When and who to engage

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Country: 
UK

Gamlingay Community Turbine found that it was absolutely vital that public consultation started well ahead of the planning application for their community wind turbine, otherwise it would appear that the details of the project were already fixed and the consultation was simply a formality. They found the timing of ‘going public’ a difficult decision. Too soon and you will appear ill-prepared and unable to answer questions, too late and your plans will be leaked prematurely and there is a risk you will be accused of secrecy. In practice there is a lot that can be done to assess the viability of a wind energy project with little expenditure. The Civil Aviation Authority and Ofcom are very helpful regarding aviation and microwave links and basic wind resource and noise assessments can be done using data from the internet. They decided to go public when they had checked the obvious potential ‘show stoppers’, with the exception of wildlife issues. They had been advised that a ‘bat survey’ would be needed, but were able to tell people at their meetings that this was underway. They also took care to ensure that no one was left out of their engagement. It looks, and is, very bad if a key stakeholder, such as the owner of a nearby property, learns about the project second hand. They found delivering leaflets to be a good way of making sure everyone in the appropriate area is informed in good time. Gamlingay used a map of the village to make sure every household was leafleted and a few volunteers got this done in a couple of days. To be sure, they also knocked on a couple of doors of nearby properties to ensure they were informed and to head off any impression of being anonymous. Key stakeholders such as the Parish Council and local aerodromes were notified at the same time.