Residents of a tiny Speyside village have been given the go-ahead for an ambitious £400,000 hydro project to save the heart of their community.
The Knockando Community Trust has been granted planning permission to build a water turbine on the village burn.
Profits generated from the green energy project will be used to keep the crumbling 100-year-old Margach Hall open.
Last night, trust chairman Alasdair Anderson revealed the innovative project had already created a stir from communities in similar position.
And the Knockando resident insisted the model could be a blueprint for others to follow to save their own cherished buildings from closure.
He said: “We’re almost the first people to get it ready to go. Energy Scotland has been helping us and they’re interested in taking it elsewhere.
“Something like this is far too small for the big commercial guys to touch. There just isn’t enough revenue there for them. It could be crucial for small communities though because it could lead to them becoming almost self-sufficient.
“We used to rely an awful lot on the council – they were very good to us, but with the way the budgets are going that will become almost non-existent in the future.”
The trust intends to launch a share scheme in the newly-formed company, Knockando Community Energy, to raise funds for the project in the new year.
Estimates from the group predict the turbine will generate up to £10,000 a year, with deals already struck with nearby distilleries to buy the power.
Proceeds will then be used to make the Margach Hall in Knockando free for residents to use, in an attempt to make the village a more attractive place to live in.
A recent £70,000 investment in the main hall has paid for more insulation but major work is still needed on the kitchen and toilets.
Moray Council granted planning permission for the hydro project on the condition special measures were put in place to protect fish and other wildlife.
The long-awaited approval comes nearly a decade after the scheme was initially mooted in the community.
But Mr Anderson stressed the approval was merely one hurdle that needed to be overcome and now the group must muster together the finance to build it.
He said: “Community shares are one option, we’ll probably go down that way, but we’ve also looked at lottery funding too.
“I’ve already had people asking me about the shares. People are looking at it as something to invest in for their grandchildren.
“We want to have the hall, almost as a loss-leader. It used to be the hub of the community but it’s getting harder to persuade people to come away from the TV these days.”
A small powerhouse will be built on the banks of the Knockando Burn. Water will flow into the building through a 765-yard pipe that will turn the generator.
A new walking route will also be created on the banks of the burn as part of the project.
Speyside Glenlivet councillor Pearl Paul is eager to see other communities in Moray learn from Knockando’s example.
She said: “I think it’s a great idea. It would be good to see other villages take the opportunity to visit and hear about how it
has all been done.
“When you think about it very few places in Moray don’t have burns or rivers. All it takes is for somebody to show the way and then it can be adapted to specific locations.”