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Wind developers need to be more open and much fairer with rural England

6 June 2013

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A new Government report published today (Thursday) [1] calls on wind energy developers to work with communities in a fairer, more transparent way and to increase their level of investment in surrounding communities. The report comes as a new CPRE investigation [2] finds that most large wind farm schemes in England continue to offer local communities only a tiny fraction of the millions of pounds of profit that developers make from public subsidies and electricity sales to the grid. Wind farm developers in England also continue to offer consistently lower levels of community investment than in Scotland.

Paul Miner, Senior Planning Campaigner at CPRE, says:

‘The Government’s report is a good start towards getting a fairer deal for rural England from major new renewables development. But if the industry thinks that it can go on doing the bare minimum, then it should think again.’

‘The Government is right to make clear that community investment should only be considered once planners have decided whether the development is in the right place. If it is considered to be in an acceptable location, developers should be much more prepared to share the large profits that they are guaranteed from a major new wind farm. They should also offer investment focused strictly on green energy and ways to reduce the demand for energy in the longer term. Any other financial contribution, such as offering reduced energy bills to people who happen to own homes nearby, risks being seen as a form of bribery and won’t move us towards a greener future.’

CPRE welcomes the Government’s plans to introduce mandatory pre-planning application consultation. We also strongly support moves to encourage the industry to raise its game and offer a higher level of support and a more transparent approach to community investment. Investment has to date been offered through ‘community benefit’ programmes offered by developers. A recent protocol agreed by the industry [3] has yet to improve practice amongst developers, who continue to offer levels of benefit that are, on average, significantly lower than for large wind schemes in Scotland [4].

For large wind developments that have gained planning permission, CPRE wants to see contributions made to transparent programmes of community investment in a low carbon future. This could incorporate some of the best practice from current community benefit schemes, such as those that have led to investment in energy efficiency and other renewable technologies. The contributions involved should follow best practice in Scotland, and be agreed with relevant local authorities, not the developer’s chosen community representatives as is current practice. The contributions should lead to investment in energy saving and low carbon initiatives in an area wider than just those communities immediately surrounding a wind farm [5].

End

Notes to Editors

[1] Written Ministerial Statement and Government response to Onshore Wind: Call for Evidence, published today at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/onshore-wind-call-for-evidence.

[2] CPRE has surveyed community benefit schemes offered in conjunction with a number of major wind schemes in both England and Scotland that have been either given planning permission or proposed since the introduction of the Renewable UK Community Benefit Protocol in February 2011.

[3] Renewable UK (www.renewableuk.com), Community Benefit Protocol, February 2011.

[4] See footnote 1 above.

[5] Dumfries and Galloway Windfarm Community Benefit Framework (July 2011): In Dumfries and Galloway community benefit funds are split 50/50 between the wind farm ‘Host Communities’ (within 15km of the site) and the Regional Socio-Economic Fund (to support a low carbon economy across the council area). Spreading community investment across a wider area than just ‘host communities’ has also been recommended in a recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation study, Wind Energy and Justice for Disadvantaged Communities (May 2012, available from www.jrf.org.uk).

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