Plan to use windfarm cash to put Moray paths network on track
A THREE-YEAR rolling plan to improve Moray’s network of core paths will be drawn up following a funding pledge from Dorenell windfarm.
Some £50,000-a-year in community benefit cash will be generated by the site on the Glenfiddich Estate and awarded to Moray Council over a 25-year period.
The first tranche was received by the council from windfarm operators EDF in June last year when the facility became fully operational.
Funding received so far has been used to upgrade a section of the Speyside Way between Craigellachie and Carron to cycle-path standard. A further £80,000 has been allocated towards improving the Speyside Way between Carron and Cragganmore.
Some £30,000 will be used to commission a survey of core paths to assess their condition and establish priorities, and to upgrade the Moray Ways website, which promotes the network. The council does not have the resources to conduct the survey in-house.
Most of the work envisaged to take place is likely to be small-scale surfacing and drainage works to worn-out paths.
More substantial works could upgrade accessibility on paths, including structures such as bridges and culverts. Maintenance could be carried out by the council's grounds maintenance team, ranger service and community services criminal justice, or private contractors and volunteers.
During a meeting of the council's economic development and infrastructure services committee today, Conservative Councillor Claire Feaver (Forres) said: "I suppose £50,000 seems a lot – but it's very minimal compared to what these windfarms actually make here.
"The fact that we've had to cut back on our grass-cutting has meant a lot of these core paths have actually deteriorated due to the fact that we haven't been able to allocate budget because of cuts imposed on us."
Stephen Cooper, head of direct services, said the contribution laid down as a planning condition should "start to make some inroads". He said: "This £50,000 that we're getting through the Dorenell project is quite significant compared to what we've got."
Independent Councillor George Alexander (Forres) said: "This is surely a good news story and we should congratulate the officers who had the foresight to stick this in as a condition of the planning."
Committee chairman Councillor Graham Leadbitter said other ways to support path upgrades could emerge, perhaps through the recently successful Tourism BID which could open up other funding avenues.
Mr Leadbitter said afterwards: "Moray benefits from hundreds of miles of core paths, enabling our residents access to travel actively across the region, enjoying health and other social benefits.
"Improving our core paths, for use by residents and visitors alike, will ensure these paths can be enjoyed for years to come."