New funding for local workplace learning scheme to form part of Bank Field wind farm plans

February 10, 2014 | Community News

Substantial funding for a new scheme which will help break down the barriers to finding a job faced by unemployed people in and around Guisborough is being put forward as part of the development of a proposed new wind farm to the north of the town.

North East family-owned business Banks Renewables is looking to build the Bank Field wind farm on agricultural land on the northern side of the A171, and submitted a planning application for the five-turbine scheme to Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council late last year.

Banks has been involved in a wide range of discussions about how the community benefits package associated with the project might best be allocated to meet local priorities, and has now moved to act on the importance being attached by local people to increasing the amount of employment, training and skills development opportunities available in the area.

Based on a successful scheme already operating in County Durham, Banks’ workplace learning initiative would give eligible recipients access to grants of up to £5,000 to help them overcome any barriers they face in taking up an offer of work linked to training.

The initiative would give recipients the chance to take up an apprenticeship or work-based learning opportunity, where the employer has given a minimum of one year’s commitment to employ, support and train the individual.

Grants could be used to assist individuals in covering training or transport costs, accessing specialist equipment, or potentially whatever else is proving to be an impediment to them getting into the workplace, and could also be used to help local small businesses pay a proportion of their new employee’s salary.

Over £150,000 would be invested in the project in the first three years after planning approval is granted for the Bank Field wind farm, with further substantial investment likely to follow through the 25-year lifetime of the project once a review of the programme’s progress during this initial period has been carried out.

The funding would be ring-fenced for residents of the communities in the immediate vicinity of the Bank Field wind farm site, including Guisborough and Dunsdale, and no age restrictions would be placed on the scheme.

An immediate £50,000 investment in the jobs and apprenticeship programme would be made by Banks as soon as an implementable planning approval for the wind farm is received.

Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, says: “We aim to use the community benefits funds that are attached to all our projects to address specific local needs, and work hard to give people the chance to tell us what they think would make the biggest positive difference to the places in which they live.

“Widening local employment, training and skills develop opportunities has been right at the top of the list of priorities that has been expressed to us by people in and around Guisborough and Dunsdale, and the proposals we’re working on could see dozens of local people getting the chance to get into or back into employment with precisely-targeted support.

“Independent research has identified a number of barriers to people of all ages getting into or back into the workplace, and the type of project we’re proposing to fund through the Bank Field Wind Farm has already shown how many of these barriers can be overcome with targeted action.

“In a competitive and still-challenging jobs market, this sort of project would be invaluable, and we’re committed to getting it moving as soon as we start operating the Bank Field wind farm.”

If approved, the Bank Field wind farm community benefits package would be worth a total of around £85,000 per year and would enable Banks to deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people. The fund would be put in place through a legal agreement with Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council with specific initiatives such as the workplace learning programme as a priority.

Up to 40 jobs would be created during the project’s construction, which would have an installed capacity of around 17MW, and local firms would be able to tender for contracts worth around £3m relating to its construction, as well as to other aspects related to its development, such as accommodation, catering and security.   Around £7.8m of business rates would also be generated during the scheme’s 25-year lifespan.

Phil Dyke adds: “The importance of increasing the amount of energy that we produce by renewable means and ensuring the UK maintains its own indigenous, cost-effective energy supplies has never been higher up the news agenda, and onshore wind farms such as Bank Field have a central role to play in meeting both of these challenges.”

Anyone who would like any further information about the proposed Bank Field wind farm should visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/bank-field or contact the Banks community engagement team on 0844 209 1515 (local rate call on a BT landline) or via bankfield@banksgroup.co.uk

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