Saxby wind farm developer could face £1m 'goose bill'
A WIND farm developer may have to pay more than £1 million to protect wildlife if it wins permission to site turbines in North Lincolnshire.
A public inquiry into North Lincolnshire Council's refusal of planning permission for RWE npower renewables' Saxby Wold project is due to be heard in May.
Councillors were updated on the developer's appeal of that decision at the latest meeting of the authority's planning committee.
They heard environmental body Natural England has stipulated 50 hectares of land must be provided for pink-footed geese if the project goes ahead.
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Up to 80 geese are thought to use the site, which Natural England says falls in a special protection area.
Phil Wallis, head of development management at the council, said a legal agreement for the authority to receive a large sum of money could be required.
Such a move would allow a refuge to be provided for the geese, if the developer cannot provide it as part of the application. He said: "It will be debated at the appeal.
"If the applicant can't find 50 hectares of land, they will provide the local authority with a sum of money."
Mr Wallis said talks between the council and the developer had so far failed to reach an agreement on that sum.
Councillor Rob Waltham said: "I would like some advice as to whether this committee needs to make a decision on that. There is clearly a large financial void of £1 million- plus that could impact on the council if we don't get things right."
Mr Wallis said: "In terms of the settlement of compensation, we could make it very clear at the public inquiry that we expect the applicant to deliver on that and anything short of delivery is not acceptable. The local authority does not expect to be left holding the baby on that one. We expect there will be a long-term provision of not less than 50 hectares of habitat in the area."
RWE npower originally applied to build 18 turbines at the site, near Horkstow. That was then reduced to 16 and then to 10, after plans for a 500-cow dairy unit on neighbouring land were passed.
The planning committee voted to continue defending the council's existing reasons for refusal of permission at the public inquiry.
They include noise concerns, as well as the development's perceived impact on the landscape and visual amenity.
A Natural England spokesman said: "If it is likely the wind farm will have an impact on the special protection area, there has to be at least the same habitat again to compensate.
"We hope to be working with the developer to make sure that 50 hectares is going to be good quality habitat for the pink-footed geese."
Mike Parker, head of onshore development at RWE npower renewables, said: "RWE npower renewables has proposed to provide a goose refuge of 50 hectares in association with the Saxby Wold wind farm, should planning permission be granted.
"Arrangements for this will be included in a section 106 planning agreement. This has been agreed with Natural England and a draft section 106 agreement is in preparation."