For Farmers Weekly August 2013
Our community will not be unique in the respect that the industry that gave birth to it and built it up can no longer sustain it.
Farming built our local community here but the decline of farming has been tracked by our community on its downward trend.
Where we could once boast two schools, three pubs, a couple of shops and two churches we now have no school, a church that’s hanging on by its fingertips, a pub that’s been closed and re-opened plus a shop that’s facing closure…again.
From a population of six hundred in the 19th century our community has fallen to 180 today, the parish records will probably show that I’m related, through marriage, to the majority of them.
Sheep and in particular the wool off their backs paid to build our village over a two or three hundred year period. However, those sheep were cleared off the hills and replaced by trees in the middle part of the last century. The parish records could show that I’m related to some of those sheep as well!
But now a new type of farming has come to the Luce Valley that promises to reverse the decline of the last two hundred years. The trees are now being cleared off the hills to make way for commercial wind farming. But, unlike the trees, wind farming is set to provide cash that will make a difference to the future of our community.
I’ve recently been ‘encouraged’ along with other members of the community to become involved with our local Community Council. It had also fizzled out a while ago and had to be resurrected in the Spring of this year.
You would imagine that our meetings would be a bit like a scene from the Vicar of Dibley. A bunch of half-wits, bearing a remarkable resemblance to each other, debating who’s to judge the jam at this year’s fete might spring to mind. But, you’d wrong.
In fact, just recently our meetings have turned out to be more like scenes from Dallas than Dibley. We’re talking glibly about millions of pounds around the table in the Spartan splendour of New Luce village hall these days.
The most recent wind farm to be given consent at the head of the Luce Valley is offering just short of one and a half million pounds per annum to be divided amongst the surrounding communities. It’ll start paying out quite soon.
The next one coming forward for consent has a community benefit fund of nearly £400,000 per annum attached to it so it could be providing local benefit in three or four years’ time.
We’re one of only four communities that are very close to the emerging wind farms so even if we only end up with 10% of the annual pay-out, a sum in excess of £200K per year for the next 25 years will be quite within our grasp. That five million over the next 25 years can become ten million if we use the money to attract matched funding from other sources.
It’s pretty heavy stuff for a collection of amateur local councillors to deal with but if we can use the money wisely then it will bring life back to the area.
Without wind farming, history has shown us that our community was heading towards becoming a collection of houses in the hills with no focal points like shops and pubs and kirks to bind the community together.
So let’s hear no more chat about wind farming being bad for communities, it could be the last chance saloon for ours and many others.