Local councils are to get extra funding if they give the go-ahead to new wind farms, under plans to stop local communities “sabotaging” renewable energy projects.
Ministers are worried at the vast number of wind farm projects that are being turned down by councillors in the face of local opposition. The number of planning approvals for onshore wind farms is at an all time low, with only one in three applications getting to go-ahead. There are now 233 separate local campaign groups against wind farms. As a result ministers have agreed that local councils should be given incentives to help persuade them to approve more wind farms.
Under the plans councils will be allowed to keep the business rates generated by wind farms – which currently have to be passed to central government.
Even a small wind farm with just five turbines pays business rates of around £37,000 a year. The money would come without pre-conditions on how it is spent.
Another possibility which has been investigated would require wind farm developers to make contributions to the local economy as a condition of planning approval – either as part of the proposed community infrastructure levy or the existing section 106 rules. Such conditions already apply to some other commercial developments, such as housing developments or supermarkets, although in the case of wind farms it would be more complicated to administer and it would pass on the cost directly to the renewables industry.
A spokesman for RenewableUK, which represents the wind farm industry said they would be in favour of the business rate proposal as it would make the benefits of renewable energy obvious to local communities. Other countries, like Spain, who have mature renewable energy markets already do this.
But Michael Hird, from the Campaign Against Wind farms, said;
“This is nothing short of a bribe to get local councils to agree to wind farms. They should be spending money on good green energy and not this.”
In Cumbria and the Severn Estuary areas the locals are reported to be welcoming the new proposed Nuclear schemes in favour of wind schemes previously proposed – how can that be a sensible move!
Without doubt a middle way needs to be found which can help reduce the ‘knee jerk’ reaction of the anti wind farm community. In my view Michael Hirds comment above sums up the problem, wind energy is good green energy – and until the public actually grasp that this is actually a good option we are going to keep having schemes turned down by councillors who are afraid to vote against the ‘anti wind community’.
Sadly it is only a matter of time before we start to read locally about the campaign against Nottingham Universities plan for 3 turbines in the Trent Valley near Clifton – no doubt that campaign will also base itself on scare tactics and untruths about wind farms. The University have a guide to dispel certain “well-known facts”, its worth a read.