Wind power firm denies 'buy off' claim

A WIND power company has denied claims it is trying to "buy off" opposition to a wind farm in north Suffolk following the disclosure of plans to set up a fund to help local communities.

By David Green

A WIND power company has denied claims it is trying to "buy off" opposition to a wind farm in north Suffolk following the disclosure of plans to set up a fund to help local communities.

Saxon Windpower, of Ipswich, confirmed yesterday it was considering ways of helping communities in the "saints" area near Halesworth if a proposed wind farm is given the go-ahead.

The firm said tens of thousands of pounds - part of the income from electricity generation - could be diverted into a community fund each year, for spending on village halls or other local amenities.

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It claimed the fund would be a way of ensuring local people got some benefit from the presence of the £20 million wind farm – at St James South Elmham.

But opponents of the wind farm plan accused the firm of trying to "buy off" opposition.

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Jane Bastow, spokeswoman for Villagers Against Inappropriate Turbine Siting, the local protest group, said: "They are obviously hoping that people who are currently sitting on the fence over this issue will jump off into their arms and, doubtless, this will be the case.

"Many people will be horrified to hear that this is being talked about at such a time – before the scheme gets the go-ahead and people are still trying to make up their minds."

Mrs Bastow said the introduction of a financial incentive to support the wind farm plan would do further harm to a rural community where the split in opinion seemed liable to lead to long-term animosity between neighbours and within families.

"Some of us serve on the local village hall committee and we would not touch money from Saxon Windpower," she added.

Forbes Bramble, who lives in neighbouring Linstead and is also opposed to the wind farm plan, said the proposed fund was a "very dubious" idea to put forward at such a time.

"People will certainly interpret it as a sweetener of some sort which is intended to influence people," he added.

But Bill Richmond, a director of Saxon Windpower, denied the company was trying to "buy off" opposition.

"We are considering ways of helping the community because, outside of people buying shares in the project, there is no other way we can ensure the immediate area benefits from the presence of the wind farm.

"It is a recognition that we want to bring local benefit," he said.

The trust fund being considered would be created by diverting between one and two percent of the income from electricity generation. It would amount to tens of thousands of pounds each year, Mr Richmond said.

However, in discussing ways to help the community financially, the firm did not expect to change the minds of those people who were firmly committed to opposing the wind farm.

n Giving local communities financial benefits as the result of living close to electricity generating plant is not new.

British Energy established a community fund during the construction of the Sizewell B nuclear power station – as part recompense for the disruption caused in the area.

In France, people living in the area of nuclear power stations receive a discount on their electricity bills, as well as funds to spend on community projects.

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