Community benefits from onshore renewable energy developments

Guidance on good practice principles for communities, businesses, local authorities and others.

Supporting A Local Legacy

  • This section covers:
  • Developing a Community Action Plan
  • Milestones and timeline
  • Creating a lasting legacy
  • Adjusting to changing priorities

Developing a Community Action Plan

Discussions about community benefits allow both renewable energy businesses and communities to identify clearly the best and most meaningful community benefits options and packages. It is, therefore, important to be able to capture a community’s aspirations and ambitions, and we would encourage communities to consider developing a community action plan to support these ongoing discussions.

The format of an action plan can vary and there is no standard template; what works for one community might not necessarily work for another. The size and scope of the action plan may be influenced by the size and scope of the renewable energy development. The process for developing a plan will vary; some communities may already have one in place, others may decide to wait until later in the community benefits process, or refresh an existing plan that is not necessarily directly linked to the specific renewable site but part of the local development plan. It is considered critical that any action plan should align with any wider local development plan in place where there is a land use implication, and also to the Outcome Improvement Plan1 for the area.

What is important is that the community leads and has ownership of a “plan”, which identifies key priorities to maximise impact and has a process in place to update on a regular basis. A plan should be viewed as a “live” document that can be adapted to meet the current and future priorities of the community. Tools such as The Place Standard may be useful in helping local people identify their priorities for a particular place. Further information is available at:

In summary, as a minimum a community action plan should be strategic, outline a long term vision, incorporate broad themes or outcomes in order to achieve that vision and, where possible, identify local projects and contribute to those. 

The implementation of the plan should seek to improve the social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the community over the long term and help create a valuable legacy for future generations. The absence of an action plan at the outset should not preclude community benefits discussions taking place with all communities within the area of benefit.

Examples of community action plans, demonstrating varying approaches, are available at the links below:

Milestones, Timeline and Support

Whatever methodology or approach is adopted, the community action planning process can take a minimum of four to six months (or possibly longer). It is important that both the renewable energy business and the community recognise this stage can be lengthy, but one that is critical to get right and devoting the time needed will help ensure a positive outcome for all parties.

This work of developing a plan can be undertaken by a local community organisation, an external organisation, or a combination of both, and can be funded by the community, by the Scottish Government or through charitable donations. The renewable energy business may also offer to contribute.

Where a community does not have a plan, funding is available from the Scottish Government’s CARES programme, delivered by Local Energy Scotland, who can also signpost community groups to the relevant local, regional and national support organisations who can help build capacity to devise strategic and effective action plans.

Where a number of communities are within the area of benefit, there may also be more than one action plan in place. Following a process of wider consultation, communities may wish to reconcile the key priorities from each plan into one action plan to aid community benefits discussions.

An example of the steps to complete a community action plan, are set out below, along with the support available through CARES. Please note, however, this is a guide only and will vary depending on specific circumstances.

Community Action Plan: Milestones and average timeline

Developing a Community Action Plan – Case Study

Identifying priorities

  • The village of Dalavich faces a number of challenges in access to services and outward migration on young people. 
  • The Dalavich Improvement Group was set up in response to these challenges and in 2016 produced a Community Action Plan with CARES support.

Action Plan Process

  • An extensive survey of local residents, visitors and holiday homeowners (past and present) was undertaken to gather the views of a wide range of people with an interest in the area. 
  • Interviews were also held with local business owners, children and elderly people to help understand the needs of different groups.
  • The Action Plan set out a clear mandate for allocating funds generated by the local community hydro scheme. 
  • A community meeting was then held to determine the overall priorities of the area.


  • The Plan outlines projects to enhance life in the community. Members of the community have since been involved in planning and delivering these projects alongside the Community Council, Dalavich Social Club, Dalavich Improvement Group, Argyll & Bute Council and others.

You can view the full plan here:

Creating a Lasting Legacy

In discussion with the renewable energy business, a community action plan should provide the focus for the community to consider what delivery arrangement will help achieve some of the priorities in the plan.

At this stage, it is expected that the detail of the community benefits package offer will be clearer, along with any exclusions set by the renewable energy business.

Using the action plan as the basis, a community should draw up a strategy for supporting the delivery of the proposed package of benefits. As a minimum, it should seek to provide details of the following:

  • The key purposes or priorities to be supported.
  • What can’t be supported, often referred to as ‘exclusions’.
  • Any other criteria to decide what type of projects or initiatives will be supported.
  • Who can receive support, often referred to as ‘eligible bodies’.
  • Details of the distributing mechanisms. 
  • How changing priorities will be dealt with.

Review Process

The Scottish Government recognises that most communities’ priorities will change over time. It will therefore be appropriate to revisit and review a community’s needs and wishes at regular intervals.

It is important that provision is made for a community, to review and make appropriate changes to both the community action plan and their strategic priorities at regular intervals.

It is recommended that any review includes a review of area of benefit, impact and long term socio-economic benefits to the community.

The community and the renewable energy business should also be open to consider whether the delivery mechanism is still “fit for purpose” and all options should be explored on a regular basis. It is important to focus on achieving a lasting legacy for a community – the outcome – and not the process. 



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