We have worked hard to streamline the process and now have a working model which other communities can follow.
This collaborative effort has involved input from many professional bodies to whom we owe our gratitude, but we would particularly like to thank the community leaders whose commitment and diligence has been instrumental in achieving this very positive outcome.
By Chris Miles, Chair of Dumfriesshire East Community Benefit Group.
When Muirhall first engaged the communities with the idea of a share offer in the proposed Crossdykes Windfarm there was initial reluctance to look at the offer seriously given the uncertainty of planning permission yet to be overcome.
In November 2018, a model worked up on behalf of Muirhall was presented to community members at a meeting in Langholm. Following this meeting Dumfriesshire East Community Benefit Group (DECBG) agreed to explore the proposal on behalf of the communities. DECBG was already established as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) and already included some of the communities being offered the chance to acquire shares in Crossdykes but also engaged Eskdalemuir and Lockerbie.
DECBG applied to the Community and Renewable Energy Scheme (CARES) for funding to enable the employment of experts to give the communities advice on the financial and legal aspects of the proposal.
The communities met with the experts several times from November 2019 until April 2021 when a proposal with funding attached was presented. This proposal described the uptake of 10% offered shareholding using a loan from the European Investment Fund (EIF) which was to be repaid using revenue from the shareholding over a period of about 17 years before significant revenue would come to the communities.
An alternative proposal from Muirhall was made to the communities in a meeting in Langholm in July 2021. This proposal involved the communities opting for a 5% shareholding, using part of the community benefit funds alongside revenue from the shareholding to pay back the loan in about 7 years. This saw revenue coming back sooner into community activity. The communities asked its expert advisors to consider this in detail and to prepare the legal entities that would be needed to manage the flow of funds and hold the shares. The financial report was presented to the communities on 23 September 2021 and following this North Milk, Eskdalemuir and Middlebie and Waterbeck CCs agreed that they would take up the share offer. Langholm, Ewes and Westerkirk CC endorsed this on 29 September 21.
Chris Miles, chair of DECBG, who has co-ordinated the investigation on behalf of the communities commented:
“Given the novel nature of the offer it has taken us a long time to bring together the expertise, consider the options, address the risks and develop a proposal that all parties can feel comfortable with. I could not have done this without the support for Local Energy Scotland, via the funding they provided and the many meetings we have held to discuss each step. It has been important that we already had some of the community representatives working together through DECBG, given the dispersed communities have not worked together like this before. This has been helped because they have a shared ambition to ensure that their communities benefit from these major developments that are going to be a significant presence in their area for years to come. Some of that ambition has been captured in a community consultation led by DECBG. The experts who have helped us think through the possibilities here CMS Amberley, Burness Paull and QMPF, have worked at the cutting edge of this new kind of agreement addressing concerns and questions the communities inevitably had which has extended the time it has taken to reach conclusions. And they had to do so while working with the Covid restrictions.
Finally, EIF have played a key role and have made the finalising of this agreement significantly easier for the community to accept.
All of these bodies have broken new ground which hopefully will help with similar agreements being negotiated elsewhere. We of course have a willing developer in Muirhall who share the ambition the communities have for their futures and who have been fundamental in helping the community achieve an ambitious agreement.
The communities think this deal is especially important for their future and the next generation. It may be a step towards other similar deals locally that could be transformative if the communities grasp the opportunities this will give.”
Muirhall Energy’s innovative thinking has led to this ground-breaking Community Investment in our Crossdykes development.