Villages surrounding a proposed south Norfolk windfarm stand to gain in the region of £20,000 a year for community-based projects if the plans are given the green light.
Diss-based green energy company Enertrag UK says that if its plans to build seven 125m-high turbines at Hempnall are approved it will set up a trust fund and make money available for the community on a yearly basis for the 25-year lifespan of the windfarm.
Some residents believe the money, which would come from the revenue generated from electricity sold to the National Grid, would prove a valuable asset.
In a letter to the Mercury’s sister paper the EDP, villager John Ellis said: “As the majority of the Hempnall residents would not see or hear the turbines from their homes, this to me seems a very good idea which so far has not been accepted.
“There are discussions at the moment between Hempnall Parish Council and the Playing Field Users’ Association for a hard-surface fenced area on the playing field; £20,000 per year would come in very handy.”
But South Norfolk district councillor Michael Windridge, who is leading the opposition campaign against the plans, said: “The so-called ‘community grant’ which Enertrag is seeking to offer is the most cynical attempt yet to win over local public opinion.”
In a report to planners, Enertrag says: “A trust fund is available on a yearly basis for the duration of the windfarm; this is available to the villages that surround the site for communities, clubs, schools and any other community-based project.
“This trust fund will also cover the cost of setting up and maintaining the mitigated areas. As one of these areas is presently maintained under other grants that the parish council precept covers, technically the precept could be lowered thus benefiting the whole community financially. Where possible, Enertrag UK employs local people for consultancy and construction, therefore the area will also benefit from local spend.”
But Mr Windridge laughed off the suggestion that the funds could be used to lower the parish precept. He said: “As far as I know the only payment the parish council makes is a £700 grant to the mowing of the parish church yard. There could be no possible reduction in the parish precept.”
Enertrag’s project manager, David Linley, said that it was normal for green energy companies to set up trust funds. He said: “This is something we normally do. Because we are going to be operating the windfarm for 25 years and want to be part of the community, we set up a trust fund. The amount would depend on factors like revenue but an estimate of £20,000 a year would not be untoward. People could ask for payments from that trust fund for community projects.”
Mr Linley said a trust fund had been set up for villages surrounding its windfarm at North Pickenham, near Swaffham. “Out of that trust we have paid for speeding signs and in the summer a small wind turbine will be going up at the primary school to educate the children about wind power and provide electricity for the school,” Mr Linley added.
A shadow was cast over the Hempnall plans last night after it emerged that Norwich International airport will be objecting to the proposals on safety grounds.
In an e-mail to South Norfolk Council, Elliott Summers, senior airport operations director, says that his safeguarding co-ordinator will be writing formally in due course.
The Ministry of Defence has told the council that it has no objection to the proposals.
15 May 2008