A COMMUNITY group representing dozens of village halls and community centres in Teesdale has turned down the chance to cash in on a controversial wind farm proposal.

The board of the Teesdale Village Halls Consortium (TVHC) was asked if the group wanted to get involved in a scheme to set up a joint venture with Banks Renewables, the firm behind a £12.5m wind farm plan at Windy Bank, near Hamsterley Forest, County Durham.

However, in return for a stake in the wind farm, the consortium and its members would have been required to publicly state their support for the five 115 metre-high turbines.

At a TVHC meeting at Mickleton Village Hall earlier this week, members unanimously voted against involvement with the joint venture scheme.

The meeting considered a report by Ewan Boyd, of Teesdale Environmental Consulting, who has been commissioned by the Upper Teesdale Agricultural Support Service (UTASS) to explore options for community-owned renewable energy projects.

“One such proposal was to approach Banks Renewables and request that part of their Windy Bank wind farm proposal be made available to community investors as part of a joint venture,” stated Mr Boyd's report.

“Banks have expressed a strong interest. In discussions to date, Banks Renewables have provisionally confirmed they would be willing to consider offering the community a £2m stake in the overall development.

“It is currently envisaged this level of investment would be sufficient to generate an annual income of approximately £200,000.”

TVHC chairman, David Hutchinson, stressed there was no firm proposal on the table at the meeting.

“It was purely and simply whether this was something we wanted to get involved with or whether it was something that was too bitter a pill to swallow," he said.

“At a meeting of the directors, we felt we were unable to come to a decision so we went and asked our members, who agreed not to get involved.”

The consortium's decision to turn its back on the scheme has delighted members of the Hamsterley and Upper Gaunless Action Group (HUGAG), who are campaigning against the Windy Bank wind farm proposal.

Spokesman Peter Shield said: “We were nervous that the apparent promise of income for the TVHC might prove attractive, especially as we are only too well aware there are several village halls in Teesdale that are facing significant financial problems.

“It was clear those present objected to the obvious injustice of inviting village halls that might be very distant from Hamsterley and Woodland to support the Banks scheme.

“It was also clear no village hall representative was prepared to compromise his or her future ability to object to other wind farm proposals by supporting this one.

“We feel that this response from village halls the length of the dale sneds a strong message to Durham County Council and Banks Renewables that this wind farm is not wanted.”

The Windy Bank planning application is still being considered by Durham County Council.