Arun District Council - 2008 Ashden Award winner

Arun District Council serves a region on the South Coast of England, with 65,000 households and a population of 140,000. A large percentage of the population is retired, some living in mobile home parks.

In spite of a small budget for sustainable energy work, Arun has been able to make significant progress by carefully targeting funds and forming partnerships with other organisations.

By providing affordable warmth, Arun is improving health and comfort, and reduction debt for those at greatest risk.

Wendy Lockton-Goddard, Creative Environmental Networks

Background

Arun District Council covers both wealthy and deprived regions, and is a popular retirement destination with many residents aged over 75. Housing is mixed, with semi-detached and detached houses the most common. There are also a significant number of bungalows and flats, together with multiply-occupied properties. Considerable new build is taking place which contrasts with the established Victorian terraced properties, and there are 3,500 council-owned homes dating from 1900 to 1990. There are also a large number of mobile home parks, and although some are for holiday use, many are residential.

Although there is a good level of employment within the area, many of the jobs are lowwage. The largest industries are horticulture (including growing flowers in glasshouses), tourism, a cosmetics factory and a printed circuit board factory.

In spite of a small budget, Arun has been able to make significant progress on sustainable energy by carefully targeting funds and forming partnerships with other organisations.

Local residents visit the mobile energy efficiency advice centre in the main street of Littlehampton

The organisation

Arun District Council, has headquarters in the town of Littlehampton, and covers a region within West Sussex on the south coast of England, with 65,000 households and a population of 140,000. In 2007 it employed about 475 full-time equivalent staff, and had a budget of about £87 million.

The programme

Reducing energy consumption in public and private housing

Arun Council has a fifteen-year rolling plan of maintenance on all council-owned property. The plan has been modified to include a review of energy use every time a building becomes due for maintenance, and money is also set aside for improvements in energy efficiency. As a result, houses and flats have had cavity wall and loft insulation installed, low energy light bulbs fitted, and single-glazed windows replaced with double-glazed.

Arun has also worked hard to improve energy efficiency in private housing stock. Free insulation is offered for the over-60s, with the scheme targeted at those whose pension is their main source of income. Multiple indices of deprivation are used to identify the areas most in need of assistance. Partial or full grants for insulation are also available to other households in the area and top-ups for Warm Front grants, which are often insufficient to cover the cost of heating system upgrades. Arun has also negotiated special prices with a solar thermal water heating installer to encourage households to purchase systems.

Local residents sign up at the mobile energy efficiency advice centre

In the private rented sector Arun has two schemes to encourage landlords to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. One offers grants to landlords of licensed HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation) to install an A-rated boiler, thermostatic radiator valves and insulation. The other scheme is an accreditation programme for landlords, covering fire safety and energy efficiency. There are a significant number of students in the Bognor area who prefer to rent houses that are accredited, so there is an incentive for landlords to bring their properties up to the required safety and efficiency standards.

Energy advice to the wider community

Within the civic centre in Littlehampton, all printing and photocopying is logged to users’ accounts, so that departmental quotas can be monitored. Paper documents are being scanned into a document management system in an effort to reduce paper use and printing. The building itself has had energy-efficient lighting and thermostatic radiator valves installed.

Arun also has a procurement policy which takes into account environmental factors and use of local suppliers. So for example, energy efficiency is considered when purchasing new equipment; and source of materials, transport distance and disposal route must be considered for building projects.

Solar thermal water heater

How is the programme funded?

The schemes managed by Arun are funded in different ways, but in many cases the council has chosen to use some of its discretionary budget to fund sustainable energy work. It also partners with other councils on projects such as the Mobile Energy Efficiency Advice Centre, and with energy suppliers such as EDF on free insulation for the over-60s.

Benefits

By 2008, efficiency upgrades had been completed in near all the 3,500 homes owned by the Council, with solar thermal water heating and gas-fired CHP units installed in some sheltered housing blocks.

Over 1,800 private homes had been insulated, 2,365 households had taken advantage of insulation grants and 56 top-up Warm Front grants. 15 solar water heaters had been installed under the council deal.

Environmental benefits

The energy efficiency measures installed in both council-owned and private housing resulted in estimated greenhouse gas savings of 11,700 tonnes/year of CO2 in 2007. Information and education about energy efficiency will have led to further savings.

The new boiler has saved me at least 40% on my gas bill.

Liam Connell, landlord

Social benefits

Residents see an immediate benefit from the reduction of energy bills, but another important benefit is increased social interaction, as people with under-heated homes tend to isolate themselves socially. Residents’ health is also improved by being able to keep their homes at a reasonable temperature and avoid damp problems. Households with solar water heating find that it produces nearly all of their hot water from late spring to early autumn and in some cases for most of the year.

Update: what happened next?

Arun Council used its Ashden Award fund to set up a renewable energy advice scheme. This has been designed to give impartial advice to residents who are considering installing renewable energy systems. Residents fill in a survey form and receive a tailored renewable energy report, incorporating specific local information such as climate details and a list of local installers. The Council has sourced a fund to provide som interest-free loans for installations.

Arun is also taking part in a project to insulate blocks of flats that would have been too complicated to fund under other schemes. Other work has continued: by May 2010 the efficiency refurbishment of council housing had been completed, 2,821 private homes had received insulation grants and 127 top-up Warm Front grants.