Unemployed people and businesses in the communities around a Darlington wind farm are set to benefit from the launch of a major new skills and training fund.

As part of the development of the Moor House Wind Farm to the north east of Barmpton, Banks Renewables committed to providing around £15,000 every year for the fund, which aims to break down financial barriers to employment by helping local people access training and workplace skills development opportunities.

Grants of up to £1,000 are available to help cover costs including training course fees, essential equipment, workwear and travel expenses to local training establishments.

The new fund will also offer a grant of up to £5,000 to one local employer every year to support them in taking on new employees, who are expected to be local people who were previously unemployed or not in permanent work.

Revenues from the fund have been building up in the fund since the wind farm became fully operational at the start of 2018, and around £30,000 is immediately available to fund applicants, with more to follow before the end of the year.

Decisions on which grant applications are accepted will be made by the Moor House community fund panel, which has members appointed by the local parish councils and Darlington Borough Council.

Darlington Borough Councillor, Brian Jones, who chairs the Moor House wind farm funding committee, says: “This is a great opportunity for local businesses and residents to benefit from Banks’ generosity and I’d urge them to grab it as quickly as they can.”

Cllr Heather Scott, leader at Darlington Borough Council, adds: “This is excellent news for local people and for local businesses. Now, more than ever, our young people will be looking for routes into employment and we’re grateful to Banks for the opportunities this fund will create.”

Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, adds: “It’s great to see a company fully engaging with the community like this. That these funds will be available to help both unemployed people and businesses local to Barmpton will be especially important in these difficult times.”

Over the last year, the six turbine Moor House wind farm has generated over 38,400 MW hours of green electricity, which is enough to meet the annual energy requirements of almost 12,400 homes, and by doing so, has displaced around 9,600 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the electricity supply network.

Alongside the training fund, the wind farm provides a further £15,000 every year that local community groups, environmental projects and voluntary organisations can access for capital investment projects.

A one-off payment of £50,000 was also made to support local community buildings with energy efficiency improvements and to assist with the transition to renewable technologies.

In response to the impact of the pandemic, Banks Renewables and the County Durham Community Foundation which administers the fund agreed with the local grants panel to temporarily relax the eligibility criteria and extend the area within which grants can be made.

Grants worth a total of over £10,000 have been paid over to seven local projects in the last three months, including Age UK North Yorkshire & Darlington, the food bank at the Kings Church on Prospect Place in Darlington and food redistribution charity The Bread and Butter Thing.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at the Banks Group, says: “The launch of the skills and training fund is the latest stage of us delivering on our promise to bring direct benefits to the communities around the Moor House wind farm, and given the workplace challenges that have been caused by the pandemic, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Modern, efficient, indigenous onshore wind farms such as Moor House are acknowledged as the most popular and cost-effective methods of green electricity production, and help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by the electricity generation industry.

“The money that’s so far been allocated from the Moor House fund has already had a substantial impact on the local community, especially in terms of the projects we’ve supported during the pandemic, and we’re looking forward to doing even more in the coming months and years.”

Applicants located within the communities at Sadberge, Bishopton, East & West Newbiggin, Bishopton, Little Stainton, Great Stainton, Great Burdon, Barmpton and Brafferton, as well as areas of Whinfield, Harrogate Hill, Beaumont Hill and Coatham Mundeville which are north of the A1150 and east of the A167 are eligible to apply for support from the Moor House training fund.

Individuals or businesses looking for grant funding can contact the Banks Community Fund manager at the County Durham Community Foundation on 0191 378 6342 or visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/moorhouse for further information.