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£5m to create greener libraries and community centres

14 March 2024

Libraries and community centres across Cambridgeshire are set benefit from over £5m of investment, after the county council’s Environment and Green Investment Committee today (14 March) backed decarbonisation plans.

Libraries in Bar Hill, St Ives, Littleport and Whittlesey along with youth centres in Whittlesey (Scaldgate) and Ramsey (Ailwyn) as well as The Horizon Resource Centre in Cambridge will see a range of energy efficiency and environmentally-friendly heating upgrades. Improvements to reduce the carbon emissions from county offices Awdry House in Wisbech and Sackville House in Cambourne were also agreed. These locations were chosen for retrofit works as they are amongst the highest carbon emitting sites owned (or leased-long term) by the county council.

All buildings will have their existing gas or oil-based heating systems upgraded to air source heat pumps. Most locations are also seeing further improvements including a mix of roof and wall insulation, the addition of double glazing, new LED lighting and solar panels.

The changes are estimated to create annual savings of over 178 tonnes of carbon emissions (tCO2e). Over 81 tonnes of carbon emissions are expected to be saved at the Horizon Resource Centre, a day centre for older people and people with learning disabilities. The electricity supply at the centre will also be upgraded.

The projects will be funded by a grant of more than £1.2m from the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme following a successful bid by council officers. The scheme is run by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and is delivered by Salix Finance.

The county council is also investing £3.8m of its own monies in the projects from its Decarbonisation Fund.

This latest programme of nine projects follows the success of 25 projects to replace fossil-fuel based heating systems at council buildings since 2020. These works are expected to reduce the authority’s gas use by a third. In total, the 25 building retrofits undertaken mean these sites are expected to save 435 tCO2e each year.

Councillor Lorna Dupre, Chair of the Environment and Green Investment Committee said: “We are committed to becoming a Net Zero authority by 2030. Cutting the use of fossil fuels for heating as well as improving the energy efficiency of our buildings is essential to achieve our goal.

“These changes are also set to bring down our building heating costs. When we consider carbon emission savings and energy bills, our investment in this decarbonisation programme will pay for itself over the next 17 years.”

Salix Director of Programmes Ian Rodger said: “We face huge challenges as a country in meeting our net zero goals and we have no time to waste in reducing our carbon footprint.

“It’s a privilege to work across the public sector with organisations like Cambridgeshire County Council to reduce the carbon produced through heating our buildings and to make them more energy efficient by cutting the use of fossil fuels.

“We are delighted to support the council in making these important libraries and community centres better places for the local communities they serve, so everyone can enjoy them in comfort whilst knowing they are more environmentally sound."

Site surveys will take place shortly and detailed designs are due to be drawn up over the summer with the appointment of contractors scheduled to take place by the end of the year. The majority of the works are anticipated to occur from April 2025.