Thousands of pounds have been added to a new fund designed to support community causes in the areas around a new wind farm near Darlington.
As part of preparations for the construction of its Moor House wind farm, County Durham-headquartered Banks Renewables set aside a budget of £10,000 to pay for any hedge-planting that residents in surrounding communities said they wanted to do to reduce their views of the turbines.
After the three-year applications period passed earlier this year, only a relatively small proportion of the money available had been claimed by local households.
But instead of taking back the remaining £8,300, Banks Renewables has decided to add it to the community benefits fund that is now running alongside the wind farm – and because the money is already in the bank, it is being made immediately available to local community groups.
The fund linked to the Moor House wind farm, which sits on land to the north east of Barmpton, will provide over £750,000 of funding through the project’s 25-year lifespan, and went live earlier this year with the start of green electricity generation at the wind farm.
The first meeting of the community panel that will decide which grant applications receive support was held recently, with Haughton Cricket Club being awarded the first grant from the fund to enable it to purchase a new set of sightscreens and more set to be revealed in the near future once all the necessary formalities have been completed.
Around £30,000 will be generated by the wind farm for its community fund every year, with half being made available to local community groups, environmental projects and voluntary organisations, and the other half going towards initiatives supporting local employment, vocational training, apprenticeship schemes, tourism and rural diversification.
A further one-off £50,000 allocation is being ring-fenced for energy efficiency and micro-renewables projects for community buildings within the area around the wind farm.
Eligibility for funding is normally restricted to projects and activities within Sadberge, Bishopton, East & West Newbiggin, Bishopton, Little Stainton, Great Stainton, Great Burdon, Barmpton and Brafferton, and in areas of Whinfield, Harrogate Hill, Beaumont Hill and Coatham Mundeville which are north of the A1150 and east of the A167.
Projects in neighbouring areas may also be eligible if they can be shown to benefit people living within the closest communities.
The maximum grant available per project is likely to be £3,000, although applications for higher amounts will be considered in special circumstances. Funding applications can be submitted at any time, with the committee meeting every few months to consider them.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, says: “Providing this additional money will enable us to make an even faster start with the Moor House community fund, and to thereby bring more tangible benefits to the local area even more quickly.
“The Moor House fund will make a big difference to the facilities and activities that local people are able to access for years to come, and we’ll be revealing which additional local projects will be receiving the first grants from it in the near future.
“We’ve already had some interesting ideas on how this money might best be used, but are keen to hear more and would very much encourage all local people to think about how the fund might be able to support their favourite activities and events.”
The Moor House wind farm fund is independently administered by the County Durham Community Foundation. Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for grant funding from it should contact James Eaglesham at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342 or visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/development-with-care/bankscommunityfund/wind-farm-community-fund
For further information on the Moor House project, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/moor-house