Proposals for a community wind farm have received very strong support from the local community councils who believe that buying their own share in the development could deliver a brighter future for the area.
Plans for the eight turbine High Cumnock Community Wind Farm, located between Cumnock and New Cumnock, were originally submitted to East Ayrshire Council in February 2013 and now the proposals are expected to be determined by the Council’s Planning Committee before the end of the year.
As part of the community partnership plans submitted by wind energy firm Banks Renewables, the local community has been offered the chance to purchase an equity share of up to five pe cent in the development, with the expected revenues generated being directed towards the communities’ local action plans.
Independent financial and legal advisers have now been appointed by the local community councils with the help of Local Energy Scotland to oversee the project and guide them through the equity share buy-in.
Netherthird, and Cronberry, Logan and Lugar Community Councils have also re-stated their full backing for the community partnership, believing the development will give the local economy a much needed boost and help drive business and employment in the area.
Brian Broadley, Chair of Cronberry, Logan and Lugar Community Council, said:
“There’s very little money that comes into our communities, this equity share option will allow the community access to funding, which can then be allocated to local needs.
“The community also supports the national need for renewable energy within our area. This particular site is neither of outstanding beauty nor prime agricultural land and is certainly an acceptable development the communities feel they can support.”
“We’ve brought in professional financial and legal advisers as we have no experience in dealing with matters like the equity share. It’s essential this specialist knowledge is used to guide us through the process.”
In addition to the equity offer, the community partnership proposed by Banks will give the communities a 2.5 per cent share in the annual revenues from the wind farm. This could generate a further £4.8 million of community benefits over the 25 year life-span of the project – to be spent on key projects identified by the community.
Maggie Campbell, Chair of Netherthird Community Council, said:
“We’ve been working closely with Banks for the last two years and they have worked very hard to keep the community involved in the process.
“Our area has a high rate of unemployment, youth unemployment especially, but the proposed wind farm could bring jobs and training opportunities to our community, which is desperately needed.
“We really need another investor to help develop the area and boost our economy for the long term. Banks Renewables is committed to that and we support their project 100 per cent.”
“I haven’t heard of any objections to the plans within the Netherthird community, everyone understands the long term benefits this could bring to the area and we all hope the council agrees with us and grants permission.”
As part of its commitment to employ locally wherever possible, Banks Renewables has recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Netherthird Community Action Training, a social enterprise that provides a range of traineeships to 17-24 year-olds not in education, employment or training.
Should the wind farm be given the go ahead, Banks would invite Netherthird Community Action Training to bid for a contract which if successful would enable a total of 60 new trainees from the local area to undertake landscape management duties on the site for the first five years that the wind farm is operational.
Other benefits, if the scheme is approved, will include a host of ecology and wildlife enhancements, including extensive woodland and hedgerow planting and the creation of 5.8km of new recreational tracks.