Whittington and Fisherwick Environment Group (WFEG) and its partner organisations welcomed Michael Fabricant on a whirlwind tour of some of their parish environmental initiatives last Friday (16TH October). Michael visited the primary school’s wood pellet boiler, the Jubilee Park and orchard, then St Giles Hospice to see their solar panels,
Michael says “WFEG has worked with other village organisations for over 8 years to make the parish a model for an eco-friendly, low carbon community so there was plenty for me to see, particularly as Whittington recently received the accolade of being named by a leading Sunday paper as one of the top ten environmentally friendly communities in the UK.”
Debbie Barnish, WFEG Chair said “We were very pleased to welcome Michael to Whittington and delighted that he was so supportive of the efforts of our community to develop renewable power and make our village a haven for wildlife. He seemed receptive to our concerns about the future of support for clean solar power and we very much hope he will fully support efforts to convince the Government to slow down the reduction of subsidies to and continue to support community energy in particular”.
Michael adds “I was hugely impressed by Whittington residents’ and community organisations’ efforts to encourage wildlife and save energy in their parish. The commitment and passion of the people I met on this visit was evident. It was inspiring to see what can be achieved when communities work together.
“I shall be taking this up with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Amber Rudd, and will emphasise that it is important to ensure that community energy projects like WFEG’s are not undermined by too drastic a reduction in support for solar power.
While I was in Whittington I visited Whittington Primary School to view the wood pellet boiler which has replaced the aging and inefficient oil-fired equipment that heated the school until recently, saving the school many thousands of pounds and producing low carbon heat. I then moved on to Jubilee Park to see the community orchard which WFEG volunteers have planted with help from the parish council and sponsorship from many village organisations and individuals. The orchard contains many heritage varieties of apple, pear and plum, most of them from Staffordshire and surrounding counties set in a wonderful wildflower meadow designed to attract wildlife including bees and butterflies. It is also the setting for a beautiful bee-friendly garden designed and planted by the village Brownies. And I got lots of advice as to what the right flowers are to plant to encourage bees.
“Then I went on to St Giles Hospice, next door to the orchard to meet senior staff and Trustees and to hear about the solar panels installed by WFEG’s sister organisation Southern Staffordshire Community Energy. SSCE, which WFEG helped to found with Low Carbon Lichfield, is owned by its 54 members who subscribed over £50,000 to pay for the installation of solar panels on the Hospice and Whittington Village Hall.”
Michael heard that the Hospice and Hall receive free electricity from the panels when the sun is shining while the Feed-in Tariff pays interest to SSCE members and provides a surplus which goes towards funding other energy-saving projects for community organisations in the District.
Michael was accompanied by WFEG Chair, Debbie Barnish and Committee members, Julian Floyd and Mike Kinghan MBE. WFEG members, who explained that the future of such projects was under threat because of proposals by the Government to reduce the Feed-in-Tariff for solar panels which had supplied so much of the funding.
Michael was then presented with a bottle of fresh apple juice crushed from apples grown in Whittington.
Photo shows (l to r) Debbie Barnish (Chair of WFEG), Julian Floyd (Treasurer of WFEG), and Michael clutching his gift of local apple juice in the by an apple tree in the orchard in Whittington’s Jubilee Park