Bishop Auckland MP backs updated Windy Bank Wind farm plans

September 4, 2014 | Renewables News

Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman has backed updated plans for a proposed new wind farm in Teesdale.

Developer Banks Renewables is looking to develop the Windy Bank scheme on agricultural land between the village of Woodland and the southern edge of Hamsterley Forest.

The County Durham-based firm recently submitted an updated design for the proposed scheme to Durham County Council, which includes the removal of one of the original five turbines and a 10m increase in the tip height of the remaining four turbines to 125m.

An increase in the value of the associated community benefits fund, which would now be worth up to £1.75m, or around £70,000 during each year of the project’s 25-year lifespan, has also been included in the new proposals, with Banks developing new measures to boost local employment opportunities after discussions with community residents and leaders on how the surrounding area could benefit from the wind farm’s construction.

Discussions about the project have been continuing with local people, groups and community leaders about the detail of the Windy Bank proposals, and Helen Goodman MP believes that it offers the area a chance to address a number of pressing local needs that might otherwise not receive the attention they require.

She says: “Labour remains strongly supportive of using appropriately-located onshore wind farm developments as part of the UK’s future energy infrastructure, and the Windy Bank Wind Farm would seem to offer a great deal to the local community alongside the green energy it would produce.

 “With Government funding for projects addressing areas such as skills development, employability and fuel poverty remaining very stretched, the resources that the Windy Bank community benefits fund would make available locally could make a huge difference to the lives of many people in different parts of our community.”

“As someone who is firmly in favour of renewable energy and onshore wind farms, and of the communities in which such schemes are based benefiting from their development, I’m firmly in favour of the Windy Bank Wind Farm going forward and would hope that Durham County Council will agree with my views.”

Banks is looking to invest over £16m in the Windy Bank wind farm, which would have an installed capacity of up to 12.5MW.  Around 30 jobs would be created during the site preparation and construction phases of the scheme, with local firms having the opportunity to tender for a range of related contracts worth up to £3.5m.

Improving access to apprenticeships and skills training was also highlighted as an area which could be addressed through the community benefits fund, and Banks is now progressing a number of flexible ideas which would do this, which could include providing apprenticeship bridge funding for local small businesses or apprentices, making contributions to transport costs and opening up new local training opportunities.

Instigating work to tackle local domestic fuel poverty and energy efficiency issues has also been noted by people in the area as a possible area that could be supported by the fund.

The Windy Bank site falls inside an area that was identified as being suitable for wind development in both the most recent North East England Renewable Energy Strategy document, and in a subsequent independent report prepared by consultants Ove Arup for the North East Assembly.

Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, adds: “We’ve been continuing to discuss our Windy Bank proposals with people and groups right across local communities, and are pleased to see Helen Goodman’s recognition of the potential it has to make a positive impact on the local area, both immediately and over the long term.

“Local priorities for the allocation of the wind farm’s community benefits fund have been clearly highlighted to us by many local people and organisations, and it could provide the capital required to turn their wishes into reality at a time where other sources of capital for making this happen are extremely limited, if available at all.

“With many significant energy and environmental challenges facing the UK over the coming years, modern, efficient, indigenous onshore wind farms like Windy Bank have a crucial role to play in generating more of the clean, green energy that we all use in our homes, schools and businesses.

“We strongly believe that this is the right location for a scheme of the type that we are proposing, and that the many environmental, social and economic benefits it would bring to the area combine to make a powerful case for its approval.”

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