Council blunder means community benefit cash is frozen 4/9/13
A huge chunk of windfarm community benefit cash is stuck in legal limbo because of
a council blunder.
The Western Isles Development Trust (WIDT) is effectively barred from carrying out
its main headline duties because it has neglected to apply for charitable status.
The WIDT was set up by Western Isles Council to reinvest millions of millions of
pounds worth of windfarm community benefit into economic, educational, environmental,
cultural, social and recreational projects for the benefit of islanders.
In 2011, the council boasted of leading the way in “creating the Western Isles Development
Trust, a charitable trust which receives benefit payments from renewable energy developers
and disburses them across the islands.”
However, the reality is different and the error means it cannot legally accept money
from a developer.
Neither can it pay out the cash it promised to the islands’ community.
The first tranche of around £200,000 which should have been channelled through the
development fund to island projects has been frozen as a result.
The rest of the earmarked £12 million community benefit over 25 years, linked to
the giant Eishken windfarm in South Lochs, will not be paid to the fund until it
sorts itself out.
The Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust, which is diverting 30% of its own income
from the Eishken energy development has halted all payments to the fund.
Now the council has made an extremely belated application to set up a charity fund.
A council spokesman said charitable status was still outstanding.
He added: “The trust will shortly be inviting applications for funding. The trust
will be discussing that at their next meeting on 11 September.”
The Western Isles Development Trust (WIDT) was set up to negotiate community benefit
from renewable energy developers and to invest that money into economic, educational,
environmental, cultural, social and recreational projects for the benefit of islanders.
Its business plan places great emphasis on local co-operation and is complementary
to the work of local agencies and existing mainstream support programmes.
Giving financial support for business and community projects, research into renewable
energy and encouraging energy efficiency measures are its main aims once it gets
off the ground.
Funding applications are expected from village halls, historical societies, and Gaelic
language schemes as well as initiatives which encourage youth to stay on the islands.