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Letter: Offer of Community Benefit Package Followed Government Guidance

Published on: 19 Oct, 2015
Updated on: 19 Oct, 2015

From Peter Grubb

Solar FarmDirector, Savills estate agents (Rural), Taunton

This letter follows the consideration of a planning application for a solar wind farm installation at Eashing. See: Planning Clash Triggered By Unwelcome Offer of Community Benefit Payments

Developers are encouraged to put forward community benefit packages as part of renewable energy proposals. The government has produced its own best practice guidance on this issue for wind farms, and the solar industry has adopted the same approach.

Many councils now have their own guidance on this matter and most solar farms across the country include a ‘community benefit package’,  usually in the form of a fund per megawatt produced, to be spent on local projects and negotiated between the developer and the local groups who can administer the benefits locally.

In the foreword to the government’s published guidance, the Rt Hon Edward Davey (2014) states that: “Communities hosting renewable energy play a vital role in meeting our national need for secure, clean energy and it is absolutely right that that they should be recognised and rewarded for their contribution.”

As such, nearly all renewable energy projects include a community benefit package and it is very much industry ‘best practice’ to do so. The ‘amount’ and ‘recipient’ is very much project-specific and to be negotiated and agreed with the local stakeholders.

Solar Power South Ltd (SPS) previously consulted the [Shackleford Parish] Council on the draft community benefit package, but unfortunately no response was received at that time.

A proposal was subsequently put forward, with the single aim of maximising local community benefit, in the event that planning permission is granted. The Guildford Greenbelt Group subsequently confirmed that it did not wish to engage with this process and a proposal from SPS to include them within the scheme has now been revoked.

As such, a revised proposal is now put forward which SPS believe represents a significant local community benefit. SPS has now submitted a revised unilateral undertaking that will deliver the following contributions (payable if planning permission is granted) to be spent on local environmental projects, such as putting solar panels on roofs and improving the local environment:

• A total of £250,000 to Shackleford Parish Council

• A total of £125,000 to the Surrey Hills AONB Group

It should be clear that the community benefit fund is a separate matter from dealing with the planning merits of the planning application, as is clear in the guidance.

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Responses to Letter: Offer of Community Benefit Package Followed Government Guidance

  1. Mary Bedforth Reply

    October 19, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Questions have been raised about agricultural land becoming sterile underneath the ground mounted arrays. There are also other concerns.

    See how many there are already.

  2. Adam Aaronson Reply

    November 6, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    This letter neatly sidesteps the key issue in this saga.

    At the time of the original offer, was the writer aware that The Guildford Greenbelt Group is a political party?

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