A popular community area in a north Lancashire village is now available for use all year round thanks to the efforts of local people and a four-figure grant from a renewable energy firm.
The recreation area on Trailhome Road in Overton has been created over several years after a team of volunteers led by parish councillor Dave Edmondson cleared an overgrown tidal barrier area and turned it into a safe community space that is well used by families and dog owners.
To help reduce the amount of work required to maintain the area, and to assist with plans to extend it in the future, Overton Parish Council had been looking to purchase a ride-on mower with a front mounted sweeper.
And after applying to Banks Renewables for support from the community benefits fund linked to the nearby Heysham South wind farm, a £3,000 grant enabled the purchase to go ahead.
As well as being used to manage the community space, which includes picnic tables and access to birdwatching spots which look out towards Sunderland Point, the new mower is also being utilised by the Parish Council to manage and improve other parts of the village landscape.
The local scout group also uses it for various activities, and is planning to use the extended area as a practice camping base, as well as a location in which to find out more about local animal and plant life.
Councillor Dave Edmondson says: “What used to be an overgrown and unused piece of land has been transformed into a welcoming space that’s very much enjoyed by all parts of our community – it’s accessible to everyone, including wheelchair users, and provides a safe place for families to enjoy time in the open air.
“To keep it in the right condition, regular maintenance is still needed, and we’ve previously hired in the machinery needed to do this work, which obviously has a continuing cost implication for the Council at a time when budgets remain tight.
“Securing this funding from Banks Renewables enabled us to make this purchase far sooner than would otherwise have been possible, and we’ve really seen the benefits both in the recreation space and elsewhere around the village.”
A community benefits fund worth at least £300,000 across the 25-year lifespan of the Heysham South wind farm formed part of the scheme’s overall development package, and was designed to enable Banks Renewables to deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people.
The fund is ring-fenced for use within the parishes of Heaton-with-Oxcliffe, Heysham, Middleton and Overton, although projects in adjoining areas which benefit people living in these parishes may also be considered.
A funding committee comprised of local people and supported by a dedicated fund manager from the Banks Community Fund team sits every few months to assess the applications it receives.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The Heysham South Wind Farm fund was designed to provide funding to help meet local community improvement priorities, and we’re very pleased to have been able to recognise the hard work and dedication of Overton Parish Council in creating this well-used public space.
“Our funding committee meets regularly to review the applications made to the fund, and we’re always keen to hear from community groups around the relevant areas on how they think the funds generated by the wind farm might best be allocated.”
The maximum individual grant from the Heysham South Wind Farm community benefits fund is £3,000. Anyone interested in applying to the fund should contact James Eaglesham on 0191 378 6342 or via firstname.lastname@example.org to check if their group or project is eligible.