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Residents of 650 Penplas homes set to benefit as ‘Transformative’ Swansea energy retrofit scheme kicks off

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Work is set to get underway on the UK’s largest ever energy retrofit project of its kind, that will see almost 650 homes in a Swansea community benefiting from the installation of state-of-the art renewable energy generation, energy storage and smart energy management technology.

The homes, in the Penderry Ward of the city, are owned and managed by Pobl, Wales’ largest provider of affordable housing, who have partnered with renewable energy tech and service supplier, Sero.

It is anticipated that the innovative scheme, supported by £3.5m EU funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government, will see the community generate as much as 60 per cent of their total electricity requirements, reducing bills as well as carbon emissions by as much 350 tonnes per year.  

Pobl has been engaging with local residents in Penderry about the future of their community over the last few years, including running a smart energy pilot scheme with a small number of residents.

The energy retrofit, which will kick off in the New Year, is seen as a stepping-stone to a wider investment into the Penderry area that will have a positive impact across the entire community.

Solitaire Pritchard, Head of Regeneration at Pobl Homes & Communities said: “Fuel prices and climate change are two sides of the same crisis, with people in Wales still among the most fuel-poor in the UK. We are committed to identifying new ways of making homes more environmentally and financially sustainable – and that includes our existing homes as well as our new developments.  This means we need to be innovative in our approach to finding a transformative solution and we are delighted to partner with Sero. The scheme will introduce technology into our homes that will change lives and sustain communities while also looking after the planet for future generations.”

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Homes as power stations (Image: Sero Homes)

James Williams, Managing Director of Sero says the project will make a compelling case for turning existing housing stock into low carbon, generative homes, creating “properly sustainable, connected communities”, and cutting energy bills for residents in the process.  

“Given its scale, Pobl’s  investment in Penderry will be very significant in demonstrating the positive environmental impact that low carbon technologies can have within existing housing stock” he said.

“There is, quite rightly, a growing requirement for new homes to be created carbon neutral, and that can’t come quickly enough. But, at the same time, as recognised by both the UK and Welsh Governments, there is huge potential for real environmental gains to be made by retro-fitting our existing homes to reduce their current 20% contribution to UK carbon emissions. This project will be an early exemplar of how that potential can be realised.” 

Julie James MS

Welsh Government Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James said: ““The transformational nature of this project on social housing in Wales is significant and this has been recognised by the ERDF funding at a time when we need to address the Climate Emergency and create new jobs, training and innovation opportunities in our communities in response to Covid 19.

“As one of the UKs largest energy retrofit projects, it shows a clear demonstration of the commitment from Pobl, local authorities and Wales’ social housing sector to reduce carbon emissions.

“This innovative project in Penderry will not only make a difference to its residents but is another step to having more low carbon homes in Wales.”

Sero will install individual or communal batteries for all homes that will harness power generated via linked solar panels fitted to most, so that renewable energy is generated and can be stored for subsequent use by the community. 

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Every home will also have new smart thermostats and intelligent heating controls, managed through Sero’s digital app, to deliver energy bill savings for residents while also balancing demand from the grid so that stored energy is used at the most expensive times. 

Serco’s digital app (Image: Pobl group)

The project will address new forms of inequality related to solar orientation by ensuring that all residents benefit from the energy generated by the community.

The Penderry community will also benefit from large scale infrastructure upgrades, due to Western Power Distribution using this project as its national pilot to trial the positive effects on local grid infrastructure of renewable energy supplies and storage that are intelligently managed through trusted systems installed in people’s homes.

Local resident Brian Mcallen participated in the pilot scheme and he welcomed news of the roll-out to the wider community, saying:

“This scheme will have enormous benefits for the entire community, it allows people to really see how green energy works and how much money they can save to use elsewhere. It can be a real eye opener.

“I’ve always been interested in it and thought about how we can use solar power to make a difference in this community, but there has to be an incentive for people.

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“You can explain the benefits as much as you want, it’s only when people can see it for themselves that it really hits home and they really understand it. This is straightforward and easy to use, it’s a great idea that everyone will benefit from.”

The scheme is the largest retrofit project of its kind – relating to the number of homes within one local area being retrofitted to deliver joined renewable energy benefits across the entire community.

Homes as power stations project in Neath (Image: Swansea Bay City Deal)

SWANSEA BAY CITY DEAL – HOMES AS POWER STATIONS PROJECT

Lessons learned from the Penderry scheme will inform the wider roll-out of renewable energy technology in thousands of homes throughout the Swansea Bay City Region as part of a City Deal Homes as Power Stations project, subject to its approval by the UK Government and Welsh Government.

Energy efficiency technology will be retrofitted to 7,000 homes with a further 3,300 new build homes also set to benefit as part of this regional project, which is led by Neath Port Talbot Council.  

Cllr Rob Jones, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council

Cllr Rob Jones, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council said: “A pathfinder scheme of this kind has already been completed in Neath, which will also inform the Homes as Power Stations regional project being led by Neath Port Talbot Council, subject to its approval.  

“Technology like this is important because it’ll help tackle fuel poverty and improve residents’ health and well-being, while benefitting regional supply chain businesses and further decarbonising the local and regional economies.”

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Swansea Council has also already begun the revolution of creating new energy efficient homes in the city. A pilot scheme has been completed, retrofitting six bungalows with innovative energy saving equipment which has helped the properties generate their own power as well as save on energy bills. 

Cllr Andrea Lewis, Swansea Council Cabinet Member for Homes, Energy and Service Transformation said: “This is great news for Swansea and for residents who want to live in homes which are sustainable and result in lower energy bills.     

“Some of our own tenants are already benefitting from this type of development and it’s fantastic to know that Pobl are also ensuring those living in social housing in the city will benefit in the future. Jointly we can help reduce the risks of issues such as fuel and energy poverty.”

(Lead image: Pobl group)


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Hunting

National Trust joins Natural Resources Wales in banning trail hunting on its land

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The National Trust’s board of trustees has announced the charity will no longer issue licences for trail hunting on Trust land.

This activity has been suspended on Trust land since November 2020 following a police investigation into webinars involving huntspeople discussing the practice. 

In October, the then director of the Masters of the Fox Hounds Association (MFHA) was found guilty of encouraging the use of legal trail hunting as a screen to carry out the unlawful chasing and killing of animals. 

At the charity’s Annual General Meeting in October 2021, members voted by 76,816 to 38,184 in favour of banning trail hunting on National Trust land.  

Harry Bowell, Director of Land and Nature said: “The board of trustees has carefully considered this issue. Its decision to issue no further licences for trail hunting is based on a wide range of considerations. These include – but are not limited to – a loss of trust and confidence in the MFHA, which governs trail hunting, the vote by National Trust members at our recent AGM, the considerable resources needed to facilitate trail hunting and the reputational risk of this activity continuing on our land.”   

Hunting wild mammals with dogs was banned in England and Wales by the Hunting Act of 2004. Following the National Trust’s 2017 AGM, the conservation charity introduced a dedicated Trail Hunting Management Team, which oversaw the licensing process and monitored trail hunting activity against the terms of the new licences.  

Since then, the Trust has seen both compliant and legitimate activity, but also multiple reported breaches.  

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The move by National Trust follows that of Welsh environment body Natural Resources Wales who also banned the practice earlier this month.

Dominic Driver, Head of Land Stewardship for NRW, said: “We have carefully considered the court ruling and our role before coming to a decision at the Board meeting, which we held in public session. The Board has decided not to renew our agreement with the Master Fox Hounds Association.

“The outcome of the court case against a senior leader of the MFHA has resulted in a loss of confidence in the organisation’s ability to ensure its activities are carried out within the law and terms of its agreement.

“In order to assure ourselves properly that trail hunting on our estate wasn’t being used as a cover for illegal activity, we would have to invest in skills and resources that we currently don’t have, to police it properly. Given what has historically been a minor use of the land we manage, this does not represent good use of our limited resources.

“As all trail hunting was managed under the same agreement, all trail hunting activity on the NRW-managed estate will end with immediate effect.”

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The move by Natural Resources Wales was welcomed by the RSPCA.

RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “This is a very welcome move from Natural Resources Wales, and marks a major step towards curtailing illegal hunting.

“The use of the scent of dead animals such as foxes as used by trail hunts is totally unnecessary as it can result in the hounds chasing live foxes rather than following the scent trail. There are other alternatives, such as drag hunting, in which hounds follow an artificially laid scent which is not derived from animals, so does not pose a threat to wildlife.

“We are concerned that legal trail hunting is being used to create a smoke screen to allow illegal hunting with dogs to continue, as a recent successful prosecution showed where hunters were encouraged to use trail hunting as a cover for illegal fox hunting – so this move to ban is wholly welcome, and we urge other landowners to follow suit in the interests of animal welfare.”

(Lead image: National Trust)

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Business

Swansea-based recycling business scoops national award

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Family-run business, Gavin Griffiths Recycling came out top at the Growing Business Awards 2021

This is the second award for the Swansea-based business this year, after the firm found success at the Swansea Bay Business Awards, picking up the Business of the Year 2021 award

The business describes itself as one of the region’s leading recycling, waste management, haulage and aggregate suppliers.

In a very competitive category at an awards ceremony to honour and reward the UK’s most entrepreneurial and high growth business, up against 1,400 other businesses in the category, Gavin Griffiths Recycling came out on top at the Growing Business Awards 2021.  

The firm said they were delighted to be announced B2B Business of the Year 2021 at the ceremony held at the Grosvenor Hotel in London. They described this latest award as further testimony to the hard work and determination that has seen the business accelerate its growth plans since its birth in 2005.

During the last 18 months, the group has opened its second site, a 40-acre inert recycling facility in Carmarthenshire, complimenting its existing mixed recycling facility in Swansea whilst delivering one of its largest and most prestigious contracts working on the Llangennech railway crash land remediation.  

The arrival of new staff, additional machinery, plant and 10 new trucks to support the expansion plans have also seen the continued investment into the business.

The company said that whilst keeping its values as a family business, they have continued their community and social values programme, supporting grassroots sports, individuals, schools, and charities across South and West Wales.

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Gavin Griffiths, Group Managing Director commented: “I was very honoured to see us make the final of such a prestigious national award, but when our name was read out as the winner, I was extremely proud of what we have achieved as a team. I would like thank the whole team, as well as every one of our customers, suppliers and stakeholders for supporting us on our journey so far. 

“This recognition is phenomenal, we are so grateful and humbled to have been chosen from so many other amazing throughout the UK. We have some exciting developments on the horizon that will see us pioneer and lead the way in the recycling market. To win two awards in one year, really shows how we have kept our family ethos and worked hard to serve our customers across the whole business.”

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Business

Swansea named the best city in Wales to buy pre-loved presents

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close up shot of a person wrapping a gift box

Sustainable e-tailer Bower Collective’s latest study finds the UK’s top places to buy second-hand gifts this Christmas

As much as £42m worth of Christmas gifts are unwanted (and sent to landfill) each year. To break the taboo around second-hand gifting this festive season, Bower Collective have released a study looking at the number of vintage stores, second-hand shops and vintage and second-hand events per capita across UK towns and cities to find the top places to find pre-loved presents.

Considering all factors, the study found Swansea is the “thrifty-gifting” capital of Wales. Elsewhere in Wales, Wrexham has the most second-hand shops per capita. The Welsh town has 34 second-hand shops per 10,000 people, the most per capita in the UK. Newport has the 4th most second-hand shops per capita, with 38 to offer.

The data for the four major cities can be found below:

LocationOverall rank in WalesNo. of vintage stores (rank per capita)No. of second-hand shops (rank per capita)No. of recent second-hand events (rank per capita)
Swansea1st16th18th47th
Newport2nd30th4th51st
Wrexham3rd49th1st41st
Cardiff4th17th41st44th

The study also researched the search volume of each city for sustainable and second-hand shopping terms like ‘sustainable gifts’, ‘charity shops’ and ‘vintage kilo sale’. Per capita, Cardiff searches the most for relevant terms in Wales. However they also found that searches in Swansea increased by 528% in the past year alone, the biggest one year growth in Wales and the UK overall.

Overall across the UK, Norwich, Worthing, Newcastle and Worcester are the best places to buy a pre-loved present. From looking at Google search trends, the study also found that Brits are searching for ‘sustainable gifts’ 988% more than they were three years ago. Searches for ‘Vintage Kilo Sale’ also rose by 167% and ‘charity shops’ searches went up by 95%.

Norwich, Norfolk featured in the top 10 for all factors, and also ranked top for the most vintage shops per capita, with 28 to choose between. The next best cities to go vintage shopping are Carlisle and Brighton.

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The city with the most second-hand events (like vintage kilo sales and table-top sales) is Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. For this festive season, residents of the city have over 30 events to get stuck into. The next places hosting the most second-hand events were Lincoln and Worcester.

The study can also reveal the most ‘thrifty gift’ winners of each UK Nation. Derry in Northern Ireland is the best place to buy pre-loved presents on the Emerald Isle, and considering its smaller size, Derry ranked 4th in the study for the number of vintage shops per capita – with 8 to purchase from. Glasgow is the ‘thrifty gifting’ capital of Scotland, and ranks 5th in the study overall. Glasgow also has the 6th most vintage shops per. capita in the UK – with 44 to explore.

The study was also supplemented with research into the UK’s changing search trends for sustainable and second-hand gift giving. The data found that those in Bath, Edinburgh and Oxford are searching the most for second-hand and sustainable gift giving search terms per capita.

However, since 2020 Swansea has seen the biggest one-year increase in relevant search terms (up by 528%). Milton Keynes (with an increase of 146%) and Woking (with an increase of 134%) were the next cities with the biggest growth of interest in shopping more climate-conciously.

(Lead image: EKATERINA BOLOVTSOVA / Pexels.com)

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