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Reepham Green Team’s model eco-community

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 February 2014

Rex Warner MBE, founder member of the Reepham Green Team, with a car club vehicle, one of the major schemes to reduce peoples carbon footprint. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Rex Warner MBE, founder member of the Reepham Green Team, with a car club vehicle, one of the major schemes to reduce peoples carbon footprint. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

10 years after it was founded, the Reepham Green Team have moulded the town into a model eco-community. ROSA MCMAHON reports.

Reepham Green Team - The turbine at Reepham High School. Picture: Matthew Usher. Reepham Green Team - The turbine at Reepham High School. Picture: Matthew Usher.

10 years after it was founded, the Reepham Green Team have moulded the town into a model eco-community. ROSA MCMAHON reports.

A picturesque Norfolk market town has seen a green transformation over the last decade.

At the turn of the millennium, Reepham had one of the poorest carbon ratings in country.

Now it is a million pound pioneering eco-centre boasting a wind turbine, the world’s first electric mini-bus, solar-powered homes and community buildings fit for use.

The key projects are:

– The Reepham Car Club gives a pay-as-you-go car service which opens the car with a swipe card, aiming to cut emissions.

– Wind and solar project at Reepham High School is propelling both energy and knowledge about the green industry with a wind turbine on the school site.

– The electric mini-bus is one of the world’s first electric minibuses. It is charged up in Reepham High School’s car park before taking 15 passengers out on the road.

– The Reepham Housing Trust will save around £1,700 because of a major refurbishment of eight Housing Trust bungalows on Ewing Close. Solar panels were added to the roof, air source heat pumps and new radiators were installed and night storage heaters replaced.

– Installation of LED street lighting has seen the cost of illuminating Reepham reduce by 90pc. The 35 street lights will reduce energy use by 65pc and the light pollution from street lights will decrease.

– St Michael’s community building was transformed with under-floor heating making it as economically sustainable as possible. The church adjoins the parish church of St Mary’s which was given an energy efficient boiler and fuel tank.

Thanks to the Reepham Green Team, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, the Georgian town has been leading a quiet revolution to develop a sustainable low-carbon lifestyle.

The team’s founder, 49-year-old Rex Warner, saw an opportunity for an informal social network to tackle issues in the community.

Once a world explorer tracing historic voyages, Mr Warner sailed 6,000 miles across the North Pacific on a bamboo raft for six months before moving to Norfolk.

The sustainable lifestyle he and the crew lived for six months – using solar power, recycling and fishing to keep alive – proved it can be replicated elsewhere.

So combining his experiences, with the passions and interests of the Reepham people, Mr Warner had a vision to deliver a wide range of projects focussing on low carbon living.

“In every community most people have a passion for something. It’s important to identify what those passions are, and then develop them,” he said.

“The key thing we have learn is using local organisations already established to develop projects.

“They have the trust of the local people, they are already set up and all the internal politics is already sorted out.”

A £1 million grant from the government’s Low Carbon Communities Challenge (LCCC) kick-started town’s eco-revamp.

The low energy make-over made the town first so-called Low Carbon Community in the country .

Split between 18 community groups, the projects were put at the heart of the community to improve energy efficiency across the town.

Funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, all of the projects started from the grass roots to deliver a low carbon lifestyle.

Since its formation, fuel and transport poverty have been at the heart of the Green Team’s agenda.

And the Reepham Car Club, set up five years ago, is the flagship project.

A pay-as-you-go car service which can be used any time of the week, its two cars in Reepham, 16 in Norwich and one in Aylsham provide access to transport and services across the county.

Set up by Mr Warner five years ago, the scheme now has 500 members and aims to reduce transport costs and carbon emission.

The Reepham branch’s popularity led to the expansion in to the Norfolk Car Club which aims to be the first county-wide car club in the country.

But it is the wind and solar project at Reepham High School and College which is the most visual schemes in the town.

The 24.8 metre wind turbine in the school’s car park powers the school, whilst the and solar panels decking the building aim to put the school at the heart of their own electricity generation.

And students get to use the turbine and solar cells as a practical reference in their studies.

The town’s main four streets and the Market Place are all lit by LED street lighting which reduces the illumination cost by 90pc.

But it is giving families land to grow their own vegetables which have been the “heart and soul” of the project.

The team acquired two three-acre fields for allotments for 70 families after a waiting list so long it would have taken 400 years to clear.

A Local Energy Assessment Fund acquired by the Green Team gave the town £110,000 which led to internal refurbishment at the town hall, a refurbishment of the primary school canteen block and others studies.

And their Reepham Insulation Project developed a community engagement model which led to the number of homes in the town being properly insulated increasing by more than 100pc.

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