The RSPB's ambivalent attitude towards wind turbines (mentioned in my previous post) struck me as odd. Surely they're either a good thing or a bad thing?
I mentioned this to a contact who has some experience with the planning system - and he gave me a look that said "Duh, how thick are you?"
Well, very, when it comes to matters of planning, so I asked him to explain.
The name of the game, he told me, is Mitigation. And the chess pieces have names like Planning Application, Objection and Section 106.
It goes like this: Developer wants to build windfarm, puts in planning application. Highly respected NGO lodges an objection, citing 'concerns' about the effects on local wildlife. Planning application stalls. Horse trading begins. A deal is struck, whereby the objection is withdrawn on the understanding that the developer provides "mitigation" - this is all set out in a Section 106 document. Planning permission is granted, developer builds windfarm, everyone lives happily ever after. Well, apart from the birds diced and sliced by the turbines, and local residents made ill by low frequency vibrations, etc.
And what is this magical stuff, "mitigation"? That would depend on the skill of the negotiators. It could be land given over as a nature reserve, or works carried out to improve the conservation value of an area (nearby or far away). Or it could just be a large pile of money. To be used for very worthy conservation projects of course. Introducing sea eagles to a less than grateful Norfolk for instance.
Here's an example (pdf) of the game in action.
Of course, my friend is a cynical old bugger, and I'm sure he's just putting a negative spin on all this. But if it happened in a banana republic we'd have a very different name for it.