Published: 16/12/2015 12:16 - Updated: 16/12/2015 12:20

Gordonbush wind farm community benefit hits £1m milestone

Fiona Morrison, SSE’s community funds manager, and Gary MacMillan, chairman of Helmsdale Millennium Committee.
Fiona Morrison, SSE’s community funds manager, and Gary MacMillan, chairman of Helmsdale Millennium Committee.

THE Gordonbush Wind Farm Community Fund has given out more than £1 million benefit to local projects.

The fund was established in 2011 during construction of the 35-turbine wind farm and since then has supported more than 140 community groups and projects in the Golspie, Brora, Rogart and Helmsdale areas.

Today SSE marked the latest round of funding with members of Helmsdale Millennium Committee (HMC), after the group was awarded £5000 to re-vamp the village’s Christmas lights display.

Joining Garry Macmillan, chairman of HMC at the switch-on was Paul Harrington, who sits on the Gordonbush Community Fund panel, and Fiona Morrison, SSE’s community funds manager.

Garry Macmillan said: “A large crowd attended the light switch on, and the atmosphere was fantastic. Another huge effort by the team this year saw a wooden coble converted into a Christmas fishing boat, which went down a storm with the crowd being as Helmsdale is a fishing village. Without SSE, the Gordonbush Panel and their funding it would make delivering this community project so much harder, so we are really grateful.”

The latest funding round saw a total of £61,705 granted to local projects, including Golspie Community Council, which has been awarded £12,000 to re-develop the Big Burn footpath and complete drainage works, and £10,148 to Ross Sutherland Rugby Club to deliver skills sessions in schools across the fund area.

Other successful applications were:

• Rogart Community Council –  £20,000 to purchase a new storage facility at Corry Meadow.

• East Sutherland Community Care Forum – £5000 to support local befriending service.

• Golspie Youth Action – £4050 to fund youth club sessional worker.

• Helmsdale Medical Equipment Fund – £2500 contribution toward specialist equipment.

• Brighter Brora – £1100 to purchase new community Christmas decorations.

These recent awards have taken the total spend in the Gordonbush fund to £1,015,311 which includes funding for projects such as the renovation of village halls at Pittentrail, Kinbrace and Doll and support for the young carers organisation, TYKES, based in Golspie.

The fund has also supported the formation of the Gordonbush Apprenticeship Scheme, which encourages businesses in the area to consider taking on and training a young, local person.

Murdo McGhie, director of onshore renewables at SSE, said: “It’s great to see the Gordonbush fund reach this £1m milestone. The wide range of grants are impressive, from the £160,000 award to build a state-of-the-art sports pitch in Golspie to smaller awards, such as the support given towards Helmsdale’s Christmas celebrations.

“The community panel deserve great credit for ensuring these funds are spent responsibly and I look forward to seeing the benefits of the wind farm flow into the community for many years to come.”

Paul Harrington, who is also the development officer for Helmsdale and District Development Trust, said: “Being part of the panel allows the local representatives the opportunity to engage with community groups on a much wider scale than one may originally believe.

“Being a representative also allows the panel member to understand and support development, however large or small, in the wider area. Having already started an apprenticeship scheme, which is in the early stages and proving successful, the panel are now exploring different ways to enhance the impact of the fund for the future.”

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