A rural Moray community intends to use an annual cash windfall to improve the energy efficiency of older homes in the area.
Every year the Finderne Development Trust receives £138,000 from the nearby Logie Wind Farm.
Now the group, which covers the rural area south of Forres including the villages of Rafford and Dunphail, has begun the search for an energy efficiency graduate to reduce fuel bills for locals.
The trust was formed two years ago with the intention of improving the lives of locals and encouraging others to live there.
Need for energy efficiency in winter months
Development manager Pery Zakeri explained the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the need for homes to be more energy efficient as people have spent more time in them.
Recent colder months have highlighted growing fuel bills for residents due to the older and more traditional building designs being unable to preserve the heat.
It is hoped the graduate, who will be the trust’s second full-time employee, will connect homeowners to funding organisations to help improvements be made to also reduce carbon emissions.
Fears have been raised that navigating the various funding options have proved daunting for residents investigating the possibility of improving their homes.
Mrs Zakeri said: “With its many traditional buildings, there are great opportunities for energy efficiency improvements in Finderne homes.
“During our work to support Finderne through the coronavirus pandemic, the need for this work has been highlighted.
“This project will not only take action towards environmental sustainability but help improve the health of our community and build resilience.
“We want to promote the support that is already available by making the process for accessing improvement funding as easy as possible for residents.
“Given the difficulties everyone is currently facing, the opportunity to create a new job in the area is great news and an optimistic start to 2021.”
Trust aims to support rural living with energy efficiency
The Finderne Development Trust was formed amid concerns younger residents were leaving the area in search for work while others were not attracted to moving there.
Other priorities have included funding local employers to hire apprentices, investigating the possibility of spearheading an affordable housing development and pressing for improvements in rural broadband connections.
Meanwhile, organisations including Home Energy Scotland have made funding available to help residents make their properties more energy efficient for specific circumstances.
Funding for the 12-month graduate post has been secured from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the European Regional Development Fund.
Fiona Robb, head of strengthening communities for HIE in Moray, said: “This post will provide an important link with the community and is fully aligned with HIE’s role in encouraging a low carbon green economy, sustaining local economies and building inclusive communities. It’s an exciting time to be working with such an ambitious community organisation.”
Trust chairman Brian Higgs said: “Despite the challenges of the past year, Finderne Development Trust continues to grow in strength.
“Expanding our team by creating a second full-time role marks an exciting next step for the trust in its journey to deliver its five-year strategic plan and regenerate the rural communities of Finderne.”
The trust has also been supporting Finderne communities through the Covid-19 pandemic by providing food parcels and workbooks for children after securing £11,000 from the Supporting Communities Fund.