning being granted for the housing developments near Gilberdyke Station. ERYC really took their eye off the ball with that one!

Kev Owen said...

Paul I applaud your integrity, it makes a refreshing change and sadly such integrity is often an attribute missing from the 'arsenal' of many of our elected leaders/spokespersons nowadays.
Given your revalations here, I must admit I have often wondered if ERYC are waiting for an improved 'sponsorship'(do so hate to use the word 'bribery') offer from whoever they have earmarked to develop a certain (now derelict) area of Goole and this is the reason why there has been so much confusion surrounding exactly what will be built on the site and when.

Rob Hare said...

The prospect of a payment from a community fund is one of the more insidious elements of a proposed wind farm development and one that is fraught with danger for those Councils that are inclined to take what is no more than an inducement to approve what would otherwise be unacceptable. How can a Council that anticipates financial gain and supports a wind farm application, far too close to homes in a neighbouring community reasonably object when one lands on their own doorsteps? And what support could such a Council expect from their surrounding parishes?

Community Funds have the potential to set neighbouring communities against each other.

Spaldington Parish Council, in a letter to ERYC, made it clear that Spaldington had no interest in receiving any payment whatsoever from either community fund - “our environment is not for sale”. The neighbouring Councils that were unanimous in their support for Spaldington, were clearly not for sale either.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul

There is a man who is apparently spreading this totally false rumour that Eastrington was to receive £13000 per annum from the 'community fund' (and that the offer would be withdrawn if it went to appeal!), I was actually at the Planning Committee decision meeting (not standing outside on the doorstep because I arrived too late to get in!!!!). The issue was raised by councillors and the Council Officer presiding said quite categorically that NO amounts had been discussed - only that there may be a community fund set up by one or both of the developers and this fund would go to East Riding Council to be distributed to the affected community. There was absolutely NO mention of Eastrington at any point during the meeting. I will also add that a letter from Spaldington Parish Council was read out at the meeting regarding the suggestion of a Community Fund and that they were not for sale.

I would be very grateful if you could make sure that people know the truth about this. I suspect someone who stands to lose a lot of money if these wind farms don’t go ahead is doing it to try and smear the residents of Spaldington.

Many Thanks Paul for for help

Wendy McKay said...

It appears that those spreading the rumour of villages losing community funds following the refusal of the Spaldington wind farms are confusing the “standard” community fund referred to in the applicants ESs and the case officers report, with an extra fund (bribe) which was offered by one of the Holderness wind farm companies if their application was passed and they did not have the cost of an appeal. Neither of the Spaldington wind farm applicants has offered this extra fund, in fact they have given very little information even on the standard community fund other than that they have “held discussions with East Riding of Yorkshire Council”. The case officers report para 11.14.2 states “It should be made clear that the provision of a Community Fund carries little if any weight in determining wind energy proposals and should not be used as a reason for refusal. At Public Inquiries Inspectors have given little weight to the provision of community funds”. We have all seen what the so called “consultation” with the local community by Coriolis and Volkswind amounted to. Does anyone honestly expect the community fund to be any more use?