Co-ordinated approach for community benefits from wind farms

BLACK Hill Wind Farm Community Fund is now open for business and community projects within the community council areas of Abbey St Bathans, Bonkyl and Preston, Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus, Duns, and Gavinton, Fogo and Polwarth are invited to apply for grants from the fund.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 16th June 2010, 5:02 pm

The community fund is a charitable organisation funded by Renewable Energy Systems Ltd (RES), the operators of the 12 turbine Blackhill Wind Farm south of Longformacus.

Its aim is to grant aid community projects within the community council areas of Abbey St Bathans, Bonkyl and Preston; Cranshaws, Ellemford and Longformacus; Duns and Gavinton, Fogo and Polwarth. Priority will be given to projects within the four community council areas but the 30,000 a year scheme may be extended to other areas at the discretion of the company.

A board of directors representing each community council and one director from RES will meet once a month to determine the grant applications they receive for enviromental, education and social projects.

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The grants have been divided into two types: small grants of up to 1000 which will receive a decision within four weeks; and large grants of between 1000 and 15,000 which could take up to three months to determine.

Duns based Sunrise Nursery was the first project to receive a 4,000 grant to help with their running costs and ensure the nursery remains open.

Community organisations in the Duns area, that are not for profit and have a constitution, can apply for help with running costs, projects etc.

To do so they need to complete an application form which can be downloaded from their website, or you can email [email protected]

"We are absolutely delighted that we are up and running and able to fund local projects," said Andy Rosher, a director of the community fund and chairman of Abbey St Bathans, Bonkyl and Preston Community Council. We are hoping for an influx of applications."

Community funds for the area north of Duns are already available from other wind farm developments such as Crystal Rig and a number of local organisations have benefited.

However, community funds provided by wind farm developers are voluntary, and the amounts can vary quite considerably.

As the number of applications for wind farm developments across the Borders started to increase in 2006/7 Scottish Borders Council looked at the possibility of a council development negotiator taking responsibility for negotiating on behalf of communities across the region.

However, when they consulted with communities about this the response was negative and instead Scottish Borders Council drew up a toolkit for use by both communities and windfarm developers as a starting point in their negotiations.

A review of renewable energy is currently being undertaken by SBC and once again community benefit from wind farms has cropped up.

This time a number of options are being considered but the overall thinking behind it is still the same - to establish a co-ordinated approach.

SBC's Better Government and Democracy team leader Brian Emerson said: "There is a strong case for the Scottish Government to introduce legislation or at least intervention to secure consensus agreement with developers to set a fixed rate of community benefit, based upon either MW output or number or turbines or as a percentage of profit from the wind farm.

"This would avoid any need for locally negotiated benefits."

If the Scottish Government is reluctant to introduce a national fixed rate of community benefit then other alternatives, as suggested by the renewable energy sub committee, are for the council to look at: the possibility of their own business improvement unit developing a support mechanism to help communities negotiate with developers; or EU funding being sought to research the benefits of establishing a third party organisation such as a community trust to do the negotiation and also distribute grants to community groups.