Major “warm zone” scheme planned for Whitehaven area

May 24, 2012 | Community News

Families across the Whitehaven area could be in line to benefit from a new scheme designed to tackle fuel poverty that could see millions of pounds of new funding being made locally available.

Renewable energy firm Banks Renewables is looking to set up a Warm Zone scheme in the area, in partnership with the Warm Zones community interest company, which would deliver practical measures such as cavity wall insulation and loft insulation into local homes in order to help to alleviate fuel poverty and improve domestic energy efficiency on a district-wide basis.

Setting up a Warm Zone scheme has been proven to be one of the most effective ways of improving the energy efficiency of the housing in a given area, and thus tackling 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.Establishing a Warm Zone leads, on average, to benefits worth around £3million becoming available to people in the area, 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 the fuel poverty trap.

Locations including Newcastle, North Staffordshire and Northumberland have already seen remarkable results through taking this approach, and Banks has pledged to provide an investment of £50,000 to set up a Warm Zone covering the whole of the Whitehaven area if their proposals for the nearby six-turbine Weddicar Rigg wind farm are approved.

Banks has already successfully adopted this joined-up approach in South Yorkshire, where a Warm Zone has been set up in conjunction with the approval of the Penny Hill Wind Farm in Rotherham, and at least a dozen people could be employed through the Whitehaven Warm Zone scheme, thus delivering further tangible economic benefits to the communities around the proposed wind farm.

Banks is looking to make an £17million investment in the Weddicar Rigg wind farm, which would be situated on agricultural land around three kilometres to the east of Whitehaven and over one kilometre away from Moresby Parks.

The scheme would encompass six turbines with a maximum tip height of 115m, and would have an installed capacity of up to 12MW, which would be enough to meet the annual electricity consumption requirements of approximately 9,500 homes.

In addition to the Warm Zone investment, a community benefits fund would also run alongside the wind farm if it is approved, which would offer around £750,000 of funding for local community groups, environmental and voluntary projects during the lifetime of the scheme, in order to provide further long-term benefits for the area from Banks’ presence there.

Up to 50 jobs would be created through the construction of the wind farm, in addition to those created by the Warm Zone scheme, and local businesses would be able to tender for contracts relating to the construction of the wind farm worth around £3.5million.

Banks is one of the UK’s leading developers in the wind farm sector, and has a number of similar completed and ongoing projects at various stages of development across the north of England and Scotland, including the Armistead wind farm in south Cumbria, where preparatory construction work has just commenced.

The company carried out a comprehensive search of the West Cumbria area and identified the Weddicar Rigg site because of its exceptional wind resource, which is significantly higher than average UK wind speeds, and because the physical features of the landscape makes it especially suitable for development of this type.

Phil Dyke, development director at Banks Renewables, says: “Sharing the benefits of the schemes that we operate with the communities in which they are situated in this way is part of Banks’ long-term policy for ensuring that local people gain tangible, long-term advantages from our presence.

“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 Weddicar Rigg 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.

“Managing rising domestic energy costs is a pressing issue for everyone these days, and the funding we would provide for the Warm Zone scheme adds yet another tangible dimension to the community benefits that would result if the Weddicar Rigg wind farm is approved.”

Banks submitted its Weddicar Rigg planning application to Copeland Borough Council in November last year, and the Council’s planning committee is expected to consider it during the summer.  Anyone who would like more information on the Weddicar Rigg proposals can contact the Banks project team on 0191 378 6100 or email Weddicarrigg@banksgroup.co.uk

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