#CommunityBenefit: How not to consult with a community on a small renewables project

Last night I witnessed what I can only described as the worst cast of community consultation I have ever seen.

A landowner, who had already submitted their planning application for a small renewables scheme, was invited by the relevant community council to their normal monthly meeting to discuss their [the landowner’s] plans. The Community Council had been unaware that there was an application submitted until after the statutory consultation period had passed. It was therefore concerned to, first assess what the community’s view on the project was and second, to understand why the landowner had not been proactive and consulted with the CC months prior to the application being submitted, as would have been good practice, diligent and good manners.

The landowner sent two employees to the meeting, who proceeded to give the Community Council and all those assembled that the reason that the community hadn’t been consulted in person prior to the submission of the planning application was that there was no requirement for the landowner to do so, and that they, the landowner had fulfilled all their statutory obligations. They said that the planning materials had been posted in the usual places, and if the Community Council hadn’t received the application in time to look at it prior to submission that was (and I am paraphrasing a little) the Council’s fault.

Not only that, on further questioning, the landowner then implied that the community should support the application because of all the advantageous leases and permissions the landowner gave to the community, and that there was no way of separating the issue of the planning application and these other relationships in the community.

The Community Council chair did sterling work to insist that the landowner brought back the developers themselves to make a presentation to the community, to negotiate appropriate community benefit and to start a more consensual approach to the project.

Personally, I was appalled by the lack of foresight, the arrogance and the obvious patrician attitude that the landowner could behave in this way and not be brought to account. Unluckily for the landowner, the CC chair had already received an undertaking from the local planning department that until the consultation had taken place, no determination on the application would be made.

I suspect that the consultation meeting will be very well attended when the time comes.

Landowners like this harm the cause of renewables, and therefore the battle against global warming.