“It’s clear that many community organisations are currently experiencing significant financial challenges”

The benefits fund linked to a South Cumbria wind farm is being made even more widely available to community groups and environmental projects working in the surrounding area.

As part of Banks Renewables’ development of the Armistead wind farm, which sits to the east of the M6 between junctions 36 and 37, a community benefits fund was set up to provide over £300,000 of funding for local good causes over the scheme’s 25-year lifespan.

Grants totalling more than £110,000 have been made from the fund to local groups over the last nine years – and now, Banks Renewables is updating its eligibility criteria to make larger grants available to local groups facing rising costs and increasing community demand.

The maximum grant amount available to fund capital purchases has been doubled to £6,000, while in exceptional circumstances, the fund can now also provide the ten per cent deposit that was previously required from successful applicants.

Eligibility for the Armistead Wind Farm Fund is usually restricted to projects and activities within the parishes of Killington, Lupton, Mansergh, New Hutton, Old Hutton and Preston Patrick, although projects outside these areas may also be eligible if they can be shown to benefit people living within them.

Organisations that have previously received grants from the fund include Mansergh Parish Meeting, Kirkby Lonsdale RUFC, Preston Patrick Memorial Hall, St John the Baptist Church in Old Hutton and New Hutton Institute.

Grant applications can be submitted at any time, with an independent committee made up of local community representatives meeting regularly to identify which projects best meet local priorities.

Cllr John Heap, who chairs the Fund committee, says: “”We are grateful that our relationship with Banks exists and that we have been able to work closely with them in introducing the changes which are to be implemented.

“We’re looking forward to continuing to work closely with them in the future.”

More than £146,000 has so far been directed into the Armistead fund since the wind farm began to generate green energy in 2013, with around £35,000 currently available to spend.

Lewis Stokes, senior community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The Armistead fund was designed to bring tangible, long-term benefits to local communities and we’ve been able to support some fantastic community projects over almost a decade that will enhance the facilities and opportunities available to local people for many years to come.

“As part of our development with care approach, it’s important that we review and re-evaluate our funds periodically to ensure they’re meeting the aims and ambitions of the fund, and with the elections for the new Westmorland and Furness Council recently, we agreed that this was the optimum time to do this.

“It’s clear that many community organisations are currently experiencing significant financial challenges, so in agreement with our Armistead liaison committee, we’ve acted to make larger grants available to more local groups and to provide them with additional options for using it.

“By doing so, we’re hoping to be able to support a whole new range of community organisations who have previously not been able to access the fund and would very much encourage them to investigate how they might use the money that we have available.”

As well as being used for capital purchases, the fund can also be support training, apprenticeship and employment initiatives for local young people and businesses in the eligible area.

The Armistead Wind Farm generated more than 25,000 MWh of green electricity during Banks Renewables’ last financial year, which is enough to meet the annual electrical requirements of over 8,000 homes, and by doing so, it displaced over 5,300 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network.

Projects, community groups, or voluntary organisations looking for funding from the Armistead wind farm fund should contact the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342