If you’ve driven past the primary school in Evie recently, you might have spied work going on to install a new community playpark. Designed by landscape architect Sam Green, the park incorporates modern natural play features, alongside playpark staples like chutes and swings.
At an estimated cost of £130,000 the project hasn’t come cheap, but with a mammoth community fundraising effort and – crucially – the availability of a location-specific community benefit scheme from local wind turbine projects, Evie and Rendall Community Council has been able to pull out all the stops to provide a fantastic new facility for local youngsters.
“The project has been led by the Community Council,” explains Eoin Harcus, chair of Evie and Rendall Community Council, “but it’s been very much community driven. We formed a sub-group to work alongside Sam on some designs and put these out for consultation. The local community were really behind the project, really keen to have a decent playpark at the new primary school building – and that really showed through in the efforts that folk put into fundraising.
“We did the Dounby Show teas – that was quite an experience, I’ve never seen so many sandwiches! We also had a stint in the Blue Door and applied for funding through the Council’s Community Development Fund.
“A playpark costs a lot of money though – and that’s where the community benefit payment that the Community Council receives from the Hammars Hill wind farm really proved its worth.”
With two large wind farms in the area – Hammars Hill and Burgar Hill – Evie and Rendall Community Council receives regular location-specific community benefit payments from project owners - which go towards improving life for folk living in the area.
Eoin explained some of the projects that are currently funded.
“We have various projects that we fund though the community benefit payments. As well as larger projects like the playpark we provide funding to the school for any school trips, we provide grants to students going south for college or university to pay for laptops or travel and accommodation. We also run a roads improvement scheme, where folk can make improvements to tracks and roads into their property.”
The Community Council also uses the fund to support young sports people in the area to attend training and competitions on the Scottish mainland – including top Orkney swimmer Mia McAllister.
“Having the community benefit fund from the turbines, takes a lot of pressure off our community in providing financial support for local folk to do some of these things – like travel south or organize improvements to the local area. As a Community Council, we don’t view it as an easy hand out for local groups though – we do expect them to do some fundraising of their own too.”
Eoin says there’s more projects to come, again funded in part through the turbine projects. He said: “We’re currently looking at a project to upgrade the Rendall hall, in time for the Island Games coming here in 2025. The hall will be used as accommodation for the visiting athletes and so we’re keen to ensure a warm welcome for them by upgrading the current facilities – and providing lasting benefits to folk in Evie and Rendall.
Orkney Islands Council is currently consulting on a location-specific community benefit scheme for ‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project’.
‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project’ currently includes three potential wind farm sites - one in Hoy in the area around Wee Fea, another on Faray in the North Isles, and at Quanterness in St Ola.
If the project goes ahead, it could generate significant income for Orkney Islands Council, helping to provide services that local people rely on and providing a location-specific community benefit scheme for communities of £144,000 per year per site, or £432,000 per year across all three sites.
Through this consultation process the Council are hoping to work alongside local people to develop a location-specific community benefit scheme for the project that, as far as possible, best meets the needs and aspirations of the community.
The consultation is framed around two specific questions:
What should be the geographical spread of the location-specific community benefit scheme be i.e. which communities should get the money?
How should the location-specific community benefit scheme be administered i.e. who should look after the money?
More information – including a link to an online survey - is available here.