Plans designed to tackle fuel poverty across the Lancaster area which form a central part of a Heysham wind farm development being proposed by developer Banks Renewables have won the backing of a local environmental organisation.
Banks has pledged to provide an investment of around £50,000 to set up a new Warm Zone scheme across the area in partnership with the Warm Zones community interest company, which would be funded by revenues generated from the three-turbine Heysham South wind farm that the company is looking to build to the south of the A683.
Setting up a Warm Zone has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of improving the energy efficiency of the housing in a given area, and leads, on average, to benefits worth around £3million becoming available to people in the area.
This funding comes in the shape of grants for energy efficiency improvements that will increase a property’s energy rating and reduce their fuel bills, together with other related services that would help to lift them out of fuel poverty, which is defined as occurring when someone has to spend more than ten per cent of their income on heating their property adequately.
Research carried out by the Department of Energy & Climate Change found that almost one in four households (24%) in the Lancaster District are in fuel poverty, and with energy prices continuing to rise, more and more people in the area are in danger of falling into this category.
With this in mind, Lancaster-based community interest company LESS has backed Banks’ Warm Zone plans, which it believes will build on the sustainable living work it has been carrying out in the area for the last two years.
LESS operates a home energy service that examines energy use in individual properties and produces reports on ways in which energy consumption, and hence fuel bills, might be reduced.
Primarily targeted at people in fuel poverty, LESS also provides help with managing energy tariffs, insulation offers and utility bills, working with landlords on how best to improve the energy efficiency of their properties, and has been offering energy saving advice through its climate change action centre since 2007.
Kathy New, Home Energy Service project coordinator at LESS, says: ““The domestic energy efficiency work we’ve been carrying out across the community has had some terrific results, and through measures we have suggested, the average potential savings per household are a £250 reduction in annual fuel bills, which would also save a potential annual total of 2.2 tonnes of carbon emissions from each home.
“Introducing a Warm Zone to the Lancaster area would help to give an even higher priority to this important work, and would mean that not only would more people become more aware about fuel poverty issues, but that there would also be significantly more resources available to do something practical about them.
“Our own experience tells that there is a real demand for this sort of assistance amongst local communities, and the revenues generated by the Heysham South wind farm would help the local people in greatest need get better access to and benefits from the support they require.”
Locations including Newcastle, North Staffordshire and Northumberland already having seen remarkable results through the Warm Zone approach, and Banks has already successfully adopted this approach in South Yorkshire, where a Warm Zone has been set up in conjunction with the approval of the Penny Hill Wind Farm near Rotherham.
The introduction of the scheme would create a number of new jobs in the area, including doorstep assessors and administrative positions, and local contractors could also look to bid for the installation work required for the recommended energy efficiency measures.
Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, adds: “At a time where escalating fuel costs are making finances very tight for a lot of families, we believe that the Warm Zone scheme that the Heysham South wind farm would fund would make a real difference for thousands of people across the area.
“Several areas around the UK are already enjoying the benefits of an established Warm Zone scheme, with more energy efficiency homes, lower fuel bills, a reduction in excess winter-related deaths and job creation all arising as a result of its implementation.
“With almost a quarter of homes within Lancaster now classed as being in fuel poverty, this is clearly a pressing issue for the district, and the funding we would provide for the scheme adds yet another tangible dimension to the community benefits that would result if the Heysham South wind farm is approved.”
Banks is one of the leading owner/operators in the UK wind farm sector, and is looking to make a £7.5m investment in the Heysham South wind farm, which would be located on a site that falls within an area previously identified by the council as one where wind farm development should be promoted and encouraged.
The scheme would be able to produce enough renewable energy to meet the annual electricity consumption requirements of around 4,200 homes, and would prevent the release of around 8,475 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year that would occur through the production of the same amount of energy by non-renewable means.
Between ten and fifty people would be employed on the site at any one time during the site preparation and construction phases of the project, and in addition to the Warm Zone funding, a community benefits fund worth at least £10,000 per annum would be provided by Banks to support local voluntary groups, community organisations and environmental projects.
Anyone who would like more information on the Heysham South proposals can contact the Banks community team on 0191 378 6100 or email email@example.com