Community Benefits: When can they be taken into account?


By James Clark

Developers in the renewables sector will be interested in the judgment, handed down last week, in Good Energy's challenge to the Secretary of State's refusal to grant planning permission for up to 11 wind turbines in Week St Mary, Cornwall.  

In particular, the case concerned whether the Secretary of State was right to give no weight to the community investment scheme and reduced electricity tariff open to local residents.  

Good Energy argued that the proposed benefits were a community-led initiatives that, in accordance with Paragraph 97 of the NPPF, should be given weight in determining the application.  The Court dismissed this argument, finding that neither the tariff nor the investment scheme were community-led initiatives.     

The Court criticised the details of the developer's proposals.  The local tariff proposed was entirely discretionary, with no commitment as to when (or if) it would be made available and it could withdrawn at the developer's discretion.  The Court considered that it was unclear when the community investment scheme would commence or how its future would be secured.  Consequently, the connection between the scheme was 'remote and uncertain, rather than real'.  

The benefits offered by the developer was given short shrift by the Court.  They were dismissed as inducements to make the development more attractive; they were not necessary to make the development acceptable in planning terms.

...there was no evidence that the local tariff was a community-led initiative. It was a proposal from the developer, a private limited company. For that reason, it also did not further local development plan policies.
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