What is retrofit?
Low-carbon retrofitting means putting into action a comprehensive plan for home improvements with the aim of hugely improving the energy efficiency of a property, reducing its waste of energy and carbon-emissions. This could include repairs, better insulation and ventilation, and new low-carbon heating systems. You can read more about it here: https://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/advice-leaflets/insulation-and-heating/renewables/building-performance/advice-leaflet-whole-house-approach.pdf
As David Attenborough said when asked how a young boy could save the planet: ‘the best motto to think about is not to waste things’.
At the moment, most of our homes waste energy in a big way. The UK has the least energy efficient housing stock in Europe. This is true in Somerset, and in Bruton. In the BA10 postcode only 38% of homes had an EPC rating of A,B or C.
The retrofit project is about making Bruton’s housing stock fit for the 21st century, by making it energy efficient, and by reducing its carbon emissions.
The project will start when our retrofit assessor / co-ordinator starts work in September 2021.
When does the project end?
We currently have funds to run the project for 18 months but will look for grants to extend it.
What will the project do?
A professionally qualified retrofit assessor / co-ordinator will give independent advice to homeowners about the best and most carbon-efficient way of improving their homes, at the same time as working with local builders and suppliers to ensure they are able to take on the work.
We hope that by using our £75k grant in this way, multiples of this amount will be spent with local construction businesses, reducing the area’s carbon emissions and improving the housing stock.
What is the offer to householders?
At the moment residents who want to improve the emissions performance of their homes have nowhere to turn to for detailed and specific professional advice about what are the best steps to take for their particular property. The assessor / co-ordinator will offer:
- Accurate and up-to-date independent advice about retrofit options;
- Detailed high-quality surveys of the thermal performance of their home;
- Bespoke home retrofit plans which set out the steps that need to be taken to radically improve the performance of their home, with recommended order of works and outline of the likely costs and impacts;
- Quality assurance of the work that is undertaken;
- Advice and support to resolve issues that arise.
Who pays for the improvements?
Are there grants available?
This is a rapidly changing field. The co-ordinator will be assisted by a part-time project officer. Part of the officer’s job will be to assist householders in finding and getting grants.
Will the service be free?
This is not yet decided, but it is likely that an initial visit and discussion from the co-ordinator will be free. We may wish to charge for some elements of the service in some areas at some time.
What about social housing?
Social housing providers, such as Abri, are developing their own low/zero carbon plans with separate funding. They are likely to want to employ their own assessors. We will be trying to get them to prioritise Bruton.
Aren’t you just benefiting well-off homeowners who can afford the improvements?
Everyone benefits from any reduction in carbon emissions.
The whole of the UK housing stock will eventually need to be retrofitted. This can only be achieved through a large investment of public and private funds. At the moment the public funds are not there, but it’s in everyone’s interests that those private homeowners who can afford the improvements get on with them as soon as possible. The project aims to help them do this.
We hope that the use of local firms to do the work will help the local economy thrive.
Where does the project operate?
Bruton and Castle Cary parishes, and the adjacent rural parishes: Pitcombe, Lamyatt, Shepton Montague, Brewham, Milton Clevedon, Charlton Musgrove, Batcombe, Upton Noble, Ditcheat, Alford, Yarlington, North Cadbury, North Barrow, Ansford.
What does the project cost, and how is it funded?
The total cost is estimated as £86,000. Bruton Town Council has received a £75,000 grant from Somerset County Council’s Climate Emergency Community Fund and will contribute £4,000 in 2021 and a further £4,000 in 2022. We will be applying to South Somerset District Council for a £4,000 Community Grant and have asked Castle Cary Town Council to make a similar contribution. If we end up with more than the project costs, we will extend its timescales.
How much will the co-ordinator be paid?
The Town Council has not yet agreed the co-ordinator’s salary, but we expect it to be in the region of £32,000-£33,000 per year. We have been advised that this is the market rate to attract an excellent candidate.
Who is behind the project?
The idea for the project came from conversations between town councillors and staff in the Centre for Sustainable Energy (an established national charity based in Bristol). The project is a partnership between Bruton and Castle Cary Town Councils, The Centre for Sustainable Energy, One Planet Bruton and Greener Cary. Bruton Town Council is the lead partner, and prepared the bid to Somerset County Council’s Climate Emergency Community Fund.
 Green Alliance (2019), Reinventing retrofit, p1
 Research using nationally available data