Berwick Solar Farm – Community Benefit Fund
At the time that the Developers sought planning consent for the “Berwick” solar farm, they and the landowners gave a Unilateral Undertaking to Wealden under which the Developers were to set up a “Community Benefit Scheme” for the benefit of Arlington, Chalvington with Ripe, Berwick and Selmeston.
The Scheme envisaged that a section of the solar farm would be separately financed through a “Community Owned Company”. This would raise money through the Enterprise Investment Scheme (”EIS”) and local residents would be able to invest with the benefit of EIS tax relief. It was envisaged that this company would make regular payments out of its profits for the benefit of the local communities.
The developers have recently said that it is not possible to proceed with the Community Owned Company. However, the Undertaking has a default position, as a result of which the Developers and the landowners have paid approximately £34,000 into a Fund, to be administered by Wealden, which replaces the Scheme.
The Fund is available for purposes described in the Undertaking as follows:
“ the making of grants and/ or loans to offer opportunities to grass roots community voluntary groups and individuals to receive grants for the promotion and installation of energy efficient measures, small-scale renewable energy projects and education and capacity building projects or other projects involving renewable energy , climate change and nature conservation and enhancing the public realm through planting so they may create and/or deliver outcomes for the benefit of their community and members by a simple effective inclusive programme within the local parishes.”
The wording of the Undertaking is unclear in several respects but the four Parish Councils have agreed to work together to make sure that the money is allocated in an equitable way. Wealden DC, as Trustees of the Fund, will have the final say but we have been assured that our recommendations will be listened to.
If any organisation/group would like to propose a project that needs funding in line with the Undertaking please contact the relevant Parish Council or Parish Meeting.