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Concerns over windfarm cash  

Credit:  Daily Record | Sep 02, 2014 | www.dailyrecord.co.uk ~~

The council is set to seek legal advice over the way it wants windfarm cash handled across the region.

Members had spent months hammering out a community benefit policy but that has now been thrown into doubt.

Scottish Government guidelines have ruled out securing agreements by making them part of planning approval.

That could mean it is back to the drawing board if senior counsel suggests the policy is not enforceable.

That policy is essentially underpinned by three points:

■ A minimum payment by turbine operators of £5,000 per year per megawatt on two or more turbines over 50 metres high;

■ Half the cash goes to “host” communities and half to a regional fund whose function is still to be worked out; and

■ “Host” communities are those within 15 kilometres of the windfarm.

Turbine developers have been entering into agreements that can be extremely lucrative for areas surrounding the burgeoning number of farms across the region.

In many cases annual awards are paid directly to community councils.

In forming their policy, councillors wanted to ensure local communities got a fair deal from windfarm developers and, at the same time, use the money for the benefit of the whole region.

Now the government’s advice is that guidelines cannot be enforced through the planning system and must remain optional.

But its paper, Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Energy Developments, does say councils can negotiate with developers to bring in cash for local communities.

And the whole issue of community benefits takes up a large part of the paper.

Next week the economy, environment and infrastructure committee will be asked to give the go-ahead to seek legal advice at a cost of up to £7,000.

Environment boss Alistair Speedie says in a report: “Officers have discussed the issues with legal services and with planning and it is clear that council would benefit from receiving opinion on the issues outlined and also on what other options are open to the council in trying to secure wider regional benefits from the payment of community benefits and whether, in fact, the council’s discretion in such matters is being prejudiced.”

Source:  Daily Record | Sep 02, 2014 | www.dailyrecord.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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