Wind farm protestors have accused a renewable energy company of trying to win favour among residents by offering cash for community projects.
Banks Renewables wants to build five 115-metre turbines between village of Woodland and Hamsterley Forest.
Hamsterley and Upper Gaunless Action Group (Hugag) has concerns about the plan, including its environmental impact.
And the protest group says Banks representatives have been going door to door in local villages, asking people to apply for community funds and encouraging them to fill in forms on the spot.
Hugag said the move, which they heard about through a local councillor, is unfair.
Peter Shield, group spokesperson, said: “Given the obscene sums of money that wind farm operators stand to gain in subsidies, it is hardly surprising that companies use such tactics.
“As a planning application by Banks for the nearby wind farm is apparently imminent, this seems particularly inappropriate behaviour.”
Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, said: “The existence of a benefits fund which would provide funding for community groups and local good causes has been a central and clearly communicated part of our Windy Bank wind farm proposals from the very beginning.
“We have received a great deal of support for our Windy Bank proposals from people who have recognised the significant environmental and community benefits that it would bring to the area, and the fund would be central to the positive, long-term legacy that we would look to leave in the area if the scheme is approved.”
He said the renewables industry was an important employer in the North East.
Mr Dyke said if the scheme were to go ahead it would see an investment by Banks in the region of £12.5m to build the scheme. He added that local firms would also be able to bid for contracts.
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