By Betsy Everett
Plans to bring green energy, including electric vehicle charging points, to a Dales village have received a major boost with a £36,300 grant to examine the options.
The money will enable Askrigg Community Energy, representing seven community organisations, to commission a feasibility study and potentially apply for a second grant of up to £100,000.
Other groups, including local businesses, will be approached to take part and there is the possibility of looking separately at all individual households, as well as vehicle charging points for residents, visitors and community vehicles.
Project manager, Sue Stokes, a director of the Yorebridge Sports Development Association which is leading the scheme, said the award of the first part of the grant by the Rural Community Energy Fund, was exciting news, but stressed it was only the beginning.
“We are taking it a step at a time, and hoping the study will enable us to apply for the second round of funding next year.”
The contract for the consultation will be awarded in the week beginning August 10, and the study is expected to start at the end of the month.
Her inspiration in seeking out and applying for the grant came during a game of bridge in January at the local sports and leisure centre, run by the YSDA, which in normal times hosts a variety of classes.
Sue said: “We were all freezing, trying to heat the classroom with fan heaters which in a large space are just not efficient.
“The play group and the whist club in the village hall were facing the same problem, as does the church, and in fact everyone in a rural village like ours. Community groups can barely cover their costs when heating and lighting is so expensive.
“This is a scheme which if it’s accepted could benefit the whole community — households, businesses, community groups — everything.”
Lockdown due to the coronavirus meant full public consultation involving face-to-face meetings was not possible, but the organisations taking part in the project represent a wide cross-section of the community, she said.
These are the Yorebridge Sport Development Association, Yorebridge Education Foundation, Bainbridge Askrigg and West Burton Schools, Low Mill outdoor activity centre, St Oswald’s Church, the Askrigg Foundation, and Askrigg village hall.
Askrigg and Low Abbotside parish council are supportive.
In its grant submission to the Tees Valley Combined Authority, which has £1.35 million to support rural community groups through the Rural Community Energy Fund, the Askrigg group says: “Organisations want to be able to afford sufficient energy to provide a warm, useful environment to satisfy… increasing demand from the community.”
Technologies which will be looked at in the feasibility study include solar panels, and ground, water and air heat source pumps, as well as an electric vehicle infrastructure.
“We don’t yet know what the consultants will advise. It could be a combination of technologies, but we are fortunate to have access to a piece of land owned by the Yorebridge Education Foundation that could potentially be used for ground source heating,” said Sue.
Planning permission will have to be sought from the national park authority but initial enquiries have shown the study meets their renewable energy policy.
If the feasibility study is successful, the Askrigg Community Energy can apply for a second round of funding up to £100,000 to support planning applications and, according to the Tees Valley Combined Authority, “develop a robust business case to attract further investment”.
St Oswald’s Church, the Askrigg Foundation building due for refurbishment, and the village hall are all included in the initial bid.