There was an interesting statement by a planning inspector recently:
“The information submitted in support of the application includes reference to an annual financial contribution (£3,000), being made available from the income generated by the proposed wind turbine, for community projects.
Even if this was a matter that I could properly consider there is no mechanism in place to secure any such payment. I have not therefore taken it into account in determining the appeal.”
It seems the reason he ignored the “community bribe” was that there was no mechanism to guarantee it would be paid – but if there had been we can be pretty confident he would have been influenced by it. Such payments are commonplace these days and since the basis of decisions is to balance damage with public benefit, inspectors can hardly not take them into account. So if you’re a cynic (which some of us realists are accused of being) you could say that if you have deep enough pockets you can buy the democratic decisions you desire. Indeed, you could claim the situation is unchanged since the era of the Rotten Boroughs where you could pay locals to vote for you. In planning terms it’s a case of “have money, can develop” and we can all point to likely instances of that.
There’s a major defect in the thinking though. Yes, the locals might get a new Community Hall if a development goes ahead – which is a great benefit from the local perspective but what about the national perspective? Is damage to a nationally important scheduled monument made more acceptable nationally by the fact some locals at say, Upton Snodsbury, will be able to have their barn dances without the roof leaking? Probably not!
In addition of course, some incentives aren’t worth the paper they aren’t written on. Four years ago the northern setting of Avebury’s henge was badly damaged by a housing development…..
…… amid talk that the locals would at least be compensated by the provision of affordable housing elsewhere in the area, which would mean young people needn’t leave the village. Anyone seen those?