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Frome’s green revolution is gathering pace

The Frome Town Council Team outside the Cheese and Grain when the solar panels were being installed

The Frome Town Council Team outside the Cheese and Grain when the solar panels were being installed

FROME is fast becoming one of the greenest towns in the UK. A whole range of ground-breaking initiatives in recent months have put Frome firmly on the map as a leading environmently friendly town. 

And the town’s efforts have been recognised with Frome Town Council picking up a prestigious nomination in this year’s South West Green Energy Awards, following on from the Cheese and Grain winning a Green Apple Award earlier this year.

Mayor, cllr Peter Macfadyen said, “The town council set out a ‘Strategy for Success’ nearly four years ago  and this aimed to take every opportunity we could find to make Frome a greener place.

“We did this because we wanted Frome to look and feel like a town set in the countryside; because there are a growing number of jobs in ‘green’ industries; and because the rising costs of energy and waste disposal will be a real burden to both individuals and industry unless we can find innovative ways of reducing these.

“It’s taken a while, but I am delighted we’ve now started to make a real difference in many of these areas.”

Amongst the town’s ambitious green initiatives are:

• The town council being one of the first in the country to employ an energy and recycling officer. The role will help secure greater self-reliance in energy and resource-use, will support the creation of jobs and training opportunities in these fields and reflects the community’s support for sustainability.

• Frome working towards a ‘zero carbon’ future as part of a recently submitted Neighbourhood Plan;

• Plans by an eco developer to build a world class eco friendly residential development in the town with the houses generating three times more energy than they use (see story page 13)

• The eco refurbishment at the Cheese and Grain which included a 50kw PV system that will save 560 tonnes of carbon dioxide, while also making thousands of pounds for the town, and which earned the venue the Green Apple Award.

• A car club with an electric car due to be launched later this year.

• The launching of FRECo (Frome Renewable Energy Co-Op) to enable the community to invest in renewable energy projects in Frome. This will provide environmental benefits by reducing carbon emissions; financial benefits for investors, reduced energy costs and a stream of income to community projects focussing on energy efficiency.

• FRECo has already been running ‘Switch and Save’ sessions to help Frome residents save money and cut carbon. So far over 200 people have switched energy supplier, saving an average of £180 per year per household. The project was funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change as part of the Big Energy Saving Network.

• The Open Homes event earlier this year inspired 500 people to make important carbon-saving changes to their homes

• The ‘One Planet Sunday’ event last month which saw lots of interesting discussions, workshops and activities with a range of exciting green initiatives being looked at from building solar panels to cutting energy costs; from electric bikes to ‘recycled’ food, from a repair cafe to a clothes swap.

• The Frome Green Fair which has become an important part of the Frome Festival in recent years, showcasing some of the best green businesses and campaigns of the region, as well as representatives of national campaigning organisations.

• A Carbon Countdown scheme with Frome schools being offered a free energy audit of buildings and operations alongside a range of energy activities led by students for the whole school community (see story page 13)

Both of these will help schools save money by reducing energy use and will also save carbon.  The project is being organised by FRECo with support from Frome Town Council.

Jacqui Grainger, who is part of the team delivering the project says, ‘We are very excited about this project. We can help schools cut their energy costs by 10-20% through simple behaviour change and no cost adjustments to heating and hot water’. This can amount to  hundreds of pounds saved even in smaller schools and several thousands of pounds in larger ones, sums that can make a real difference!’.

• The Frome Garden Share scheme which is designed to match willing gardeners to those with a little extra garden space, so that they can grow food for both to share.

• The town council has also revealed that it will be working with the Twinning Association to hold a green energy conference in 2015

After being shortlisted for the South West Energy Award in the category for the ‘Most Proactive Public Sector’, mayor, cllr Peter Macfadyen said, “Being shortlisted for this award is recognition that what we are doing is the right thing.

“For too long local councils have ignored the need to work with the community to reduce our collective carbon demand. Investing in this area also strengthens the local economy, supports local jobs and increases our energy security. Frome Town Council is leading the way in this crucial area.”

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony, attended by over 300 industry and public leaders, on Tuesday 25th November.