5. Identification Of The Community
There is no single definition of community which can be applied for every project. Furthermore, research suggests a standardised approach to identification is not to be encouraged. Rather, dialogue and site- specific characteristics should be used by the developer to identify the most relevant stakeholders.
5.2 Good Practice Principles
In advance of a full public consultation, the developer is recommended to undertake an initial study to determine a proposal for:
1. What might be the geographical area to benefit
- There are no set parameters on the scale of this area
2. Within that area, who could be the appropriate contacts and communities of interest for consultation
- Proposed channels can be identified through desk-based research
- Local authorities may be helpful in suggesting appropriate contacts
This process should be undertaken at an early stage to allow communities the opportunity to contribute to discussions and self-identify, in line with Scottish Government Empowerment policy.
Local opinions should be sought on the most appropriate beneficiary structure, and existing users of the marine and coastal area should be engaged. There should be scope for those communities initially identified by the developer to be involved in the process as it develops, contributing to the identification of further possible stakeholders and shaping the consultation process. Ongoing collaborative consultation and dialogue should be designed and tailored for each project.
Contributing to community benefit discussions does not affect an individual or organisation's right to express a view on the development proposals, and objecting to or supporting the development does not affect their right to discuss the community benefit proposals. Efforts should be taken to avoid any potential or perceived conflicts of interest. It is recognised that designing and developing a community benefit package can be a lengthy and laborious process for all stakeholders involved. Listed below are the expected actions of various groups likely to be involved:
5.2.1 Community councils
Community councils should be open to dialogue with developers and should suggest any relevant groups and individuals to engage in discussions.
5.2.2 Wider community
Community groups can be supported to engage in community benefit discussions by contacting Local Energy Scotland. Communities are encouraged to consider scope for strategic spending in their area. Communities should be aware that there may be limitations on the scope of community benefits, or how many communities can be fairly represented – such limitations should be discussed with the developer and understood at an early stage.
5.2.3 Local Authorities
Local authorities should aim to be involved in identifying appropriate communities by suggesting contacts and facilitating discussions. Where appropriate, local authorities may consider administering funds. Stakeholders should be aware that where funds are administered by a local authority, any awards made to community groups are likely to be classed as state aid and should be treated accordingly.
Community benefits from offshore renewables can be delivered in varying ways. As discussed in this document and other material including academic research, there is no set way to define communities; here are some starting points for discussion with stakeholders.
1. Community groups
- These may be existing groups, or created for the purpose of administering the fund. Generally these will be identified as the "host communities", i.e. onshore community groups close to the development; or offshore users who are not based locally
- In identifying host communities, it is worth considering the proximity of the community to the project, including to onshore substation, infrastructure and construction sites
2. Local or regional structures or organisations
- Organisations which are already engaged with a geographical area and could be supported to provide further benefits
- A new mechanism could be set up to deliver benefits over a set region Local authority region(s)
- Complementing local authority provision by supporting non-statutory projects in one or more local authority regions.
- Some local authorities will have issued guidance on the expected benefits from offshore renewable energy which can be a helpful starting point for discussion. See section 5.3.1.
3. Wider national benefits
- Through national structures or organisations
- N.B. While a national fund could be considered, Scottish Government will not set up a central management or administration in order to avoid confusion with statutory provision and possible state aid issues.
4. Other organisations, individuals or groups which may not fit into categories as listed
- Any discussions on the provision of community benefits are not part of the licensing process and should not be conditional on community support for the project. To maintain this distinction, it is recommended that discussions on the development itself and discussions on community benefit proposals are held in two separate forums or at separate times in the development process, though it is recognised that this may not always be possible owing to the scale of the project or available resource and capacity within a community.
5.3.1 Local Authority Policies
Where local authorities have issued policies or guidelines relating to community benefits from offshore developments, it should be noted that these policies represent one possible route, and developers and communities are not obliged to adhere to these. Developers and communities should discuss the relevant local authority approach, and arrive at a mutual agreement on whether this is the most suitable pathway to follow.
Email: Lorne Frew