Protesters have accused developers behind contentious plans for a £35m wind farm near the Yorkshire coast of a campaign of divide and rule to ensure opposition fades away.
The proposals to build as many as 14 475ft-high turbines on agricultural land close to Hunmanby, near Filey, have caused a public outcry.
The company behind the scheme, Banks Renewables, has confirmed a test mast to pinpoint the best location for the wind farm is now collecting data before a planning application is due to be submitted at the start of next year.
But villagers in Hunmanby have accused the firm of failing to disclose full details of the development, despite a series of public forums being held in the area.
Hunmanby Parish Council’s chairwoman, Michelle Donohue-Moncrieff, accused Banks Renewables of attempting to divide local opinion with the promise of thousands of pounds of funding for community projects.
She claimed the offer has left many residents unsure of whether to accept the cash before exact details of the wind farm have been disclosed.
Villagers are worried about the environmental impact as well as noise pollution, and The No To Wolds Wind Farm Group has been formed to block the scheme.
Coun Donohue-Moncrieff also raised concerns that Scarborough Council, which is the planning authority, is liaising with the company about where money could be spent before a decision has been reached on the wind farm.
She said: “The discussions with Banks Renewables have been more frustrating than enlightening, as they never give a straight answer.
“The offer of funding for community projects has caused an awful lot of concern. It is very divisive as it is setting people against other people. It has created a lot of discord where people involved in community projects are not sure whether they should take money linked to such a contentious issue.”
Banks Renewables has stressed developments like the South Dale wind farm at Hunmanby will play a “crucial role” in meeting future energy requirements.
The firm’s development director, Phil Dykes, claimed the company is committed to building close links with the community to boost tourism and create “long-term, sustainable local employment opportunities”.
He said local firms will be able to tender for contracts worth about £6m for the construction of the wind farm if planning permission is obtained.
A community fund would provide up to £1.8m through the lifetime of the scheme for community groups, voluntary organisations and environmental projects, according to Mr Dykes.
He added: “We believe that the proposed South Dale site is entirely appropriate for the sort of development we are proposing.
“We are confident that we will be able to design a scheme that is environmentally acceptable, capable of producing significant amounts of renewable energy and facilitates substantial community benefits.”
The leader of Scarborough Council, Coun Tom Fox, was adamant that the planning process will be “completely transparent” when the authority considers the proposals for the wind farm.
He said: “All discussions the council is having with Bank Renewables are completely above board.
“The proposed wind farm is a major development, and the council will consider it carefully once a planning application is received before any decision is reached on whether it should be approved.”
The council’s planning committee refused an application for the monitoring mast in April, although Banks Renewables successfully appealed against the decision.
Work on the mast was finished last week and data collected will be included in the planning application for the overall wind farm project.