District villages becoming carbon neutral

Community spirit - Ray and David in front of the community centre

It is one of the biggest challenges facing communities in the 21st Century but while many are still grappling with the issue, two North Yorkshire villages are now on the cusp of becoming carbon neutral.

Monk Fryston and Hillam now expected to reach the benchmark next year, following a joint initiative which has seen the community centre, primary school, church, football and cricket clubs as well as residents themselves working together to combat climate change.

The remarkable achievement puts the community years ahead of the targets set by many public bodies and demonstrates what can be achieved by those determined to make a difference.

Major changes have included the installation of solar panels to provide carbon neutral power, complete with battery storage to allow electricity to be used for lighting.

But the whole community has been offered the opportunity to contribute with thermal imaging camera surveys allowing them to map the points where heat is lost from their homes and where drafts cause buildings to use more power than necessary to maintain heat.

Monk Fryston and Hillam Community Association came up with idea of the sustainability project and found they had almost total support from villagers.

Ray Newton was appointed project manager and the initiative gathered pace as a series of grants helped to move the proposals forwards.

Mr Newton explained: “Right at the start we asked residents for their views on the project with over 96 per cent either strongly supporting or supporting the project. It was really important to get that community support at the very start of this journey.

“The project has received funding from a variety of sources, beginning with the Rural Communities Energy Fund.

“This funding has been used for a feasibility study to examine if it was possible to make our community buildings carbon neutral and then options on how to do it with cost forecasts to power the buildings with sustainable energy.

“These options enabled us to take a big stride towards making them carbon neutral.

“Later, a grant from the Peoples Post Code Lottery funded a thermal imaging camera, solar PV panels and battery storage for the community centre.

“The thermal imaging camera was used to survey all the community buildings to identify areas of heat loss and local people have been trained to survey homes and buildings.

“Areas identified using the camera as losing heat can then be looked at to find ways to reduce energy loss.”

Pupils at Monk Fryston Church of England Primary School have recently celebrated the Gold Eco Schools Green Flag Award in recognition for their hard work in environmental education.

The school formed a committee of Eco Warriors who led a number of actions that benefitted their school and community.

Monk Fryston United Football Club has raised funds to buy a battery powered LED floodlight system to allow teams to train at their Stocking Lane pitch during the dark nights, rather than travelling out of the village to train.  The next step is to install solar panels to charge the batteries

Club vice-chairman Dave Cockayne said: “In the last five years, we have almost doubled the club in terms of the numbers of young people playing and the community nature of it is really important.

“We wanted to work together around various issues, particularly the carbon side. We had parents driving children to flood-lit pitches and that was just nuts when we were trying to reduce our carbon footprint,” he said.

Acquiring the flood lights means journeys for training sessions at Knottingley are no longer needed and more work has been done to encourage people to leave cars behind for their trips to and from the village football ground, with car-sharing encouraged when the teams play away from home.

The purchase of the flood lights was made possible through a parish council grant, he said, and that was an important step in a logical chain of changes to reduce carbon output, which will be take a step further when solar panels are installed to charge the flood light rigs.

“Our strategy has been to invest in the facilities and we have done it in order; it has been a case of how much we can do and at what pace.”

He also praised Mr Newton’s commitment to the project: “Villages need people like Ray, who can commit the time. He has been able to corale different groups under this banner and the benefits are multiple.”

The cricket club and football club are also jointly working on a plan to replace their Pavilion cess pit with a more sustainable biodigester, which has been supported with grants from North Yorkshire County Council and Selby District Council.

Renewable energy systems will then follow in due course. St Wilfrid’s Church is focussing on the Church Hall which is in need of major restoration including installing an air source heat pump to replace an old gas boiler.

Mr Newton said: “Recently the school has received a government grant to replace its ageing gas boilers with ground source heat pumps and its fluorescent lights with LED ones; and the community centre has a grant from The Community Lottery Fund to replace its gas heating with an air source heat pump.

“Both organisations will share their learning and data with residents and other organisations. They are being recognised as exemplar community sustainable building projects.”

A new website is now in the pipeline and a feature of that will be to display the formula used to calculate the carbon neutrality of the villages’ public buildings and facilities and the results.

Mr Newton said the original target had been to reach the threshold this year, but getting the new website running and calculating emissions to clarify their level of success means the target date has been put back to 2023 and he is confident at that point the calculations will add up to carbon neutrality.

Selby District Council’s Deputy Leader and Lead Executive Member for Place Shaping, Cllr Richard Musgrave, praised the way the villagers have worked together.

“It is fantastic to see the way these different organisations have come together to unite for one common aim.

“Their individual achievements and way of working together for the benefit of their residents – and the wider community – should rightly serve as an inspiration to other residents, community groups and organisations and businesses in our district.”

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for climate change, Cllr Greg White, said: “It is everyone’s responsibility to react to climate change and the county council has its own agenda for change in this area.

“That’s why we were happy to support this project, which is a remarkable example of what can be done when there is a will to make change.

“The fact that so many people were behind this project from the start was a great indicator of public feeling on this topic in North Yorkshire. Hopefully others will learn from their experience.”

A YouTube video is available to find out more about the project.

To find out more about this project visit the Community Association sustainability web page - https://www.mfhcc.com/sustainability-project/news-about-us/