A developer looking to site massive wind turbines in the Northumberland countryside has upped its community benefit offer – but been accused of trying to “buy the soul” of residents.
Energiekontor UK has recently applied for planning permission to put nine engines, 100m high on land near Belford.
The company has now revealed it has increased the money it would pay to the community in line with government guidance, claiming its benefit package would be the biggest seen in Northumberland.
However, an action group fighting the plans has accused the developer of holding a “Dutch auction for the soul of the village.”
The application to Northumberland County Council is for land at Belford Burn.
Project manager Michael Briggs revealed the increased community benefit payment, saying: “Government has recently advised that developers should consider increasing the rates for community funds from £1,000 per MW of installed capacity to ï¿½5,000 per MW of installed capacity.
“Following this advice, we are proposing to increase the funding rate for Belford Burn from £3,000 per MW of installed capacity to £5,000 per MW for every year that the wind farm is operational (up to 25 years).
“This means that the value of the community fund would be in the region of £90,000 to £112,500 per year, depending on the generating capacity of the turbines selected for the development. That amounts to the largest community fund ever paid out by an individual wind farm in Northumberland, despite some of the other wind farms being much larger.”
The company has reiterated its previous pledge to provide £500,000 to a local rail project.
Mr Briggs added: “Taken together these benefits amount to a multi-million pound boost to the local area at a time when local authority budgets continue to be squeezed.”
However, Chris Craddock, chairman of the Middleton Burn Action Group which is fighting two wind projects close to the village, insisted the company had only increased its offer having had its “arm twisted” by the government.
He cast doubt on the suggestion Energiekontor’s package would be the biggest seen in Northumberland, claiming companies behind bigger projects would have offered more and that following the government guidance, similar or even larger offers would be made.
Mr Craddock argued money offered was “peanuts” compared to profits the company would make, “loss of property values in the village” as a result of the scheme and other impacts on the community.
He said: “What they are trying to do is buy the soul of the village. I do not like this Dutch auction for the soul of the village.”
Mr Craddock also claimed any community benefit fund managed by the county council might be spent across Northumberland.
The value of the community fund would be in the region of £90,000 to £112,500 pa [ends]