Users of a century-old village hall can now spend a penny in comfort … but critics say the cost may be too high.
The gentlemen’s toilets at the Village Hall in Woodland, near Barnard Castle, County Durham, have received a long- awaited refurbishment thanks to a £6,640 grant awarded to the hall’s management committee by developers Banks Renewables, via its Banks Community Fund, which is administered in partnership with the County Durham Community Foundation.
But opponents of a windfarm consisting of five 115-metre turbines planned close to a conservation area by Banks say the management committee should not have taken the cash.
Alistair Rutter, a parish councillor at Woodland, said: “This is a highly sensitive issue and residents should have been consulted before the management committee of the hall accepted the 30 pieces of silver.”
But Dora Robinson, who is part of the village hall management committee, said: “We’ve managed to refurbish a lot of the building over the last few years, but hadn’t been able to include the gents toilets in this programme, with the result that it has deteriorated quite badly.
“Not only has the refurbishment work improved the facilities in themselves, it has also made the hall’s front entrance much more appealing, leading to even more people from across the community to make use of the building.
“The application process for the funding was very straightforward, and we’re extremely grateful to Banks for the help they’ve provided in enabling us to undertake and complete this long-planned work.
“We certainly have nothing to hide.”
The proposed Windy Bank wind farm would be on agricultural land between Woodland and the southern edge of Hamsterley Forest.
The wind farm would produce enough energy to meet the annual electricity consumption requirements of 7,400 homes, and prevent the release into the atmosphere of about 15,100 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year that would occur with the production of the same amount of energy by non-renewable means.
Banks says around 30 jobs would be created during the site preparation and construction phases of the scheme, with local firms having the opportunity to tender for a range of related contracts worth up to £3.5m.
An associated £625,000 benefits fund would enable Banks to deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people over the wind farm’s 25-year lifespan. But critics of the windfarm have accused the company of trying to buy locals’ affection.
A year ago the plan to build the turbines received a setback when the county council told Banks that unless more work was done to assess the impact on birds and bats, the plan was likely to be recommended for refusal.
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, said yesterday: “Places like Woodland Village Hall play an invaluable role at the heart of many rural communities across our region, and supporting them by backing projects such as this is central to our development with care approach.
“Sharing the benefits of the schemes that we operate around the country with the areas in which they are situated is part of Banks’ long-term policy for ensuring that people living in these areas gain tangible, long-term advantages from our presence.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding