Ashton Hayes, Chester
The Ashton Hayes Going Carbon Neutral Project is a community-led initiative that is aimed at making the village the first carbon neutral community in England.
The journey towards the low carbon lifestyle began in November 2005 when the Parish Council voted to adopt a proposal by a long-term resident (Garry Charnock) that the village should try to become carbon neutral.
The project’s official launch was in Ashton Hayes Primary School on 26th January 2006 on a bitterly cold night. Nevertheless, around 400 people (75% of village adults) came to the meeting to show support and embark on behavioural changes to reduce their personal carbon footprint.
The project has drawn substantial support from local businesses and councils and from Professor Roy Alexander and his team from the University of Chester. Each summer, university students carry door-to-door surveys asking residents questions about their lifestyle – domestic energy use, travel, holidays etc. Using this data, they compute their domestic footprint and that of the entire village. Residents are also giving feedback about the survey and guidance on what further actions they can take to cut their carbon emissions.
Six surveys have been carried out since the launch in 2006 and these reveal that the community has managed to cut its carbon emissions by 40% through behavioural changes such as switching off appliances and changing to low energy light bulbs. Some people have cut the costs of their energy bills 50% by focusing on improved insulation and careful energy use.
The project has not only attracted widespread support from the local community but from like-minded communities and the world’s media. The village has now linked with over 1000 communities around the globe and has featured in the 2007 Live Earth concert, Financial Times magazine and been highlighted as an example of best practice by the Rural Advocate and the Government’s Act on CO2 campaign.
In 2007 the project won the IVCA Clarion Award for Climate Change Communications and the Energy Institute’s ‘Community Initiative Award’. In 2011 Garry Charnock was awarded Climate Week’s “Inspirational Leader of the Year Award” for his work in Ashton Hayes and with the City-based Carbon Leapfrog Charity. The project´s website attracts about 2000 users a month who download videos and data given out freely by the project.
In 2010 Ashton Hayes was selected as one of the 22 communities to receive funding under DECC’s Low Carbon Communities Challenge. With a grant of £400,000 they have built a low carbon sports pavilion complete with Solar PV array that help to fund the maintenance of the pavilion and field. They have also funded PV arrays for low carbon school classrooms.
They are currently looking at new ways to generate income for the community through renewable energy.
The success of the Going Carbon Neutral Project has given the community confidence to embark on other social enterprises – a community owned shop and field. The community is now aiming to buy the village pub and is preparing a Neighbourhood Plan and hopes to start a sustainable community development company. As part of these efforts, local sponsor RSK is currently undertaking a cost-price ecology survey for the Ashton Hayes Parish area.
More information can be found here:
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016