Thursday 18 February 2010

Proposed windfarm + Objection + Section 106 = £££££

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 A deal is struck, whereby the objection is withdrawn on the understanding that the developer provides "mitigation" - this is all set out in a Section 106 document.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.


Meconopsis said...

In the old days they called it handing over of Brown Envelopes !

This still goes on behind closed doors with the high up planners and councillors.

Another trick used in Scotland by councillors who are in favour of a development is to speak out in the open against the application thus ruining their chance to vote at committee stage.

It is a bloody sham and they all should be voted out.

Meconopsis said...

Here is how it works !!!!!!!

The following from an email sent to myself just this week from a local councillor.

I could attend but would need to decide whether or not to speak: The Scottish Parliament rules are that if I do I will be barred from sitting on the committee when/if the application comes to committtee. It may be that my going public would have more impact than a vote - but if it was a close vote, my vote may matter. In case of xxxxx Hill some years ago I went publice, lost my vote but knew I'd be well in the minority ayway.

And this one from a planning application !!!!!!!!!!

I refer to the above application, which I am now the case officer for and to your most recent discussions on this application.

I understand from our xxxxx xxxxx, Economic Development that following a comprehensive assessment of the proposal he has recommended a commuted sum of £100,000 would be appropriate to be paid in order to offset the loss of employment land. This is based upon the assumption that neither the applicant nor the land owner has an equivalent site to offer as a replacement.

He goes onto advise that whilst the existing business may have ceased trading at this location, this event alone does not negate the validity of the established land use. Accordingly, it is entirely reasonable to seek to preserve the employment land supply position as a condition of any consent to change of use at the application site, in conformity with the policies contained in the Approved Fife Structure Plan and the Fife Employment Land Strategy 2006 - 2015. Should the planning application be successful in this case the primary issue is not financial but the loss of allocated employment land if and how the council could make good that loss to the surrounding communities and the local economy.

With this in mind I would appreciate if you would confirm to me in writing (by letter or by e-mail) whether you are agreeable to this additional financial contribution in this case, before 5th August 2009

Charlotte said...

Mitigation isn't just used for wind farms, it's used for all development. What are NGOs meant to do? You can't stop all development in the UK. NGOs are often limited in their funds and staff time while developers are driven by money and profit. NGOs have to pick and choose their fights...and they don't always win the fight.

James Marchington said...

Well, as a plain old Joe Public, it never crossed my mind that organisations like the RSPB were using their position to hold windfarm developers to ranson and extort money from them. Or that they were trading inevitable raptor casualties for hard cash. I guess I'm just naive.

Sooty said...

Hi James well we all know you are not naive so that is really worrying if you are serious.Think the only birds probably affected by wind turbines would be Eagles and personally no trade off is worth losing any Eagles but of course in all walks of life councillors palms are greased,suspect even some of your friends may have tried but then I am cynical as well.

James Marchington said...

Well maybe not that naive, but honestly I was gobsmacked to hear how the system works. Maybe shooting clubs should jump on the bandwagon.

I worry about migrating birds and offshore windfarms, especially at night in rough weather. As for land-based turbines, I expect eagles are at biggest risk, but from evidence elsewhere it would seem other birds too.