Ashford Borough Council has secured a £1.45m Government grant to replace the ageing power plant at its flagship Stour leisure centre with a state-of-the-art system which will slash running costs, cut carbon emissions by 45% and provide a boost to bold ambitions to make the borough carbon neutral by 2030.

The council submitted a bid to the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS), which provides grants for public sector bodies to fund energy efficiency and heat decarbonisation measures. The £1bn scheme is part of the Government’s Plan for Jobs 2020 to support the UK’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

Stour Centre works

Cllr Gerry Clarkson, Leader of Ashford Borough Council, announced at Cabinet last night (Thurs, 26 Nov) that the corporate property team had secured a grant of £1,449,513.11 from the PSDS. The money will be spent on replacing the existing gas fired heating plant with high-tech air to water heat pumps, along with other improvements including the installation of PV solar panels to provide the electricity to power the new system.

Benefits of the scheme include:

·       Reduction of the Stour Centre’s annual carbon emission total by 657 tonnes or 45% (the equivalent to the CO2 emissions from the annual heating of 243 homes).

·       Energy savings of 40%, contributing to lower running costs at the centre.

·       A significant contribution to the council’s goal of making the borough 100% carbon neutral by 2030.

·       Frees up vital council funds to be spent on other priority projects.

Cabinet was told that a condition of the grant was that the project needs to be completed by 31 March 2021 where possible. The work will run alongside the wider refurbishment of the Stour Centre, which is due to be completed by the end of June ahead of the centre’s reopening.

Stour Centre

As air source heating is electrically powered, the generation of electricity on site supports this method of heating, which is why a solar PV installation is also included in the scheme.   Further efficiencies will be achieved by the installation of more energy efficient pumps and motors, and upgrades to the building management system software and controls.

The scheme details have been modelled by Leisure Energy, who are specialist energy management consultants within the leisure sector. This has been completed as part of their partnership work with Freedom Leisure, the new operators of the Stour Centre, Julie Rose Stadium and Spearpoint Pavilion. 

Cllr Clarkson told Cabinet: “We applied for the grant as part of the council’s bold commitment to be 100% carbon neutral by 2030, with an 80% reduction target by 2025.

“The Government’s decarbonisation scheme is open to applications until 11 January 2021, and we will now be working with Leisure Energy on further grant applications for the Civic Centre and Tenterden Leisure Centre.”

Ivan Horsfall Turner, Managing Director of Freedom Leisure, said: “Minimising environmental impact is a priority for Freedom Leisure right across our organisation. The news that Ashford Borough Council has been successful in their bid for a £1.45m Government grant to support a plant improvement project that will cut carbon emissions by 45% is fantastic.

“We work closely with Leisure Energy and we are confident that the project will be successfully delivered and achieve the expected outcomes.”

By Ed

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