Community groups that are working to manage the impacts of the pandemic in the areas around a Darlington wind farm are being reminded of the funding available to them from the benefits fund linked to it.

Earlier this year, operator Banks Renewables temporarily relaxed the eligibility criteria for grants from the Moor House wind farm fund, which is usually restricted to supporting capital expenditure projects in the immediate surrounding area.

The family-owned firm worked with local councillors and the County Durham Community Foundation, which administers the fund, to identify the most appropriate projects to support, with grants worth around £10,000 in total being approved and paid over to seven local organisations.

But in light of the continuing impacts of the pandemic, Banks Renewables has moved to keep the fund open to applications from local groups responding to urgent community needs.

Previous donations from the Moor House wind farm fund include £1,500 grants given to Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington, the food bank at the Kings Church on Prospect Place in Darlington and the 700 Club, which provides temporary accommodation and support services to vulnerable individuals, families and couples who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless and/or are in condition of need, hardship or distress.

The Darlington hub of food redistribution charity The Bread and Butter Thing also received a £1,500 grant, while two grants worth a total of £1,900 were given in support of the work of Sadberge Parish Council’s Coronavirus Support Network.

Darlington Borough Councillor Brian Jones, who chairs the Moor House wind farm funding committee, says:  “ “It’s wonderful that Banks have (has) decided to extend this great opportunity for local organisations to obtain grant monies from this fund and I would encourage as many organisations as possible to take advantage of their generosity.”

Banks Renewables’ Moor House wind farm will generate more than £750,000 of local community funding over its 25-year lifespan and has been operational since the start of 2018.

It generates over 36,470 MW of green electricity every year, which is enough to meet the annual energy requirements of more than 9,350 homes, and by doing so, displaces almost 12,700 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network per annum.

In total, County Durham-headquartered Banks Group has donated almost £72,000 to 44 organisations across northern England and Scotland in support of a wide range of pandemic-related projects, and in its most recent financial year, donated around £450,000 in total to community improvement schemes and good causes in those area.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, adds: “The responses of the groups that we’ve already supported towards recognising and addressing specific needs in their communities has been truly inspirational and we’re honoured to have been able to help fund their excellent work.

“The Moor House fund is designed to bring direct, long-term benefits to local communities, and with the pandemic still causing major issues for many people, we wanted to make sure we were still able to provide support where it was most needed.

“We’re continuing to work with community leaders across the local area to see where this funding might have the greatest impact and are moving as quickly as we can to get it into the right community groups’ hands.”

Michelle Cooper, chief executive of County Durham Community Foundation, says: “This is another example of why we appreciate the support of the Banks Group. At a time when people still need a lot of help, their team is thinking ahead and responding with intelligent, flexible grant opportunities.

“The different groups that are doing so much to help their communities deserve the backing of local business and this is a great example of how the Banks Group is really making a difference.

“By working together we can build stronger communities and make sure no one gets left behind.”