Windy Bank land owners champion planned wind farm’s environmental and community investment impact

February 12, 2015 | Renewables News

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The owners of the site of a proposed new wind farm in Teesdale have highlighted the positive impact it would have on the local community in terms of generating both clean energy and new funds for investment in local facilities as the key reasons behind their involvement with the project.

Mark and Sue Simpson’s farm includes land to the north of the village of Woodland on which County Durham-based Banks Renewables is looking to invest over £16m in building the four-turbine Windy Bank wind farm.

Mark and Sue, who have lived in the area since the 1960s and undertake both arable and livestock farming, believe the setting and composition of the Windy Bank landscape makes it ideal for generating renewable energy in this way.

Mark Simpson says: “The Windy Bank site has been identified independently as suitable for a wind farm, and we obviously know well enough just how windy it is in this area.

“Producing clean, green and effectively free energy in an area which is well away from almost everyone in the area not only makes good use of the natural resources we have, but will also enable us to reduce the carbon footprint of our farming activities, which encompasses both machinery and livestock.

“In terms of the surrounding views, you can see as far as industrial Teesside from the Windy Bank site.

“The ecological plans that Banks have developed as part of the project will greatly enhance the habitats enjoyed by all kinds of local wildlife, and while we’ve always tried to reinvest in developing the different aspects of the farm forward ourselves, this isn’t something we could afford to do on our own.”

Sue Simpson adds: “Everyone knows how stretched public finances are these days, and the amount of regular income that this project would generate for the local community simply isn’t available from other sources.

“The community funding that Windy Bank would generate over 25 years would make a massive difference to the facilities that local groups are able to access, which would in turn substantially enhance the work they do, the pastimes they enjoy and the results they achieve.

“Banks is a well-known local firm that has dealt with us very well since first approaching us about the project.  We very much believe that you couldn’t find a better place for this sort of project, and it seems to make a great deal of sense for it to go forward.”

Family-owned Banks, which employs 420 people, 135 of whom live in County Durham, has committed to creating around 30 jobs during the site preparation and construction phases of the Windy Bank scheme, as well as to providing local firms with the opportunity to tender for a range of related contracts worth up to £3.5m for different aspects of the project, including construction, security, accommodation and catering.

Alongside the commercial and environmental benefits of the project, a community benefits fund worth around £70,000 every year, or up to £1.75m over the project’s 25-year lifespan, would also be facilitated by the wind farm’s construction, and Banks has been developing new measures to boost local employment opportunities, improve access to apprenticeships and enhance skills training.

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.

Plans for the scheme have previously been backed by Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman, the North East Chamber of Commerce, the North East arms of the CBI and the Federation of Small Businesses, and the management team at the nearby Stainton Quarry.

Miles Crossley, senior business development manager at Banks Renewables, says: “Mark and Sue know and love their land and landscape, and clearly feel that the Windy Bank wind farm would sit well within it.

“This project has been designed to bring a range of demonstrable environmental, employment and economic benefits to the local area – the community funding it would generate would have a direct impact on the range of facilities that local people can enjoy in their area, while the commercial opportunities it would provide would help to create and sustain much-needed local employment opportunities.

“We believe our Windy Bank planning application will present a very strong, all-round case for approval when the planning application is determined by the County Council.”

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