Guidance Note for the Renewable and Low Carbon Energy Generation in North Somerset Supplementary Planning Document

Consultation/Community Engagement

5. Consultation/ Community Engagement  

5.1 The Council is keen to ensure that all types of group are able to make their views known effectively and good opportunities are provided for this. As a matter of good practice the community should be engaged before a planning application is submitted.  

5.2 Effective dialogue about solar PV proposals between developers, the local authority, stakeholders, local communities, interest groups and statutory consultees is essential to tease out issues of concern and discuss options for mitigation and provision of any benefits to the local area. The scale of public engagement required will vary according to the scale of the proposal and the controversy any proposal is likely to generate. Prospective developers of commercial scale schemes need to be aware of the time required for effective engagement and allow sufficient time in their project planning to allow for responses.  

5.3 The council will provide feedback on all comments received (with discussions entered into as necessary) so that everyone knows how their comments have been addressed and how they will influence decision-making in determining applications. We will keep everyone who has made comments up to date to let them know how the document is progressing.Our consultation requirements/ procedure are set out in our Statement of Community Involvement.  

Community Schemes  

5.4 There is an opportunity for communities to bring forward their own renewable and low carbon energy generating proposals. Community supported generation can extend the benefits of renewable energy to households in the form of cheaper energy, revenue streams, employment with the additional benefit of profits generated by the investment being retained within the local community. Many community groups are already working on energy related activities, pursuing behaviour change, demand reduction and energy efficiency measures in addition to promoting renewable energy.  

5.5 North Somerset Council is keen to assist community renewable energy and demand reduction schemes and will consider favourably those applications that have a community enterprise model as an integral aspect within the development, subject to these meeting all other criteria as set out in this guidance. This is in line with the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) guidelines, which recommends ‘support for community-led initiatives for renewable and low carbon energy'.

Community Ownership Models 

a) Co-operative Share Offers  

5.6 A developer offers the project for co-operative investment at the construction stage. The offer could be for the entire project, a share of the entire project, or for one or more panels in a larger project. Investors receive a rate of return over the project’s life, plus the return of their capital at the end of the project. This model only benefits those able to invest.  

b) Social Enterprise Models  

5.7 The project is community initiated and the community are involved in the development process. If it is a small project it may be owned and managed by the community. A larger project is likely to be managed and owned by a specialist social enterprise company for the benefit of the community. Profits must be allocated to a stated social cause such a carbon reduction and sustainability initiatives. The project can be funded by grants, co-operative share offer, commercial loans or a combination of these.