A Darlington village church’s drive to get more local people to make use of its facilities has won the backing of a local renewable energy firm.

The Parochial Church Council at St Andrew’s Church in Sadberge set up its ‘Action Andrew’ project to try to encourage greater community use of the Grade Two-listed building beyond services and church functions.

As part of the project, the PCC has been working to improve the facilities and decor at the 19th century church to ensure it provides the best possible environment into which to welcome visitors old and new.

It approached County Durham-headquartered Banks Renewables for support for its work from the community benefits fund linked to its nearby Moor House wind farm, and was awarded a £2,228 grant to pay for the replastering and redecoration of the church’s interior.

Local painter and decorator James Franks was given the contract to carry out the required work – and the PCC has already had lots of feedback from both local people and visitors from outside the area on the positive impact that the redecoration has had on the atmosphere inside the church.

Banks’ Moor House wind farm has been operational since the start of 2018 and 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.

The wind farm will provide more than £750,000 of local community funding over 25 years, and Banks Renewables is working with the local community and the County Durham Community Foundation to actively look for more applications to it from local groups and good causes.

St Andrew’s Church stands in an area which is thought to have been used as a place of worship since Roman times and occupies a portion of the site where the village’s ancient Saxon castle, gaol and court-house once stood.

Millie Scaife, a member of Parochial Church Council at St Andrew’s, says: “We’re very proud of the history of our church and the contribution it already makes to community life, and the PCC has been working extremely hard to encourage as many people as possible to make use of it.

“We’ve already added new kitchen and bathroom facilities which give us greater capacity to host different activities and events, and being able to now get the church replastered and redecorated has made a terrific difference to the environment we can offer.

“We’re now well set to host bigger concerts and events, and have already held an exhibition of textile banners created by both local people and professional artists that was really well received.

“Getting Banks Renewables’ support for our project has enabled us to redecorate far more quickly than would otherwise have been possible and means we’ll be able to direct the money we’d have otherwise spent on this work towards the next stage of our project.”

Eligibility for the Moor House Wind Farm Community Fund is normally restricted to projects and activities within the closest communities at Sadberge, Bishopton, East & West Newbiggin, Bishopton, Little Stainton, Great Stainton, Great Burdon, Barmpton, Brafferton, and areas of Whinfield, Harrogate Hill, Beaumont Hill and Coatham Mundeville which are north of the A1150 and east of the A167.

Projects in neighbouring areas may also be eligible if they can be shown to benefit people living within the closest communities.

An annual allowance of £15,000 is available from Banks’ Moor House  fund in support of local community groups, environmental projects and voluntary organisations, while the same amount again is available every year to support activities related to employment and training opportunities.

A further one-off allocation of £50,000 has been provided to support energy efficiency and micro-renewables projects for community buildings within the area surrounding the wind farm.

Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “St Andrew’s already plays a central role in community life and the tireless work that the PCC carries out is helping to bring new people through its doors to see what it has to offer.”

Community groups, or voluntary organisations in the vicinity of the Moor House wind farm which are looking for a grant of up to £3,000 should contact James Eaglesham fund manager for the Banks Community Fund at County Durham Community Foundation on 0191 378 6342 to check if their group or project is eligible.