County council round-up: Windfarms, streetlights, garages and debt

A streetlight being replaced.
A streetlight being replaced.
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The county council wants to develop guidance for the management of community benefit funds from windfarm developments in Northumberland.

Community benefit funds, which are voluntary monetary payments from the developer to the community, are a well-established part of onshore windfarm developments.

In Northumberland, there are a number of operational windfarms where the developers are providing these funds, but there is currently a range of approaches being adopted for their management.

Town and parish councils generally have a role either as beneficiaries of the funds or in the decision-making process for the allocation of the funds, but it is felt that guidance should be prepared to assist with securing and managing them.

A report to a council committee says that ‘the guidance shouldn’t be prescriptive about the approaches or the uses that the funds should be put to, rather it should set out a number of principles to help inform local communities’.

• By June 30, 2,149 lanterns had been changed and 573 new columns installed as part of the county council’s overhaul of street lighting, which will eventually see 28,000 lanterns converted to LED, and the replacement of a further 16,500 lighting columns. The project will cost £23million, but will reduce the budget by 64 per cent or more.

• The county council’s garage allocation policy is set to be revised as the current policy is not compliant with the 2010 Equality Act, as it does not consider the need to make a reasonable adjustment to meet the requirements of an applicant with a disability. The council currently owns 1,388 garages.

• At the end of June this year, Northumberland County Council was owed £13.671million by its sundry debtors, £5.449million of which was past due. As part of ‘effective management of irrecoverable debts’, £2.7million of debt was written off in 2014/15. So far in 2015/16, £67,000 has been written off.

• The Northumberland Private Sector Housing Strategy and Action Plan for 2015 to 2020, which sets out how the county council will work with partners to improve the condition and management of owner-occupied and privately rented homes, is set to be approved by the cabinet at its next meeting.