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Windfarm chiefs fail to pay the benefits

Wind farm developers are paying well-below the going rate in compensation to North Ayrshire communities, council figures have revealed.

Though the council’s planning department has the final say on whether a wind farm can go ahead, developers of wind power installations often provide some form of payment to local communities in the form of funding of local projects or groups.

Now, analysis by council officers has revealed that North Ayrshire is missing out on around £376,000 a year thanks to the absence of an official policy on community benefits from wind farms.

In April, the Scottish Government published ‘Practice Principles for Community Benefit from Onshore Renewable Developments’ which stated that developers should provide community benefits of at least £5,000 per megawatt (MW), index linked to inflation for the lifetime of the development.

However, an investigation by council officers has revealed the maximum paid out in North Ayrshire is £1,570 per MW – around 20 per cent of what it should be.

North Ayrshire already has four onshore wind farms and it is highly likely more will be approved in the near future. In the last couple of years, a number of sites in Irvine and Kilwinning have already come under consideration.

With this in mind, NAC’s cabinet has approved plans to develop a policy that will maximise community benefit payments, taking their lead from the likes of East Ayrshire Council, South Lanarkshire Council and Dumfries and Galloway Council, all of which ensure payments between £2,000 and £5,000 per MW.

Chief executive Elma Murray commented: “The relatively low level of community benefit reflects the fact that there is no corporate strategic policy and developers approach local community groups directly.

“Inevitably, the disparity of negotiating strength between companies and local community groups has been reflected in the relatively low level of community benefits paid, which remains clearly much lower than current Scottish Government guidance.

“It is evident that the ad hoc manner in which community benefits from wind turbine developments have been paid has resulted in a considerable loss to North Ayrshire.”