Old Hutton churchgoers getting warmer welcome thanks to Banks Group grant

March 1, 2013 | Armistead News


A warm welcome is awaiting worshippers at a village church in south Lakeland after a four-figure grant from a renewable energy firm helped turn the heating back on.

Two years ago, the Parochial Church Council at St John The Baptist Church in Old Hutton near Kendal installed a number of new infra-red overhead heaters to replace the existing under-pew heating system, which had become increasingly inefficient and ineffective against the cold.Unfortunately, the electricity supply in the church wasn’t strong enough to cope with the infra-red heaters’ power needs, meaning that they repeatedly tripped the whole circuit, and because the old system had been disconnected, the building was regularly left without heating of any kind.

Electricity Northwest advised the PCC that the church needed a three-phase electricity supply if it wanted to solve its problems – and now, thanks to a £5,028 grant from Banks Renewables, via its Banks Community Fund, the upgraded supply has been put in place.

Contracts were given to two firms based in the village as part of the project, with Ned Brooks Haulage & Plant Hire excavating the trench and laying the duct required for the new supply, and electrical contractor Mike Capstick connecting everything up.

A time clock has been added to the heating system to make it more controllable, and because the new supply is robust enough to manage both systems’ electricity needs, it’s been possible to reconnect the old under-pew heating system as part of the project, thus providing even greater control over how and when the building is warmed up.

The present church building is around 130 years old, but there is thought to have been a church on the site for around 500 years.  It is the only church of any denomination in the local area, and is well attended by a congregation of up to 100 people.

Tony Bontoft, church warden and PCC treasurer, says: “After raising the money for the new heating system, it was a real blow to find that we weren’t able to make best use of it, and with the old heaters having been taken offline, it often left us in a worse situation than we’d been in before.

“In the present climate, it’s hard enough raising the money we need for our day-to-day running costs, let alone big projects like this, and putting these problems right on our own would have entailed a great deal of difficult fundraising work, so Banks’ assistance has made an enormous difference and we’re extremely grateful for their help.

“We’ve felt a real improvement in the environment within the church, which has been very welcome with the arrival of the first properly cold winter weather, and many members of our congregation have already said how much more warm and welcoming the atmosphere is as a result.”

Banks Renewables is the company behind the Armistead wind farm that has been built on land near to Old Hutton, to the east of the M6 between junctions 36 and 37, and it is also looking to develop the proposed Killington scheme, which would be situated on land between the A684 Sedbergh Road and Junction 37 of the M6.

The Banks Renewables Armistead community benefits fund will make around £12,300 available every year to support environmental and community improvements in the surrounding area, and the company will be working in partnership with local people to help ensure their priorities are reflected in the initiatives that are supported by this fund.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, adds: “Managing the heating of buildings like St John’s is difficult enough at the best of times, and the problems with the electricity had made it almost impossible, so we were only too pleased to be able to support the PCC’s plans to upgrade the supply, especially as local contractors were also able to benefit as a result.

“Making efficient use of energy is at the core of all our renewables schemes, and we hope churchgoers will enjoy a warmer welcome at St John’s for many years to come.”

Projects, community groups, or organisations looking for funding in the vicinity of a Banks Group development should contact Christine Rackley at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.

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