Money intended to provide community benefits for people living near a proposed wind farm in rural Northumberland is to be handed over to an organisation based in a town several miles away.
Renewables developer Energiekontor UK, which wants to build five massive turbines on farmland near the hamlet of Fenrother, has said approval for the scheme will mean a £45,000-a-year fund for the benefit of local communities.
Now campaigners against the wind farm are angry that instead of going direct to local parish councils or residents’ groups, the money will be managed by the Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT), which is based five miles away in the market town.
Yesterday objectors to the wind farm said diverting the funding showed “callous disregard” for local communities, and “stuck two fingers up” to residents living near the site.
Leading campaigner Dr James Lunn said it also ran contrary to guidance on the use of community funds from wind farms from Renewable UK.
Dr Lunn, who lives in Fenrother with his wife Gemma and daughter Imogen, said Energiekontor should be allocating the money to the two local parish councils, Longhorsley and Tritlington and West Chevington.
He said: “Our communities are under attack, and now the community fund has gone with the wind.
“This is an indication that the fund will not benefit local communities.
“The GMDT has never been involved in projects as far out of Morpeth as Fenrother, and has no objective plans for any future projects in this area.”
Energiekontor has submitted an application to the county council to build the five, 126m (413ft) high turbines between Fenrother and Longhorsley.
Last night, project manager Sam Dewar said he had approached the local parish councils at an early stage, but claimed they were unwilling to get involved with the community fund. She said: “The GMDT is an amazing organisation which we know will spend this money wisely on project that cover a wide area around Morpeth, including Fenrother.
“They have the financial systems in place to use this money and attract further funding. To us, they ticked all the boxes.
“We want the money to be spent in the most appropriate manner, and our door remains open to the local parish councils.” Mr Dewar said survey work carried out in Morpeth this week shows 60% to 70% support for the wind farm scheme.
GMDT chairman, Doug Phillips, said the trust had agreed to manage the Energiekontor community benefit fund, but stressed it was neither in favour of or against wind farms.
He said: “We believe we would be an appropriate organisation to handle any potential funding.
“This is based on the strong track record we have established and the expertise we have built up over the past seven years, in developing and managing projects for the benefit of the community in and around Morpeth.” He said the trust would set up accountable procedures to ensure that any projects put forward by local people or organisations for funding would carefully and appropriately considered.
Our communities are under attack, and now the community fund has gone with the wind
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