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From Funding to Finance – a repayable grant for Huntly and District Development Trust

19 March 2018

Formed in 2009, Huntly & District Development Trust  (HDDT) seeks to develop the community of Huntly and the surrounding district, by maintaining, improving and regenerating the physical, economic, social and cultural infrastructure of the area and supporting those who are disadvantaged. The area has a population of over 11,000 and is largely agricultural in nature, with Huntly being the main town.

The work of the Trust has grown rapidly, as has its support within the community. It has 472 members and employs two full-time and two part-time staff, supported by 30 volunteers.

In 2016, HDDT was involved in developing or delivering a wide range of projects for the benefit of the Huntly area including:

• The development of Greenmyres Farm, for the development of a community wind turbine and potential use of other renewable energies including photovoltaic and biomass

• The Room to Roam Green Travel Hub, comprising the Huntly Car Club and an e-bike rental scheme. These provide residents with access to motorized transport on a flexible basis without the need to own a car

• Supporting the Huntly Sports Vision project, and administering the AB54 Health and Wellbeing Fund. This identified and promoted the wide range of sports and wellbeing activities on offer within the area, in order to identify gaps in provision and thereafter develop a plan to provide additional facilities for Huntly.

• Identifying new approaches to the regeneration of Huntly Town Centre, in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council and other local stakeholders.

However, with a perceived shortfall in funding all of these projects were put at risk in October 2016.

Facing potential staff redundancies and a gap in the delivery of services it was already providing for the local community, HDDT applied to the Clashindarroch Community Fund  for a grant to part-fund the costs of three members of staff over a six month period until 31 March 2017.

The Trust was confident of future income, from 2017, that would include:

• The start of annual community benefit payments to the Trust from the Cairnborrow Wind Farm monies in February 2017;

• Distributions from the Trust’s own Greenmyres Community Wind Turbine Project.

The Clashindarroch Community Panel identified that the issue faced by the Trust was not so much a lack of Greennyres Turbineincome, but a cash-flow problem. The Panel agreed to offer a repayable grant of £25,000 to HDDT. The grant was to be repaid in five annual instalments and would be interest free, and therefore not considered a commercial loan. A Memorandum of Understanding was entered into between HDDT and Foundation Scotland, enabling HDDT to draw down monies in September 2016.

This repayable grant enabled the Trust to keep on three staff posts which were otherwise at risk, and to continue delivering a range of local projects and services. HDDT was subsequently able to complete the development and commissioning of Greenmyres Community Wind Turbine, which was formally opened on 3 September 2017. HDDT also received a reimbursement for over-payment from one of the contractors, which also helped ease the cash-flow position.

The Trust has subsequently recently received a further award from the Clashindarroch Community Fund to help pay for preparatory work for a proposed path network between Huntly and Insch, around Greenmyres.

Donald Boyd, HDDT Development Manager, praised the flexible approach taken by Foundation Scotland and the Clashindarroch Fund Panel: “After several years of effort we had two or three renewable energy projects almost ready to deliver significant funds for our community. The galling thing was that, although we could see the finish line, receipt of the first income from them was still 12-18 months away. A simple cash flow issue could have cost us everything. The repayable grant solution provided exactly the “breathing space” we required and we are very grateful for the creativity shown by all concerned. The fact that those renewable energy projects, expected to generate something like £7 million for the community over the next 20 years, are up and running and we have started repaying the grant shows that the investment by the Clashindarroch Fund Panel was worthwhile.”

 

 

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