Community 'short-changed by £600,000' over solar farm
CALLINGTON town councillors have hit out at a solar farm developer and Cornwall Council after claiming the community will be left shortchanged by £600,000.
The town council has called for an urgent meeting with Cornwall Council following the revelation that a new solar farm in Haye Road will not provide the community benefit payment that was first marketed as part of the consultation in 2011.
When the application was presented to both the town council and Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee, it included details of the proposal to give £5,000 per megawatt (MW) installed, per year for 25 years, towards the community. The 5MW farm would produce an annual yield of £25,000 per year, making a total of £625,000.
However, renewable energy firm Inazin, took over the application for the original proposers Sunpower.
Sunpower had previously marketed the idea of providing the town council with £25,000 per year but no agreement was signed at the time of the consultation in 2011.
Inazin, however, signed a unilateral undertaking with Cornwall Council in April this year, for the company to pay a one-off £20,000 payment – without the knowledge of the town council.
Andrew Long, chairman of the town council's planning committee and Cornwall councillor for Callington, said: "The residents of Callington in general and Haye, in particular, will rightly feel very let down by the system.
"We are incredibly angry and disappointed because that Community Benefit could have been used to stop harm being done by the solar farm. The money would have been used for community projects across the town and parish.
"We have asked the senior legal officer of Cornwall Council, Richard Williams, to attend a full council meeting in the new year to explain to the town why it was that a unilateral undertaking given by the original developers (Sunpower) was not signed once permission had been given, and why the town council was not informed at the time of the change in circumstances."
The town council voted to oppose the application and requested that Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee do the same but the farm went ahead.
The Haye Road Solar Farm application was granted at a second Cornwall Council strategic planning committee meeting in 2011 by eight votes to seven.
Inazin account manager Stuart Homewood said: "In July 2011 the UK Government significantly cut the Feed-in Tariff scheme to 8.5p per unit from 29.3p per unit – a reduction of more than two thirds towards renewable projects.
"This halted all development activity for a period of time as it made almost every scheme proposed uneconomic.
"In response to this we, along with other developers, engaged with Cornwall Council, led by Adrian Lea, to establish a more realistic payment to communities following such significant subsidy reduction – our new proposal is as per this agreement.
"Finally, this year, we have managed to secure funding for this scheme at Callington based on the Renewable Obligation Certificate scheme (ROCs) and are currently in construction.