Residents of Hemswell and surrounding villages have spoken about how a ‘community fund’ from wind farm developers would be best spent in the area.
Meanwhile, the row around the fee that West Lindsey District Council charged developers for the planning application rumbles on.
The results of a consultation about how the area can benefit from a community investment fund have been announced by RWE Npower Renewables – which has submitted a planning application for a 10 turbine wind farm on land 13km east of Gainsborough.
RWE has previously said that it offers a range of ‘community benefit packages’ for areas living closest to its wind farms – aimed at providing ‘a long-term, sustainable and reliable source of income for the local community’.
More than 540 responses to the consultation were received from members of the public – with suggestions that include apprenticeships and improving public transport.
However, opposition groups are suspicious of how the money would reach the community.
The energy firm says it wanted to encourage local people and stakeholders to have their say during the two-phase consultation to help develop a community benefit package that would make a real difference.
RWE Npower Renewables’ developer Neil Parnell said: “As a responsible developer, it is important to us that we offer community benefit packages that really meet the needs of local people living near our wind farm sites.”
“This is why we appointed an independent market research company to carry out this consultation on our behalf.”
He continued: “The results have identified several key funding themes, which tie in with the council’s funding priorities.”
“We will therefore be looking at ways on how to develop these further.”
RWE says that the consultation identified that residents wanted funding priorities to ‘focus on projects helping people get back to work, supporting apprenticeship schemes, projects to occupy teenagers and young adults, and funding to support rural transport initiatives’.
The first stage of the exercise included focus groups and one to one interviewing, in which, participants were selected randomly from a cross section of local people and organisations – while the second phase of the exercise included an online survey, on-street interviews and paper questionnaires.
The results of the first stage were used to help develop the questionnaire.
However, opposition group No To Local Windfarms chairman Peter Baldwin said that they were ‘extremely suspicious’ of how the money would be spent.
“It’s all nonsense,” he said. “They’ve got no mechanism to do the things that they’ve suggested.”
He added: “We’re ultra-suspicious of everything that surrounds this development and very much doubt that the money would reach the community.”
A report of the findings of the community investment consultation can be found by visiting www.npower-renewables.com/hemswellcliff
Meanwhile, opposition groups have also been questioning the amount that West Lindsey District Council charged RWE bosses for submitting their planning application.
After consulting central Government policy, other district councils and calculations by external planning experts, opposition groups claim that RWE should have been charged the maximum application fee of £250,000 instead of £24,965.
Mr Baldwin called this ‘achieving maximum flexibility while being charged the minimum fee’.
West Lindsey District Council director of regeneration and planning Mark Sturgess responded: “The fee regulations on windfarms are not that clear.”
“As far as West Lindsey District Council is concerned, we have calculated the fee correctly.”
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