WINDFARM objectors claim Conwy Country Council would be acting improperly if it changed its opposition to the controversial Gwynt-y-Môr development because of a benefits “bribe”.
Protest group Save Our Scenery was shocked when the planning committee authorised officers to negotiate on the details of a £50m community benefits package with energy company npower renewables.
And the committee indicated that, depending on the outcome of the discussions, it would be prepared to reconsider its opposition to the scheme.
SOS member Mike Pritchard believes this goes against government guidelines. “The guidelines say there is a strict principle that a decision about a particular planning proposal should be based on planning issues,” he explained.
“It should not be influenced by additional payments or contributions offered by a developer which are not linked to making the proposal acceptable in planning terms.”
But the guidelines also say communities can still ask for benefits and developers can offer them.
Local authorities can still play a role in facilitating the process as long as they ensure officers or councillors directly involved are not in a position to influence the planning decision.
And npower says it is within the rules. “We have not negotiated community benefits with Conwy and are well aware that community benefits are not a part of the planning process nor have any bearing on a planning application.
“We would hope Conwy County Council will take an impartial but informed decision over Gwynt-y-Môr and that this follows the broadly positive attitudes of many of its planning committee members who are now recognising the importance of offshore wind power,” said spokesman Mark Fleming.
“During the planning committee of December 12 over 75% voted in favour of the council reconsidering its position.”
Protestors fear the 200 turbine development would have an adverse effect on tourism and npower says it is aware of the significance of holiday trade to the local economy and of the council’s wish to enhance the industry.
“In line with our company approach of supporting our neighbouring communities we have offered a package of measures to help the council achieve its aspirations,” said Mr Fleming.
A special meeting of Conwy County Council has been called tomorrow to further discuss the proposed windfarm.
by Judith Phillips, North Wales Weekly News
Jan 3 2008
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