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Seven community groups benefit from Achlachan wind fund

By Jean Gunn

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Seven community groups have benefited from the Achlachan Wind Farm fund in its first year of operation.

Whirlwind Renewables, owner of the Achlachan project, makes an annual donation of £30,000 to Foundation Scotland to distribute to community groups working within the Halkirk area.

Eilidh Coll, Foundation Scotland’s community fund co-ordinator, said: “It has been a real pleasure to work with the volunteers of the Achlachan Wind Farm Community Fund Panel over the last year while the fund was establishing and through its first year of grant-making.

"The panel has enjoyed receiving the applications which have included a broad range of activities, and we hope that other projects will continue to come forward to the fund.”

Whirlwind director Thomas Chappell said: “Whirlwind Renewables is proud to share some of the profits of Achlachan Wind Farm for the benefit of those living close by and in the wider area.

"We'd urge and encourage anyone with an idea for how the monies available could be put to use for the good of the community to take advantage of what's on offer and apply for funding.”

A total of £12,497.83 was awarded to seven groups in the Halkirk district, with a priority to those within 4km of the wind farm which was completed last year off the Causewaymire road.

Halkirk District Community Council received £3000 to provide a micro-grant scheme for the community, with small grants of under £300 going to any resident within the area undertaking a project that would directly benefit young people through sports, educational or art activities.

A sum of £3000 went to Halkirk Playgroup and Toddler Group towards the staffing costs for the summer term. The playgroup, based in the village school, has 24 children with 11 attending the mother-and-toddler group.

Due to a national change in the way playgroups receive funding, the group – run by a board of volunteers – found itself facing a shortfall.

Halkirk Parent Council received a grant of £2700 to set up a junior librarian tracking management system for the 113 pupils.

The primary school library has a modern, extensive selection of age-appropriate books. However, it lacked the ability for children to take books home.

Junior librarian is a tracking system run by the children themselves so books can be checked out and taken home to share with families. It will also enable the senior pupils to run the library and gain new experiences.

The sum of £2097.83 went to Halkirk Heritage and Vintage Vehicle Society to seal and paint concrete floors.

The society has been working on the development of a new centre for a number of years and estimates that, once complete, the project will attract a total of 40 visitors each month.

Hearing and Sight Care, which has 87 registered users from within the Halkirk area, was awarded £1000 towards running costs, including clinics and home visits.

The group operates sensory centres in Thurso and Wick where people can drop in for help with hearing and sight loss issues. Outreach clinics are also held in the Ross Institute, Halkirk, along with home visits.

Ormlie Community Association Ltd was awarded £500 to contribute to the cost of activities for the silver citizen programme, which includes 10 regular attendees from the Halkirk area.

The programme, which allows over-65s to meet regularly, offers outings, coffee mornings, games and free weekly classes in a range of subjects.

Caithness Disabled Access Panel received £200 to update its website with information about accessible toilets in community buildings.

The panel is working to improve the quality of access to facilities, particularly toilets for disabled people through the Accessible Toilet Award Scheme.

Award certificates will be issued to participating organisations to display at the premises and publicise the quality of their facility and this information will be made available on the group’s website.

Decisions on awards are made by the Achlachan Wind Farm Community Fund Panel made up of 14 local people representing various groups and interests.

Community benefit for local residents

Meanwhile, a number of householders in the Halkirk area have been quick to take advantage of yearly payments from the Achlachan Wind Farm community benefit package.

An annual donation of £20,000 has been put forward by Whirlwind Renewables – owner of the wind farm – with the Thurso-based consultancy business Caithness Renewables acting as the agents.

The company received numerous responses after an article appeared in the John O'Groat Journal about the funding earlier this month.

Louise Smith of Caithness Renewables said: "The Achlachan Wind Farm fund for community benefit for local residents has seen many quick responses.

"So Whirlwind Renewables LLP, which administers the fund, wants to reward this, particularly in these strained times, by making awards to the responders so far – ahead of the planned date.

"Caithness Renewables is contacting residents about them receiving this year’s annual payment, which will run for the lifetime of the wind farm."

Those still wishing to register can do so by contacting Caithness Renewables by email at business@caithnessrenewables.co.uk or by phoning 07776225549. This should be done by June 12 at the latest to be sure of securing the payments.

Householders that respond by June 1 will receive a payment earlier than was planned.

Whirlwind is keen to ensure as many people as possible gain from its Achlachan community benefit package.

An initial mailshot went to around 100 properties and respondents received payments (one per household) last June.

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