It is frequently the case that any mooted renewable energy development will also propose to establish a community benefit of some sort.
Most often this benefit takes the form of an annual charitable donation or annual funding given to a local community group to direct where it is felt to be most needed. Community benefits are often one of the most important aspects of any proposed development ;and certainly one of the most relevant to local communities. However, it can be argued that community benefits are frequently one of the less publicised elements of any development. Developers and, it must be said, Local Authorities often fail to successfully get their message across.Debate is often led up the path of spurious speculation on health rather than the concrete benefits developments can bring in these times of ever decreasing central and local funding
In our experience, the potential for community benefits to be lost in the debate over development is not helped by the fact that there is little consistency across Local Authority areas in how such funding is not just collected or administered but if it is even required. For some Local Authorities community benefits are collected and managed by the Local Authority itself; such as in South Lanarkshire. It may be the case that only developments above a certain scale are required to produce a community benefit. In some councils providing a community benefit is not considered to be mandatory. The lack of consistency between Local Authorities in the requirements for community benefits could be argued to be real hindrance to renewable energy developments in this country. Community benefits are often the most immediately palpable positive part of a development but their impact may be heavily diluted by a lack of public awareness or expectation. Perhaps if community benefits were more widely promoted by both developers and local authorities it would enable local communities to engage more fully with the arguments surrounding potential developments.
We at Intelligent Land Investments would like, at this time, to stress that all of our developments proposed, consented or constructed includes a community benefit regardless of whether one is required by the local authority. Frequently in cases where we are paying into a council managed fund we are paying more than required by that council. In all of the cases in which there is no requirement for a community benefit we sought out a local charity working widely within the local authority area of a development, helping the vulnerable of that community, ran by members of that community for the benefit of that community.
The Scottish Government has taken some steps to promote and publicise community benefits but more could be done.
The Community Benefit Register, launched last year, which can be found here provides details of all of the community benefits provided by constructed renewable developments. However it is not mandatory to register community benefits on the website let alone mandatory to provide them. More standardisation of community benefits across local authority areas could prove to be extremely beneficial. For instance making the provision of community benefits mandatory across the country would shift the debate from promoting their existence to promoting not just the good work they could fund but the good work they are already funding. We at Intelligent Land Investments feel that promoting such work would have more impact than promoting the difference in projected energy bill pricing between a renewables and fossil fuel based energy system.