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Mayor James Palmer welcomes Swaffham Prior’s renewable energy progress

13 September 2019

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Mayor James Palmer has welcomed the exciting steps forward made by a South Cambridgeshire village community’s attempts to achieve future energy security

Swaffham Prior Community Land Trust (SPCLT) is now close to hitting its next milestone in achieving funding from central government to provide residents with a renewable energy source for their heating and hot water needs by 2021, following significant expressions of interest from local people in joining the scheme.

Expressions of interest from over 60% of residents are required to unlock the next round of funding to progress the development of a ground source heat pump, which will deliver a renewable energy alternative to oil, aimed at reducing fuel poverty and cutting the village’s carbon footprint by more than half.  To spread awareness, a new video highlighting how the community heating network will operate has been created and is available to watch here.

Mayor Palmer has supported the project from an early stage, including through £20,000 of Combined Authority funding to help push the project forward.  The funding was approved on the basis that the scheme has the potential to be replicated to benefit other communities across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.  

Mayor James Palmer said:

“This community-led village scheme to end reliance on oil and develop its own heating and hot water system has long had my backing and I’m delighted to see delivery on track to provide residents of Swaffham Prior with a reliable, renewable energy source.

What has excited me most about this project is the potential, not just for Swaffham Prior, but for villages throughout the Combined Authority area, of which many are still reliant on oil.  We have a potential model for villages to be more self-sufficient in energy, which can be replicated in local areas across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”  

Janet Hall, Community Engagement Lead at Swaffham Prior Community Land Trust, said:

“It has been incredibly encouraging to see so many people not just express their interest in the scheme but become active champions of the project. Leaving oil is a big consideration for households and the project team has worked closely with local residents to answer their questions. Residents are seizing the opportunity to improve their homes, local environment, and do their bit for climate change!

“We hope this is a first project for the future-proofing of villages in Cambridgeshire and have already been approached by neighbouring villages interested in developing similar schemes.”

Currently around 70% of homes in Swaffham Prior are heated by burning oil. This type of heating is environmentally unsustainable and, with the price of oil often fluctuating, potentially very expensive.  Oil requires heavy tanks for storage as well as boilers which need regular and costly maintenance. 

There are also concerns about the increasing negative impact on house prices for homes that continue to be reliant on oil, as alternative energy systems become more commonplace.  In Denmark, for example, 85% of villages run on similar community heating schemes.  

A renewable energy alternative will provide residents of Swaffham Prior with a life time of reduced energy costs and help to protect against fuel poverty, where people are unable to afford to heat their homes sufficiently which can cause health problems. 

At present, Swaffham Prior produces around 1,578 tonnes of carbon annually.  By 2021, however, this is expected to fall to 526.37 tonnes under the new heating system, slashing the carbon footprint of the village by 60%.

The SPCLT first approached Cambridgeshire County Council in 2017 to collaborate and support them with a community heat scheme.  After exploring numerous low carbon heating options, a detailed feasibility study suggested that a district heat network with an energy centre would be the most viable option.

The SPCLT and county council are working alongside the government department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy