Wind farm development in the Borders has been as controversial as elsewhere in the country, but one thing communities in the region are agreed about is that any community benefit payments made by the developers should go to the settlements most affected.
Proposals to have a centrally administered fund have been rejected by a majority of community councils in the Borders and now Scottish Borders Council is looking at drawing up guidelines – A Community Benefits Toolkit – to provide a voluntary protocol for both communities and developers to follow while negotiating payments.
The toolkit, based on the model used in the Highlands, will consist of: information on windfarm development in the Borders; making contact with windfarm developers/community interests; options for community benefit payments; a model strategic management agreement (SMA); allocation of resources; and sources of support/information.
Scottish Borders Council drew up a draft guidelines framework in September last year and have been consulting with communities since then.
Reporting to councillors this week, Susan Dean, environmental strategy co-ordinator, said: “From examining the responses and given the voluntary nature of community benefit payments it can be concluded that it will be difficult and not necessarily constructive to establish a one-size-fits-all governance framework for community benefits payments.
“Each development is different and each ‘community’ differs with the variation in the scale of development, number of community interests involved and topography to name but a few factors.
“However, as there was general support for codifying arrangements for the negotiation and disbursement of community benefit payments it would seem appropriate to devise a mechanism for achieving this in a less prescriptive and centralised manner.”
It is assumed that developers will negotiate directly with the community, with the council’s development negotiations officer acting as a support for those communities that request help.
It will be up to the individual communities and windfarm developers/operators as to how any money is disbursed. Community organisations will need to establish processes to manage and administer the fund themselves and it will be up to them and the developers as to who should be included in individual schemes.
The argument against a Borders wide scheme was that it was “inappropriate for all parts of the Borders to benefit – the distances are too vast and the closest communities could be disadvantaged by larger or more active communities which are further away”.
Communities were also against setting a specific distance that could be included in the benefits as it could not take into account local variation such as topography and population distribution.
Community councils were broadly in favour of eligible projects being limited to those not covered by normal tax or government funding and that they should decide for themselves what the money should be spent on.
The Community Benefits Toolkit will make it clear that the community benefit payment is not a compensation payment and will be completely separate from the planning process.
16 March 2007
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