Renewable energy firms should pay compensation to householders whose lives are blighted – and properties devalued – by the proximity of wind turbines.
That is the plea of the Lauderdale Preservation Group (LPG) in a submission to the Scottish Government which is considering new guidelines to improve public engagement when wind farm plans are unveiled.
The Lauder-based pressure group claims the payment of unconditional compensation to individuals for loss of property value – as opposed to “community benefit” sops from renewable energy companies for local projects – has already been established in Denmark.
The LPG, set up in an area with one of the highest concentration of completed or proposed wind farms in the Borders, also stresses that the UK Government has accepted the principle that compensation should be paid to those affected by the controversial HS2 high-speed rail link and those living above shale gas drilling (fracking) sites.
“It would seem to be a matter of natural justice that for any development which brings financial benefit to its owners and loss, whether financial or amenity, to residents, the former should be required to compensate the latter.”
The LPG, which has objected to six wind farm applications on its patch within the A68/A7 corridor, claims existing guidelines for public engagement are “widely disregarded by developers, many of whom have a track record of duplicity and misdirection both in their dealings with the public and in their written and visual submissions”.
“The most notable effect of any wind turbine proposal is to poison relationships within and between communities,” says the LPG. “The turbine owner sees profit and the neighbours see disturbance and loss of the savings in their homes.
“The outcome in all cases can be the destruction of a community whether or not the proposal is consented.
“Residents believe, with justification, that proximity to wind turbines will damage their amenity with noise and overwhelming visual impact and will destroy the value of their property or even render it unsaleable – and neither developers nor governments have made any serious attempt to deny this.
“Indeed, by offering community benefit payments in return for non-objection and by agreeing out-of-court settlements of lawsuits over noise complaints, developers have implicitly acknowledged that they [the dissenting views of residents] are justified.
“A fundamental flaw in the [current] approach to public engagement, and one which is exploited by developers to secure apparent approval from selected local individuals and community councils, is the assumption that there can be a single community voice on developments such as this.
“The developers’ tactics have been to ignore the minority of residents who would actually be affected and concentrate on the offer of ‘community benefit’ to the town – in the case of one developer’s reputed agent, as an explicit bribe in return for non-objection.
“Similarly, some consulted community council areas would see little or no impact from a wind farm and developers concentrate their efforts on these.”
The LPG states that if unconditional compensation to householders and property owners is ruled out, then the best resolution would be to ensure turbines are “simply never built within 5km of any property occupied by someone other than the owner of the turbines or other direct financial beneficiaries”.
The Scottish Government is due to publish and implement its public engagement guidelines in the spring.
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