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This module covers:
- How to negotiate
- What to think of when entering discussions with developers
You should by now have a clear development plan, or at least a few clear points that you are hoping to achieve.
The point of negotiating is not to receive more money, but to receive enough money to achieve your goals. Therefore, the clearer your goals, the more likely the developer will be to support you.
Perhaps they will give you non-financial support in achieving your development plan aims. Do you have plans for a community energy project? Could the developer give you pro bono advice and help you towards developing your project?
Who to involve
It is important that by now you have a few people who you feel are representative of the wider community. You must ensure that that everyone in the community has the chance to voice their opinion, but you must present these views in a logical way to the developer.
You may wish to receive support from your local authority. Most local authorities have clear policies on community benefit – while some may be comfortable helping you speak with the developer, some councils may feel this is inappropriate before planning permission has been granted. You should by now know what your local authority’s stance on community benefits is, but it may be worth asking them if they would support you in your negotiations.
Local Energy Scotland recommends that you reach the negotiation process after building capacity through the previous modules. This process is independent of the planning process, but we would recommend that all actions are undertaken as soon as possible, and that payment details are ready to be confirmed in advance of planning permission being granted. Your local planning department will be aware that community benefit schemes are not a consideration, and the sooner you can confirm an agreement with the developer.
What to expect
Realise that the developer may have done this a hundred times before, or may not know how to deal with it.
Don’t be put off by a PR company being involved – only you know what your community needs and wants!
Know that the developer wants you to be happy – you will be able to agree on something if you are clear in what you wish to achieve. You both want to see the community achieve maximum benefit from the development.
Ensure that you have had ample discussions with all in your community. If you have had a transparent process, allowing all the chance to get involved, you will be fairly representing the community. Taking these steps to ensuring a transparent process will also give your discussions with developers more weight.
What do you want? Have you thought of any innovative schemes?
Community benefits are by nature completely flexible. Think as a community what you’d really like to see happen in your area, for example. Is there something you could put forward as a compromise between higher and lower payment rates?
Do you have the facilities to process large sums of money? Do you want the developer to pay for an individual staff member? Do you want the developer to pay for an external body to administer the funds? Could this be tendered and offer a nearby organisation the chance to take on the work? There are many regional organisations that provide these services. You can still impose any limitations on fund spend, so don’t be afraid to pass over the control in this way. It is preferable to take on the work yourself, and build capacity within the community, but be realistic about what you can achieve.
Know your deal-breakers
What is most important to your community? Enter the negotiations knowing what you are unwilling to compromise. Don’t be unreasonable, know that the developer has to make a financially viable model, and ultimately, the developer is under no obligation to provide you with benefit payments. It might be in both of your interests to focus upon in-kind benefits, it might not be.
Are there existing buildings or services that could do with some input to get them back on their feet?
Are there services that are lacking could be started up?
Be aware of in-kind benefits that will require ongoing upkeep costs – some services might be a great addition to your community, but will their upkeep use a disproportionate amount of your annual community benefit fund?
If the developer is not offering a financial payment, think of other ways that you can be involved in the process, or look at setting up your own community energy project. Is there the chance to develop a similar project nearby?
We would also like to help you in building capacity in negotiation skills. If you feel you are poorly resourced in your community and do not have the resources or the capacity to enter negotiations with the developer, please get in touch with Local Energy Scotland.
If you’re looking for some advice at this stage, it might be worth trying to speak to a PR company who’s not involved in your scheme, or looking to speak to a community who has been through the process. The field is advancing quite quickly, so bear in mind that things have changed quite a lot over the past few years, but you’re bound to get some useful advice.