Wind farm developers are targeting landowners in a rural North East community with offers of massive financial rewards in return for allowing turbines to be erected on their land.
The Journal has obtained a copy of a letter sent to landowners in and around the village of Capheaton, near Kirkwhelpington, in the Tyne Valley, by an energy firm that tells them of the huge sums of money they could make by agreeing to have the giant turbines on their land.
For each turbine erected, Scottish Power is offering £10,500 every year over 25 years – an income of £2.6m if landowners take 10 turbines.
Last night, campaigners described the situation as a “gold rush”, saying the offer was causing the village to be “split down the middle”.
The letters were sent out by an agent on behalf of energy firm Scottish Power Renewables, and also includes a map detailing all the potential landowners who are being targeted in the area.
Recipients of the letter are told they could receive £1,000 just for signing an exclusivity contract with the energy firm, and a then thousands more for giving the firm the option to build the turbines.
But the really big money is to be made once the giant structures are eventually put up, when the landowners are told they would be paid £10,500 for each turbine on their land, every year for 25 years.
The target area borders land that is already the subject of an ongoing joint wind farm inquiry, and the timing of the letter has attracted criticism from campaigners.
Carol Brodie is a member of the Campaign for Responsible Energy Development In Tynedale, a pressure group set up by residents concerned about wind turbine development in the area.
She said that the sums of money energy companies were set to make from the developments were creating a gold rush.
It was not clear yesterday whether anyone had taken up the offer.
But Ms Brodie added: “You can’t blame the farming community for taking offers like these. They have not had a good deal recently and life has been hard for them.
“It is happening as a result of bad Government policy and it is splitting the community right down the middle.
“The approach of the energy companies has been clumsy to say the least – it is cynical, really. There is a lot of money in it for them and it has become a gold rush.
“There is nobody in this area who isn’t concerned about rising fuel prices and looking after the environment.
“But there has to be sensible planning behind it – at the moment the energy firms are just riding roughshod over the whole process.”
The Journal spoke to one small landowner, who did not want to be named, who had received one of the letters, but who said he was going to turn down the money.
He said that it had not been a difficult decision because of the effect the turbines would have, being so close to his home.
But William Browne-Swinburne, son of Sir John Browne-Swinburne, owner of Capheaton Estates, said the possibility of having wind farms on their land had not been ruled out.
He said: “None of us like them, but at the end of the day it is about money, and with farming the way it is we have all got to try to make a living.
“Most people have the view that the last thing in the world we want is these big wind mills all over our farms, but we have to survive.
“It is incredibly difficult to make money in farming and we also have the pressure on us to keep a place like this correct. The macro view, as a global citizen, is that maybe it is the right thing to do. But do I want a giant wind mill stuck in my view? No I don’t. But we are keeping our options open.”
A spokesman for Scottish Power said that the approaches made to landowners marked only the very early stages of a development, and that all factors and criteria would be considered before an application was made.
He added: “There are very demanding targets set by the Government and the EU on renewables and we are committed to meeting them.”
The letter sent to landowners by Scottish Power
I WRITE further to my visit to this area last week.
Turner and Partners are appointed agents for Scottish Power Renewables. Scottish Power is the largest wind farm developer in the UK.
They were acquired by Iberdrola in November 2006. Iberdrola is the third largest utility company in Europe, with a presence in 30 countries and the world’s number-one wind generator. Iberdrola continue to work under the name of Scottish Power Renewables in the UK.
We have been instructed to contact you as part of the preliminary investigations for a wind farm in this area.
The attached plan shows the area we are interested in. This has been selected as a desk-based exercise by looking at Ordnance Survey plans of the land use, contours, distance from residential property (750m buffer zone required), and the prevailing wind strength speed and direction. We understand that you own some of the land in this area.
In order to progress the preliminary investigations, we need to establish the extent of the land holdings of all the landowners in this area, and report this information back to Scottish Power. We also need to establish whether you may in principle be interested in having some wind turbines on your land, and whether you have previously been approached by any other developers.
Scottish Power will then produce a draft plan showing the likely size and position of the proposed wind farm, based on the land holdings of the interested parties and any other developments planned in the area.
If you are interested, we ask that an exclusivity letter is signed. This will enable Scottish Power to carry on with their investigations beyond this stage. By signing the letter you are agreeing to exclusivity for Scottish Power in the project and that you will not enter into discussions with any other wind farm developers for a period of 24 months. Scottish Power will pay you a one-off payment of £1,000 within 28 days of the signature of the exclusivity letter.
During the 12 months following, they would be looking to agree an option to lease the land. The option to lease would be for a minimum of five years and allows Scottish Power to carry out the various surveys required before the development can take place. These include archaeological surveys, environmental impact assessments, geological surveys, grid connection studies, wind speed and direction surveys and planning consultation. The typical payment on signature of the option agreement is £5,000 per wind farm, with an annual payment of £1,500.
Finally, once all the necessary surveys had been completed and planning consent gained, Scottish Power would complete a 25-year (minimum) lease. The annual rent would be the higher of £10,500 per turbine, or based on a percentage of the income generated. Scottish Power is then committed to running the wind farm for the duration of its life.
As the country’s largest wind farm developer, with Scottish Power you can be confident that they can deliver what is offered and that Scottish Power are fully committed to taking this wind farm proposal as far as they can.
With this in mind, I would be grateful if you were able to confirm whether you may be interested and if you could mark the extent of your land ownership on the attached plan and return it to me as soon as possible. It would be helpful to know what you own, even if you were not interested so that your land can be eliminated from further investigation.
I enclose a SAE and a blank plan.
Please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss any of the above.
Anna Hare MRICS
Senior Surveyor (Turner and Partners)
AN environmentally-friendly heating scheme at a Northumberland beauty spot is set to be extended.
The Kielder Biomass District Heating project was established four years ago at a cost of £640,000 and is fired by wood chips sourced from the nearby forest.
Now Tynedale Council is set to give the green light to a £42,000 investment that would extend and improve the scheme.
At the moment the system provides heat to six homes, five workshop units, Kielder First School, Kielder Youth Hostel and Kielder Visitor Centre.
Head of economic regeneration at the council Cameron Scott said extending the scheme would provide significant benefits.
He said: “One of the main purposes of the project was to act as a major demonstration project. To this end it has been extremely successful.
Mr Scott added that the extension to the system would enable the future implementation of a £137,000 improvement scheme, that would create a new flagship energy efficient housing scheme.
The system is owned by the council and operated by the Forestry Commission.
Tynedale Council cabinet is expected to agree to the investment at a meeting later today.
We could bear the brunt
RURAL campaigners have warned parts of the North East are likely to bear the brunt of the Government’s wind ambitions if plans to build a wind turbine a day for the next 12 years get the go ahead.
The region is believed to be one of the most attractive for wind developers, especially the relatively sparsely populated parts of Northumberland.
Now concerns have been raised that the Government is heading for a new wind farm push without giving real consideration to the impact they will have on thousands of businesses and households.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England has called for the Government to think again before “sacrificing a way of life” in pursuit of energy targets which some say will not be met.
And they have warned more companies will be tempted to offer the final rewards being pushed by Scottish Power Renewables.
Shadow business secretary and the Conservative’s Tyneside spokesman Alan Duncan called on the Government to listen to the mounting opposition to onshore He said: “I don’t think energy companies should be touting themselves around like this.
“It’s clear that the biggest potential for UK wind is offshore. Putting up turbines in onshore communities must have local consent.
“I think people are keen to go green, but they must have a say in how they choose to do so”.
Nic Best, CPRE’s North East policy officer, has called for a move towards legal recognition of quality of life standards as the Government prepares to unveil its renewable energy plans.
He said: “It’s obvious we are going to be a very attractive target for developers, and the offers of cash are going to keep on coming.
“What the region needs now more than ever is a proper coherent strategy setting out what is and is not acceptable.
“We tried in the Regional Spatial Strategy to have planners recognise the importance of preserving areas of outstanding beauty, but that didn’t happen.
“As we head towards a new single strategy we hope we can get a quality of life condition built into that.”
By Ben Guy
26 June 2008
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