BHA was the first housing association in Scotland to have a council’s entire housing stock transferred over to it (Berwickshire District Council did so in 1996) and now residents at Hoprigshiels, near Cockburnspath have voted in favour of the association going ahead to apply for planning permission for a community windfarm which will raise money to help them build more houses in Berwickshire.
After hearing the results of the opinion poll that was carried out, BHA’s chief executive, Helen Forsyth, said: “We’re delighted that Ipsos MORI’s opinion poll confirms that a clear majority of local residents favour the proposed community wind farm at Hoprigshiels.
“It’s been a lot of hard work but our submission of an application for detailed planning consent marks a major milestone in the project. If all goes well construction could begin in 2012.”
The opinion survey conducted by specialist opinion pollsters Ipsos MORI demonstrates support for Hoprigshiels Community Wind Farm at 63% amongst households within 10 kms (approximately six miles) of the proposed development.
The project is a unique venture between Berwickshire Housing Association (BHA), the largest provider of affordable rented accommodation in Berwickshire, and Community Energy Scotland (CES), the specialist charity providing advice and support to communities seeking to develop their own renewable energy projects.
“It’s a very satisfying result” said Nicholas Gubbins, chief executive of Community Energy Scotland, “and very much in line with our experience in other parts of the country where support for community owned renewable energy projects remains high”.
Public consultation was key, with two public exhibitions, and three newsletters distributed to households within three miles of the development.
This transparent approach has been well received, with the Ipsos MORI poll showing 86% of respondents living within five kilometres of the proposed development to be satisfied with the information provided.
An application for detailed planning consent has now been submitted by Berwickshire Community Renewables LLP, the joint venture company created for the development, owned two thirds by BHA and one third by CES.
The proposed Hoprigshiels Community Wind Farm has the potential to generate substantial amounts of electricity. Based on average energy use it will generate two and a half times the electricity used by BHA’s tenants, (approximately 20% of all Berwickshire residents).
“It’s very important to BHA at a time of falling public expenditure to develop sustainable and significant sources of income beyond the rentals paid by our tenants” said Helen Forsyth.
.“Whenever we offer a house to rent, we get over 50 households applying. For an organisation seeking to provide much needed homes it can be very challenging. We need more funds for investment and that’s why this project is so important to us.”
Nicholas Gubbins explained: “Community Energy Scotland has assisted over 500 communities seeking to benefit from renewable energy.
“Hoprisghiels Community Wind Farm offers considerable promise in this regard. A project which contributes to the country’s green energy targets, provides direct support to the local community through a dedicated fund, and one which provides significant income for both CES and BHA is very good reason to be enthusiastic.”