Project: Dumfriesshire East Community Benefit Group (DECBG) Community Action Plan
CARES funding: CARES enablement grant, £20,000 plus funding from ScottishPower Renewables’ Ewe Hill Wind Farm.
Location: Dumfries and Galloway
Date completed: February 2021
Dumfriesshire East Community Benefit Group (DECBG) is a registered Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO). It was set up in July 2017 to distribute funds from the Ewe Hill Windfarms, funded by ScottishPower Renewables. There are two funds: The Ewe Hill 6 Fund and The Ewe Hill 16 Fund.
The Ewe Hill 6 Fund is shared between six community organisations who decide how the funds are spent in their communities. The areas covered by this fund are:
- Hutton and Boreland
- Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk
- Middlebie and Waterbeck.
The Ewe Hill 16 Fund covers the wider East Dumfriesshire area. Monies are distributed through an open grant application scheme, operated by DECBG.
Project aims and objectives
In 2019, DECBG received an enablement grant from the Scottish Government’s Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) and funding from ScottishPower Renewables to appoint professional consultants to undertake and produce a Community Action Plan.
The plan would set out the community’s ambitions over the following 25 years to ensure the effective allocation of the community benefit funds. The plan would focus on the areas eligible for funding from Ewe Hill 6 but would also be relevant for the wider Ewe Hill 16 communities.
After procurement support from Local Energy Scotland, and through Southern Uplands Partnership which administers The Ewe Hill 16 Fund on DECBG’s behalf, Creetown Initiative was appointed to carry out the consultation.
It is likely that community benefit funds from other windfarms in the area, which are currently in planning and development, will be available in the future. While it is not yet clear how funds from these windfarms will be administered, the community action plan will be a useful document to help the community decide how best to allocate those funds.
Consulting with the community
While it was hoped that the community action plan would identify small local projects to support as well as those covering the wider area, DECBG thought that some funds should be committed to larger and/or longer-term projects that would have a lasting benefit beyond the life of the wind farm funding. There was also an ambition to identify potential legacy projects that would benefit the wider DECBG community.
The DECBG wanted its community action plan to be both ambitious and achievable, with the community’s aspirations and ideas turned into deliverable actions. It was hoped that anyone with a local project idea would be able to use the plan to help develop their idea and guide and support their funding application.
The first stage of the consultation process involved carrying out one-to-one interviews with key people, groups and partners in the Ewe Hill 6 areas to identify key issues and themes.
The second stage involved sending out a questionnaire to the three postcode districts that formed the closest equivalent to the Ewe Hill 16 area. The questionnaire was closely informed by the issues identified in the one-to-one interviews. A prize of £200 was offered as an incentive to return the survey.
Outcomes and achievements
The East Dumfriesshire Regional Community Plan was published in February 2021.
The plan includes an area profile and outlines the area’s challenges, explains the consultation process, summaries the findings of the consultation, and sets out a proposed plan for the area. It also captures thoughts on the way windfarm funds are managed.
A second document, called ‘East Dumfriesshire Community Consultation Feedback’, describes the feedback received in more detail and is an essential reference for anyone looking to develop an action plan in their own local community. The community consultation produced 909 project ideas, all of which have been included in the analysis. The DECBG plans to use this document alongside the community plan to check that any project ideas submitted for funding have community support.
The regional community plan identifies seven key themes:
- healthy living
- eco efficiency
- community cohesion.
The consultation determined what kind of projects the communities wanted, where the greatest need was, what difficulties there might be, which projects would provide the biggest benefit, and which would be achievable.
The consultation feedback sets out what these key projects might be and how they can be achieved. It covers the whole area but also includes details which are specific to its local communities.
A longer-term vision for the area was apparent from the community action plan process. There was a strong sense of ‘future thinking’ and the need to seriously consider the adjustments that communities will need to make as climate change approaches. It was recognised that this is becoming an immediate need, and one that will increase in the approaching years. For this reason, future thinking and climate change touch on every theme that is outlined in the plan.
To help progress projects, the plan suggests that the DECBG either employs a project officer or engages an organisation to provide this support. This support would be particularly important for the smaller communities across East Dumfriesshire.
Creating a shared community development worker post to deliver the plan, whilst also helping to manage and monitor projects being developed by partners, was identified as its number-one priority.
Chris Miles, project lead and chairperson of DECBG, said
“As a result of the Covid restrictions that came in not long after we started talking to people and gathering ideas, it has not been possible to meet or go back to venues to test out conclusions with communities or individuals, as was originally envisaged.
“However, having been able to hold these early meetings and receiving an adequate level of response from the postal consultation we felt that we could adequately reflect the communities’ ideas and conclude the plan’s work and report on the findings.
“This may result in less community identification with the plan, but we had already extended the timeline of the project by a year, and we were worried we may not complete it at all if it dragged on too long.
“We are currently seeking tenders from third-party bodies to provide DECBG with a community development worker and we hope to have someone in post by the autumn of 2021.”
Find out more about DECBG.