Grants for householders: The Green Homes Grant
The Government has recently announced a £5,000 voucher scheme for domestic energy improvements. Any homeowner or landlord can apply for this and people on low incomes can claim £10,000, but it does not apply to 'new build' properties and there is a tight deadline of the end of March 2021.
Insulation and heating bills may be far from your mind at the moment but if you are interested in the vouchers the sooner you act the better.
The money will cover up to two thirds of the cost of insulation or low carbon heating, or 100% if on a low income. If you apply for either of these then you can also add on draught proofing, new windows or doors and heating controls, but you cannot apply for these additional measures on their own. All work will have to be carried out by Trustmark registered installers with the Green Deal Approved symbol.
To qualify as low income you need to be a homeowner on at least one income-based or disability benefit.
Applications are being accepted from October 2020. For more information go to https://www.simpleenergyadvice.org.uk/pages/green-homes-grant.
The Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP)
The support on offer is twofold – firstly to assess your business premises, products and processes to see what improvements can be made with energy and resource usage and secondly, to provide grants of up to £20,000 (up to 40% of the total cost of the project) to implement the recommendations from the assessment and make your business more energy efficient.
How this programme can help your business:
There are a number of different activities that will be covered by the BEEP grants, including:
Heating and Insulation
Variable Speed Drive Compressors
Renewables and Energy Storage
Fast Shutting Warehouse Doors
The HEAT team has made a significant achievement in securing a grant of £34,000 from the Rural Community Energy Fund to undertake a feasibility study into how we use energy in our Parish. This study will determine if any opportunities exist to produce and store renewable energy and identify where we can reduce the carbon footprint of the energy we consume.
Following a formal tender process, The Sharenergy Cooperative, a consultancy with significant expertise and experience in delivering community renewable energy projects, has been appointed to carry out the study for us.
As a first step, a survey has been developed to determine approximately how much and what type of energy we use right now, how efficient our homes are at retaining heat and therefore how much carbon is emitted. We will use this estimate as a “baseline” against which to measure the effects of any carbon reduction efforts we may undertake in the future. Everyone in the Parish has been given an opportunity to take part in the survey.
Any possible projects that result from the study will be rated in terms of the impact they will have on these figures. Then a detailed design will be produced, so they are ready to be commissioned if financing is found.
Home Electricity Usage Surveys
We have two electricity monitors which our volunteers have been installing for a week in residents’ homes to log their electricity usage over that period. The results are then reviewed and residents advised on ways in which their electricity consumption can be reduced (and money saved!). One person discovered that her usage was already low but, through switching her provider to a green supplier, saved money anyway. On average we have found that switching to a green supplier can save 18-26% on electricity bills.
If you would like to participate in the scheme or just borrow a monitor and do your own review, please reply to this newsletter. The monitors do not interfere with your electric supply, they just measure the flow. Your electricity provider will not be aware that you are using the meter (but will notice if your bills decrease shortly after the exercise!).
Image from One Tree Planted
Worcestershire Climate Action Day
In June, we attended a one-day online conference run by the Centre for Sustainable Energy. The aim of the day was for parish councils to consider and plan more rapid action on climate change.
Representatives from twenty-five parish councils from across the county were present.
Some key take-aways included:
More than a third of carbon emissions come from buildings, with a similar proportion from both transport and individual consumption. Understanding personal choices, local policy, infrastructure investment and their effect on the environment are all critical in tackling the climate emergency.
Town and parish councils have a unique position through which they can stimulate grassroots action, set a leadership example and provide a local, accountable focal point for practical action on the climate emergency.
Although some actions may feel beyond our ability to influence at a local level, there is a huge amount we can do as individuals to reduce our own carbon footprints.
Hanley Castle Parish Council can be proud of its commitment towards carbon neutrality, but there is no room for complacency as the pace of climate change and the rate at which this is damaging the planet are accelerating and the time for action is now.
We will be running a ‘How to’ series over the coming months, describing relatively easy ways in which people can take action within their own lives as well as supporting the parish council's initiatives.
A Marbled White butterfly on knapweed
We have been able to carry out surveys of some of our verges; at the Pump House, Gilbert's End Farm and the two near Holloway Farm on the B4209. You can click here to see the results of the analysis. Although the lack of rain during May adversely affected some annual species, we have been very encouraged by the results. In particular, the Pump House verge, which used to be mown every two weeks, showed emergence of a range of species that only grow in low fertility grassland, which is exactly the kind of habitat we’re trying to create.
Unfortunately, some of the verges didn’t get roped off before lockdown and continued to be mown, but we have now asked for this to stop, so we may get some growth before the summer is out.
We will carry out a final survey in late August before mowing in September, when we will be asking volunteers to help rake off the cuttings. We will then come up with a plan for each site as to whether additional planting is needed or just mowing less and later and raking off will be sufficient.
Would you be interested in trialling an electric bike?
We are considering purchasing an electric bike to loan out to local residents for a few days/week - a ‘try-before-you-buy’ scheme – and we’d like to know if there would be demand for such a scheme.
Local residents who have already taken the plunge tell us that trying one out made all the difference and convinced them that however unfit or unconfident they felt on a normal cycle, they could get back on the road with an ebike. It wasn’t long before their fitness improved and it gave them the confidence to try longer journeys.
As well as enjoying one for leisure purposes, an ebike is also a great way to reduce the number of short journeys made running local errands in a car. If you would like to have a chat with someone who’s already taken the plunge, please get in touch and we will arrange this for you.
If you fancy trying out an ebike under our possible loan scheme, please let us know.
As well as the 420 trees planted at The Grange, a further 345 trees were planted during March 2020 – mainly oak saplings, with the addition of beech, hornbeam, birch, alder, lime and aspen. A tree was given to each child at Hanley Swan Primary School, and the rest were planted by local residents in their gardens or on their land.
The next planting season will be October/November this year. We are actively looking for sites which would accommodate one or more trees, so if you know of any please let us know.
If you have any young saplings in your garden that you do not want and would be happy to donate, please nurture them and let us know. When October comes, we will find a new home for them. The Woodland Trust give away free trees for public spaces, so your saplings would go to private gardens.
Bronze Eco Church Award for St Mary's
St Mary's Church Hanley Castle has recently achieved Bronze status under the Eco Church scheme.
The Church of England has resolved to have all its buildings, including churches, Carbon Zero by 2030. The Eco Church scheme was launched in January 2016. This is based around an online survey which looks at buildings, land, worship and teaching, lifestyle and community engagement. As a church completes the survey, it collects points towards an Eco Church award at one of three levels – bronze, silver and gold.
St Mary's electricity supply is from renewables and it uses no oil or gas. In the church yard there are wildflower areas, bird boxes and woodpiles. Recycling is carried out and Fairtrade products are purchased; the use of 'oasis' in flower arranging is being phased out, Creation festivals and teaching are regularly focussed on environmental themes, and the church is supportive of the Hanley Carbon Neutral initiative. The curate is an activist with the Climate Coalition.
St Gabriel's Church in Hanley Swan is also part of the scheme and is working towards achieving Bronze status.
The hall was packed out for the meeting.
Over 50 local residents came to the meeting held on 28th November 2019 in Hanley Swan Village Hall, arranged by the Parish Council to launch the Carbon Neutral initiative. Opened by Sue Roberts, Chair of the PC, and led by Sue Adeney, parish councillor, a panel of speakers with expertise in solar and biofuel energy, electric cars and forestry was present to give short talks and answer questions.
As well as providing a forum for debate around some of these issues, there were also practical suggestions on how individuals could reduce their carbon footprint. Steve Gogherty, Hanley Sawn resident, talked on behalf of the Hanley Energy Action Team ('HEAT') and outlined environmental considerations when people came to replacing their traditional boiler, as well as offering free energy testing and analysis so people could better understand where energy consumption could be reduced within individual households and money saved too. Steve Harvey of Let's Plant offered free trees for primary school children to plant at home.
Jane Jordan, Hanley Castle resident, talked about the biodiversity survey that Worcestershire Wildlife Trust had carried out for the parish and the the need to establish more wildflower diversity on verges and other public spaces.
At the end of the session, around twenty volunteers signed up to help with the various activities planned.
Click on image to access the presentation
Hanley Habitats Kick-Off Meeting
Our first meeting was held on 15th February 2020. Some 20 volunteers braved Storm Dennis to come along.
Sue Adeney spoke on behalf of the Parish Council and Jane Jordan (project leader) gave a presentation on the scheme before Jasmine Walters, guest speaker from Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, gave a talk on her biodiversity report.
Community Tree Planting
Organised by Peter Goodyear and Malcolm Fare, the parish’s first large scale tree planting activity took place at The Grange in Hanley Swan, when more than 20 people turned up to plant 420 trees in Howard Hutchings’s field. It all went remarkably smoothly.
In advance, Wayne Bridges of Whiting Landscape had kindly supplied a digger and his skilled operator Mick Lambert had expertly turned over the ground marked out by path warden and former forester Peter Goodyear. Steve Harvey of Let’s Plant donated all the trees – mainly oak saplings, with the addition of beech, hornbeam, birch, alder, lime and aspen – together with stakes and tree guards fitted with ties.
On the day, it was a simple matter of making a hole in the turned earth with a spade, planting a tree, hammering in a stake, fitting a plastic sleeve over the sapling and tightening its two ties – multiplied 420 times. Within two hours the volunteers had the job done and were rewarded with tea/coffee and fruit cake from Carol Hutchings and freshly baked rock cakes from Angela Godwin.