Headlines: October 8th, 2008

Countryside campaigners are today calling on the Government to take action over the growing number of local communities which are being drawn in to accepting offers of ‘goodwill payments’ from wind farm developers. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England wants the Government to take steps to prevent the planning system being brought into disrepute.

The CPRE call follows a survey in which it found that the sums involved in the payments were a fraction of the amount developers were making from the public as electricity consumers and in subsidies. It is also concerned that local authority planners have little or no oversight of any payments.

The investigation by CPRE discovered more than 35 cases – including at least one in every English region – of goodwill payments being offered to or accepted by communities. Today’s report names three wind farm developers, E.ON, npower renewables, and RES Limited, which it claims routinely offer the payments. It claims, too, that parish councils, whose involvement in the planning process is enshrined in law, have been directly approached with payment and in some cases have been prevented from reaching a view on wind farm proposals because offers have been made to individual members.

CPRE’s Senior Planning Campaigner, Paul Miner said the offers of community benefit were not going through the proper procedures of the planning system unlike similar offers from other developers. “By accepting them, communities may also be getting a worse deal than they would if wind farm developers were made to offer them through the planning system,” he warned.

The campaign wants the Government to resist calls from the electricity industry to take decision-making on many wind farm schemes away from local authorities and to pass them to an Infrastructure Planning Commission. CPRE also intends to work with members of the House of Lords to press for amendments to the Planning Bill to outlaw the offer of goodwill payments in connection with any new development and to make wind farm developers liable for the proposed new Community Infrastructure Levy. It also wants to earmark the proceeds of the levy from new wind farms for small-scale renewable energy, district heating or countryside improvement schemes.