Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Panel savings

SAVINGS of more than £3,500 have been made by installing solar panels in Henley.

SAVINGS of more than £3,500 have been made by installing solar panels in Henley.

Henley Town Council agreed to the installation of 179 black-framed panels at the Over-60s Club in Greys Road car park, Henley outdoor sports centre and Exclusively Ladies fitness centre, both in Reading Road, in October.

In the six months since their installation, which cost £55,604, the energy produced by the panels saved the council £3,510. The council initially expected to save £6,410 for the whole year.

Energy consumption at the Over-60s club was reduced by 36 per cent between January and June compared to the same period last year.

Councillors have now suggested expanding the project to cover other buildings, including the town hall despite opposition from some of its members as well as English Heritage, and have revived a sustainable working group. At a meeting of the council’s finance strategy and management committee, chairman Councillor Ian Reissmann said it was on course to meet targets for savings and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Councillor Elizabeth Hodgkin called the figures “terrific” and Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak said they were “very, very good”.

He said: “The environment box has been ticked and we have saved £3,500 from the dark months of the year. If we double it we will save £7,000 but it could be £9,000. It’s a very good deal and a really good news story for Henley.”

The town hall was also originally nominated for solar panels but after English Heritage opposed the idea due to the effect it would have on the building, councillors voted not to take it any further at the time.

However, Councillor Gawrysiak said the council should now reopen the debate. Councillor Will Hamilton said: “I welcome the savings they have made but I still think they are particularly ugly and we shouldn’t have got them in a conservation area.”

Cllr Reissmann said there were opportunities for more solar panels to be introduced in the town, including the town hall, and didn’t believe they were all unsuitable.

He said English Heritage has concerns about the way the panels would be fixed to a listed building and its visibility.

“English Heritage believes that if we engage with it there’s a reasonable chance we can do something that will meet all the objections,” said Cllr Reissmann.

“I would like to see what opportunities there are to extend this sustainable project.”

Cllr Reissmann suggested reviving the sustainable working group from last year to investigate the options on the town hall as well as other possible locations for panels and other measures for energy saving. He proposed a council officer to be involved but this was rejected by other councillors and clerk Mike Kennedy, who said they already have many other responsibilities.

Cllr Gawrysiak said the group should be set up to establish a principle of energy saving in the town.

He added: “We have a duty to progress these items. We’ve proved that these figures are good for Henley so it’s important that we do pursue this.”

Deputy Mayor Martin Akehurst questioned whether the panels would even be visible from the street if they were placed on the flat, horizontal part of the roof rather than on the slope.

The council voted by five members to four to set up the working group again. It will include Cllr Reissmann and Cllr Gawrysiak as well as three residents who were previous members but there will be no council officers involved.

Tenants of the three sites could also benefit from the savings as the council will be take into account the reduced energy costs when leases come up for renewal where applicable.

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