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Shrinking solar farm plan angers residents

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: February 19, 2014

solar farm
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RESIDENTS have been left outraged after learning that their community is to miss out on a £600,000 windfall to offset the impact of a solar farm.

Callington Town Council called for an urgent meeting with Cornwall Council following the revelation that the Haye Road Solar Farm will not provide the community benefit payment originally offered.

The company initially behind the solar farm, Sunpower, had intended to give the community £5,000 per megawatt installed per year, for 25 years, equating to £625,000.

However, the development was sold to Inazin, who instead will pay just £20,000.

Julian Kitto, deputy senior legal officer at Cornwall Council, attended the meeting on January 28 attended by 25 residents.

Inazin signed a unilateral undertaking with Cornwall Council in April 2013, for the company to pay a one-off £20,000 payment – without the knowledge of the town council.

The town council does not have any legal standing as they did not sign any agreement with Sunpower.

At the meeting residents said that they felt conned and Denise Winfindale said it was a learning curve for Cornwall Council who have now changed their policies on community benefits.

Mrs Winfindale said: "To find out that this didn't materialise was devastating to the town.

"Other parishes and towns ought to be made aware of this; Cornwall Council has now changed how they react to community benefits – we have been a learning curve for them.

"They apologised in the meeting for not speaking to us beforehand but in theory there was nothing we could do."

Karen Gold, Callington Town councillor said: "I feel extremely let down by Cornwall Council. How can they sign a contract that had such a massive difference in community benefit without coming back to Callington Town Council? They must have realised how let down the residents of Callington would be.

"No one at Cornwall Council has taken responsibility for this incredible fiasco that has occurred because of non-consultation.

Andrew Long, Cornwall councillor for Callington said: "This apparent loophole in the regulations which gives no planning weight to any of these offers has led to similar problems across Cornwall and it is going to be important that we understand how this has occurred and what Cornwall Council will be doing to stop this situation from happening in the future. People who make community benefit offers don't have legal standing until they are signed."

A spokesman for Cornwall Council said: "These community benefit payments are not a factor that the council, can consider in deciding whether or not it should grant planning permission. As a result the council has no power to compel developers to sign agreements securing these benefits, and developers are reluctant to do so until certain their scheme will proceed.

"The volatility of feed-in tariff rates means there are occasions where developers amend their community benefit offer and this occurred with the Haye Lane development, alongside a change in the developer of the site."

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