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Greenest Government Ever: ‘Bribes’ To Halt Wind Farm Opposition

Jonathan Leake, The Sunday Times

Rural communities hit by proposed new wind farms, fracking sites and even nuclear power stations could receive millions of pounds in compensation from energy companies. Under a government plan, branded “bribes for blight” by critics, the payments would be used to cut local people’s energy bills, provide bursaries to pay their children’s university fees, build village halls and carry out home improvements.

The extra cost of the “community benefits” scheme would be passed on to customers through higher energy bills. The aim is to open up the countryside to developments including the 6,000 additional onshore wind turbines planned by the government.

Ministers hope the financial offer will stifle planning objections from local people upset at losing their pristine landscapes or worried about the danger from nuclear waste. Critics say it amounts to bribery, but ministers see it as justifiable compensation.

Ed Davey, the energy secretary, said: “Two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind, but far too often host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall. We want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them.”

Under the proposals, wind farm developers would pay a minimum of £5,000 a year into a “community trust” for each megawatt (MW) of generating capacity they install.

A typical onshore wind turbine has a capacity of 4MW, so this would amount to £20,000 a year for each turbine. A medium-sized wind farm of 20 turbines would be worth £400,000 a year to the local community, or £10m over its 25-year lifespan.

The scheme was designed as a way of neutralising the political backlash against onshore wind farms. The issue has caused ructions in both the Conservative party and the coalition, especially between Davey, a Liberal Democrat, and John Hayes, his Tory junior minister.

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