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Salt Ayre Leisure Centre Decarbonisation, Lancaster City Council

Lancaster City Council declared a climate emergency after councillors unanimously voted to work towards creating a zero-carbon district by 2030.

The challenge

Lancaster City Council declared a climate emergency after councillors unanimously voted to work towards creating a zero-carbon district by 2030.

To prioritise resource and enable a data-led approach, the council developed a CO2 emissions dashboard that demonstrated nearly 60 per cent of emissions were from heating council buildings. A further breakdown showed some challenging sites including Town Halls, Museums and flagship parks, many of which are of a ‘listed’ status.

Salt Ayre Leisure Centre (SALC) was identified as being the single highest CO2 emitter, accounting for 34 per cent of the council’s natural gas emissions. A Building Heat Decarbonisation plan was undertaken for all sites and completed in March 2022.

The solution

The city council commissioned an Energy and Building Fabric Thermal Performance Appraisal for Salt Ayre Leisure Centre. The gas boilers at the centre were due for replacement and decarbonisation measures and technologies were reviewed. This included Solar Thermal, Biomass, Heat Pumps, CHP, modern gas boilers, roof replacement and overlays, curtain wall upgrades, glazing and LED lighting.

The council settled on options that generated the largest emission reductions and provided the best return on investment, based on BEIS projected energy costs. The preferred measures included a two-stage heat pump system, glazing and LED lighting.

The council was able to enhance outcomes and support their net zero strategy by developing options for a 1.3MW solar farm on a nearby, fully restored landfill site. This was then merged to create a comprehensive decarbonisation project.

The work was supported by Salix Finance, with the BEIS PSDS 1 funding. There were timescale challenges, officers submitted a funding application for the full scope of SALC decarbonisation work and were informed of its success in February 2021. Having ready partners and a streamlined process was vital given this timeline and as a result the full project was delivered within 12 months of funding being granted.

The impact

A range of beneficial impacts have been measured, with the leisure centre becoming carbon neutral – believed to be one of the first in the country. The project saved over 640 tonnes of CO2 per annum and a 34 per cent CO2 reduction from natural gas for the council.  The project also delivered £156,000 of social value from local contractors and supply chains.

During peak times, the 1.3MW solar array has enabled the leisure centre to become ‘off-grid’ for up to 12 hours per day, with the remainder supported by a REGO-backed green energy tariff. Annual energy cost savings have been estimated to be as high as £240,000 per annum in 22/23.

The project was also delivered whilst maintaining an open and operational leisure centre, with disruptive work scheduled to take place overnight.

In September 2022, the project won the 2022 Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) award for ‘Best Climate Action / Decarbonisation Initiative’.

Lessons learned

Partner collaborations were critical to the successful delivery, filling known knowledge gaps to support the delivery of the project. Partners included APSE Energy, Unify Group, Roadnight Taylor and local planning consultants, HPA

The process was also necessarily streamlined with report submission and approval early on to accept PSDS funds and a delegated authority was provided to expedite decision making.