Wind farm developers, land owners, Government agencies and other vested interests like to talk about the attractive ‘Community Benefit’ payments that are being offered as part and parcel of the wind farm construction projects that are blighting our landscape. They also like to point out that this ‘Community Benefit’ has nothing to do with the Planning process – something we have heard here recently from the Directors of Soirbheas.
My response on both counts is ‘rubbish.’
According to my dictionary, a benefit is something good gained or received. How on earth can any right-minded person imagine that a wind farm that the community doesn’t want is something that is good for the community? The fact is that these inefficient, expensive industrial monoliths are of no benefit to our rural communities, rural environments, rural landscapes or our wildlife.
So what are these so called ‘Community Benefit’ payments in reality?
At best these payments provide financial compensation for the damage done to the community. Unfortunately it’s a misguided compensation because there is typically no process for assessing who has been financially disadvantaged and therefore who is in most need of compensation. Tourist related businesses can lose turnover and profit while the compensation is being channelled through a charitable company and used to build a village hall or a visitor centre or to provide funding for a local sports club or recreation park. These are all welcome developments but it’s a heavily flawed system where the losers (including the electricity consumers) simply lose.
Back to my dictionary to find the word ‘bribe’. Yes, there it is. ‘Something offered to someone in order to persuade them to behave in a certain way’. At worst these payments are a blatant bribe. The payments are offered in the hope that individual members of the community and Community Councils can be persuaded not to file objections to the Planning application. That, my friends, is a bribe.
The best approach to take with the developers and landowners, who are the real wind farm winners, is “Go away, we don’t want your wind farm, so there is no need for your compensation and we are not interested in your bribes”. Let’s tell them to get on their bikes.