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Agenda item

Solar Panel Energy Working Group Report

Minutes:

The report was introduced by Councillor Fletcher who was the Chair of the Working Group.  Members were informed that the Working Group had reviewed all the evidence and particularly the financial elements of the Ground Mounted Solar Photovoltaic (Pv) Panels (Solar Farms) and Wind Turbine Project.  The report provided the Committee with their findings and recommendations as requested by the Committee at the Call-In meeting held on 12 March 2014.  The Working Group by majority recommended that the scheme should not go ahead as they concluded that the financial returns were not viable and the risks unacceptably high.  The report advised that Councillor Hiller had however dissented on the grounds that the viability of the schemes had been evidenced by independent experts and reports and that the risks were evaluated sensibly and the schemes should proceed.  Councillor Sandford advised that whilst part of the Group he had not been in attendance at the meeting when the recommendations had been agreed.

 

Questions and observations were made around the following areas:

 

·         Members stated that they had not been given any figures and it was therefore difficult to understand how the conclusion was reached. Councillor Fletcher responded that the working group had received and studied the financial figures but the group had not felt it necessary to provide the figures submitted as the brief was merely to come to the Committee with a recommendation.

·         Members asked how a working group could come to the Committee with a recommendation without any evidence to support the recommendation. Councillor Fletcher responded that the working group was poorly attended but the figures which had been put forward had been available for a while.  The Group had drafted the report with the help of the Interim Head of Legal Services.

·         Members stated that the report did not detail the work undertaken and asked what experts had been consulted in the process. Councillor Fletcher stated that there had been no opportunity to bring in experts to inform the Group.  However there had been other opportunities to hear from experts on the subject at other meetings.  However it was his opinion upon listening to the experts that it was not viable.

·         The Group Leader of the Peterborough Independent Forum responded that having the figures within the report would make no difference as they would be the same ones that had been presented to the Working Group and to Scrutiny previously.  The Working Group had been tasked with making a recommendation from their findings.

·         Members commented that the terms of reference of the working group were not answered in the report submitted to the Committee.

·         The Group Leader of the Peterborough Independent Forum informed the Committee that the grading of the land had not been done under correct procedures.

·         Members stated that the report was unhelpful and contained no useful information and needed to be revised and suggested that the Working Group do further work on the report and resubmit it with detailed information and justification for the recommendation.

·         Councillor Thulbourn offered to meet with the Working Group to go through the detailed financial information to provide a more detailed report.

·         The Cabinet Member for Resources addressed the Committee and pointed out that there was a strict timescale which needed to be adhered to and that Cabinet would be meeting at the end of July and that Members be mindful of the need to submit their recommendation to Cabinet in a timely fashion. He also advised that a recommendation to Cabinet would need to be supported by detailed evidence and reasons as to why the Working Group felt the scheme was not financially viable.

·         Members asked what the scope of the report was. Councillor Fletcher stated that it was around the whole enterprise and not merely America Farm. The terms of reference merely requested a recommendation of which the report had done.

·         The Group Leader of the Peterborough Independent Forum stated that the decision to take this scheme forward should not be rushed and there was already uncertainty regarding the financial viability of the scheme.

·         Councillor Thulbourn recommended that Cabinet is asked that before making any decision on the scheme that they give the Working Group an opportunity with support to deliver another report that allows Cabinet to make a balanced decision.

·         The Interim Head of Legal and Democratic Services suggested that if time did not allow for the Working Group to present a revised report to Committee before presenting to Cabinet that the Working Group present their report directly to Cabinet and bypass the Committee.  The Committee agreed to this suggestion.

·         A recommendation put forward by Councillor Thulbourn and seconded by Councillor Fox was for Councillor Thulbourn to Chair another meeting of the Working Group to review the financial elements of the Solar (Pv) Panels and Wind Turbines Project to review the evidence considered and if possible to present a report in sufficient time directly to Cabinet at its meeting at the end of the month.  This recommendation was put to the vote and unanimously agreed.

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

1.    The Committee noted the report and

2.    The Committee asks Cllr Thulbourn to Chair another meeting of the Working Group established to review the financial elements of the  Solar (Photovoltaic) Panels and Wind Turbines Project to review the evidence considered and, if possible, to present a report directly to Cabinet at its meeting to consider this issue at the end of the month.

 

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