Energy Bill

Written evidence submitted by Partnerships for Renewables Development Company Limited (EB 06)

A Request for Clarification

We are the developer and owner of the 8-turbine West Benhar onshore wind farm in North Lanarkshire in between Shotts, Harthill and Eastfield. It is located on Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) land and will have a capacity in the order of 25MW.

We have been working on the project for more than five years and have sunk approaching £1 million in its development. The investment cost when built will be around £35 million and it is expected that more than a third of that will be spent/sourced locally.

There is a community benefit offering of around £128,000 per year or £3.2 million over the life of the wind farm. This will be a valuable and much needed source of funding for important local community projects in an area that has suffered from under investment for years.

A unique and equally important aspect of this project is the agreement we have reached with FCS and the Scottish Investment Bank that at least 10% and perhaps up to 30% of the project will be offered for community ownership. Initial discussions have already taken place with local community organisations who are keen to take up this option. This is very much in keeping with Government policies promoted by Westminster and Holyrood and gives another valuable community benefit from an important infrastructure investment in their locality.

Our project went to the planning committee meeting of North Lanarkshire Council in December 2014 and received a vote in favour of granting planning permission from democratically elected local councillors. Following the committee meeting we spent some considerable time working on the Section 75 (Planning) Agreement to ensure such things as decommissioning security and community benefit payments were properly accounted for legally and commercially. As is often the case, the detail of this agreement took some time and was not signed until September 2015 whereupon the formal written consent was issued.

This date is obviously significant because it falls after the 18 June 2015 when you announced an early closure of the Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC), subject to certain potential grace period provisions (still to be determined).

We are pressing ahead with the implementation of the project because even without your June 18th announcement time is running short. We have sourced turbines from General Electric (a huge employer of people in the UK) and are running a tender for construction companies – all of which are domiciled within the UK and in most part within a 50 mile radius of the site.

The purpose of this letter is to seek clarification from you that your announcement on 18 June 2015 was not meant have the unintended consequence of preventing the development of West Benhar – which, I repeat, was democratically granted consent in December 2014 – purely on an administrative technicality.

We have suggested some legal drafting to your Energy Minister, Andrea Leadsom MP (also attached here), and trust that this can be adopted into the Energy Bill.

Attachment:

1) Applications subject to Section 75/Section 106 having already received a resolution for approval from the planning committee prior to 18th June 2015.

5. Line 184, at end insert

"(e)" evidence that:

an application for 1990 Act permission or 1997 Act permission was made on or before 18 June 2015 for the station or for additional capacity;

a grant of planning permission was resolved by the relevant planning authority on or before 18 June 2015;

planning permission was granted after 18 June 2015 but not later than 18 September 2015; and

any conditions as to the time period within which the development to which the permission relates must be begun have not been breached."

Explanation: This proposed amendment covers the case where a planning application was submitted prior to 18th June 2015, went to a planning committee and received a resolution for approval on or before that date, but where written permission was issued after that date but before 18th September. It therefore covers cases where agreements or undertakings under section 106 of the 1990 or section 75 of the 1997 Act require completion within 3 months before a permission could be issued, or indeed where planning conditions were in the course of negotiation at 18th June 2015.

January 2016

 

Prepared 25th January 2016