Funding win boosts council’s climate action

Visiting a council leisure centre for gym or swim will soon be greener, thanks to a £6 million funding award from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Published: Monday, 22nd March 2021

The funding will enable Cherwell District Council to refit ten of its buildings, including its four leisure centres, three sports pavilions and museum, with air source heat pumps and other cleaner, greener improvements. This will help the council to slash the environmental impact of heating the buildings, cutting its overall carbon emissions by up to 25 per cent.
 
The ten buildings currently account for around 69 per cent of the council’s carbon emissions, but it is estimated that the improvements will reduce its carbon footprint by up to 1,021 tonnes of CO2e. This is a real boost to the council’s efforts to reach net zero by 2030. 
 
Councillor Dan Sames, Lead Member for Clean and Green, said: “Even before we declared a climate emergency in 2019, we were looking for where we could reduce our carbon footprint and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and were well on our way to making reductions across our operations. Our success in bidding for funding from the government means that we will be able to accelerate our programme and highlights that addressing climate change requires substantial investment to make an impact.”
 
The BEIS £1bn public sector decarbonisation fund was conceived as part of the government’s COVID response and is intended to allow the public sector to deliver heat decarbonisation, renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. The fund will support up to 30,000 jobs in the low carbon and energy efficiency sectors nationally.
 
Councillor Lynn Pratt, Lead Member for Economy, Regeneration and Property, said: “This work shows our commitment to follow up on the climate emergency motion passed by the council in July 2019. Installing the latest environmentally friendly technology to Cherwell’s properties will have a huge impact on our efforts to become zero carbon by 2030.”
 
Alongside the air source heat pumps, Cherwell’s retrofit will also include other, simpler technologies such as insulation and lighting upgrades, as well as more innovative solutions such as solar PV linked to battery storage.
 
Cllr Sames added: “Being able to eliminate a quarter of the carbon generated by the council is a significant step forward to becoming carbon neutral. It demonstrates our commitment to tackling the causes of climate change and shows that we as a council are ambitious in maximising opportunities to make a difference when they are presented. Overall, this is a big win for Cherwell residents as we seek further reductions to reach our goal.”
 
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that the world had just a dozen years left to restrict global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate breakdown. This triggered, among other activity, a UK climate emergency declaration in May 2019. 
 
The retrofit project is scheduled to complete before the end of this year.
 
The full list of council buildings to be refitted includes:
 
• Bicester Leisure Centre
• Kidlington Leisure Centre
• Spiceball Leisure Centre
• Woodgreen Leisure Centre
• Drayton Pavilion
• Stratfield Brake Sports Pavilion
• Whitelands Sports Pavilion
• Thorpe Lane Depot
• Banbury Museum
• Franklins House