A company behind a wind farm in Northumberland has yet to pay a penny of a £30,000 annual community benefit fund, despite the turbine project having been operational for more than a year.
Developer Infinis began operating its Wingates Wind Farm near Longhorsley in March last year, after a lengthy battle with local people who had fought it through the planning process.
Yet the fund which should provide grants to local community groups for the 25-year duration of the wind farm has still to become operational, 15 months on.
The news last night caused anger in the area with claims the lack of payments come despite the developer raking in around £1m a year from the turbines.
The body appointed to administer the fund said it understood local frustration.
However, the company insisted its fund is “on track” and that it would be operational by next month – a year after it says the turbine project became fully active.
The six 110m turbines were approved by Northumberland County Council in April 2011, despite 75 letters of objection from local people, a petition of 141 signatures and opposition from four parish councils – Brinkburn and Hesleyhurst, Longhorsley, Netherwitton, and Nunnykirk.
According to Infinis’ website, the wind farm has been “generating” since March 2013.
Yet the fund is still to start paying out cash.
The Journal was last night told that Community Action Northumberland (CAN) is being paid £2,000 a year by the developer to oversee the fund with a committee of parish council representatives to determine applications.
Committee member Julie Famelton said the parishes had agreed their representatives in September, with sign-off awaited from CAN and the developer.
She has sent several emails to CAN director David Francis since September asking what was happening and been given various activation dates which have failed to materialise.
Mrs Famelton, a member of Rothley with Hollinghhill Parish Council, said she was aware of at least two applications having been submitted to the inactive fund and a number of expressions of interest.
She said: “People have been asking when it is going to start and I think they are very disappointed it has not begun yet.
“I suppose we are slightly disappointed that it is not operational yet and [the turbines] have been up a little while now.”
County councillor for Longhorsley, Glen Sanderson added: “It is actually really annoying for the people around there who have had to put up with the wind farm, who were promised the community fund, who have been waiting and trying to push things and nothing has been happening.
“If you consider Infinis will be making in the region of £1m a year, £30,000 is peanuts.
“I think that is a terrible way for Infinis to behave. It seems they are behaving in a cavalier fashion.
“They are either grossly inefficient or just do not care.”
CAN director David Francis said his organisation had been in a position to manage the fund since last April and that it had been told it would be up and running by last autumn.
However it is awaiting final sign off from Infinis, which he said was “disappointing” and “frustrating.”
“They (discussions over when the fund activates) have gone on longer than any of us would have expected.
“I think it is not surprising that local people are concerned about how long it has taken.”
Yet a spokeswoman for Infinis said: “The Wingates Wind Farm began commercially generating green electricity in June 2013.
“The current position with regards to the community benefit fund is that the principles are agreed with Community Action Northumberland, who were chosen to be responsible for its administration.
“The Wingates Wind Farm fund is on track and will be fully set up in readiness for the payments which are due to coincide with the anniversary of the commencement of operation at the site.”
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