Published: February 19, 2012
Row erupts over firm's donation to village hall solar power project

A row has broken out between a wind farm developer and protesters near Burnham-On-Sea after East Brent Village Hall accepted a donation towards the cost of a major new solar power project.

Broadview has made a financial contribution towards the installation of the solar panels on the roof of East Brent Village Hall (pictured), to enable their installation to generate renewable electricity for the hall and reduce its running costs.

Hugh Mackay, Chair of the Village Hall Management Committee which is behind the project, said: "The Committee is extremely grateful to these grant providers, without whom we would not be able to make this significant improvement to the hall."

Tom Cosgrove, Project Manager at Broadview Energy, added: "East Brent Village Hall presented an excellent opportunity for a community green energy project and we're delighted that the Management Committee invited us to be involved. It's also great news that the project is being undertaken by a local installer."

However the No Pilrow campaign group, which is fighting Broadview's proposals to construct four 130-metre tall turbines on the outskirts of Rooksbridge, has attacked the donation, which it claims is a blatant publicity exercise.

The group's spokesman, David Maund, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "We would urge the Hall Committee to think again and return this donation to Broadview immediately."

"The Chairman of the Hall Committee has said that the donation was sought on the understanding that it did not represent support for the Pilrow project. This, we feel, has now been shown to be a somewhat naïve assessment of Broadview's intentions in making the donation. This is nothing more than a blatant public relations exercise to try and make their image more acceptable to local residents."

He added: "One of our group's objectives is to accept and encourage the use of appropriate renewable energy and, in that sense, we are pleased that the Village Hall Committee have erected solar panels on the roof of the hall and will be making a profit through Feed In Tariffs, albeit at the expense of consumers through subsidies paid by them."

"In this case, however, the money paid out by these subsidies and the profit to the Village Hall is put straight back in for the community's benefit. This is in direct contrast to the proposal from Broadview Energy where the profit made by that company, again at consumers' expense, will go into the pockets of individual and corporate financiers."

He added: "We understand that the request for this donation was made by the Hall Committee last year. It is clearly no coincidence that funds have been given to the project just a few weeks prior to Broadview's expressed intention of putting forward a Planning Application for the Pilrow Wind Farm and within days of it putting on an exhibition at the hall to support their Pilrow project. Broadview's reasons and timings for making this payment could not be more obvious."

But Broadview says it just wants to help the community and has also proposed setting up a community fund of £2,500 per MW of installed capacity, totalling between £20,000 and £30,000, which, if the wind farm is constructed, will be paid annually for the lifetime of the project. The firm says the fund could "total between £500,000 and £750,000 over the project’s 25 year life" and is intended to be spent by the community on community projects.

Pictured: Top, East Brent Village Hall (pic: Richard Webb); campaigners from No Pilrow with MP Tessa Munt; and, above, how the scheme could look

 


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