Community buildings are a vital part of local life, but expensive maintenance costs can see them fall into disuse. Local environment charity Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment2 (TOE2) is calling for managers of community buildings across the county to get in touch with them to see if they are eligible for a grant to audit their energy usage and make their buildings more welcoming and energy efficient. Completely unique to Oxfordshire, TOE2 has been running its successful Energy Reduction in Community Halls (ENRICH) programme for three years. Now as it launches its fourth round of grants, the charity is planning to develop the programme to support even more Oxfordshire communities.
Run in partnership with the Environmental Information Exchange (EiE) at Oxford Brookes University, and Oxford Rural Community Council (ORCC), and with funding supplied by the Patsy Wood Trust, TOE2’s ENRICH programme offers community buildings funding to improve energy efficiency which will in turn reduce energy wastage and the running costs of these important community hubs. The programme has been supporting community buildings since its launch in 2011, allocating funding for over 100 energy audits. Following an energy audit, halls may apply to TOE2 for a grant towards implementing audit recommendations, and to date, more than £160,000 has been allocated in energy improvement grants. Sites that have benefitted from grants include Eynsham Church Hall, Shiplake Memorial Hall, Thame Players Theatre and Horspath Hub, with funds being put towards a variety of energy saving activities, including the fitting of floor, wall and cavity insulation, the installation of secondary or double glazed windows and low energy lighting, heating upgrades and new boilers.
TOE2 is seeking to expand the range of community facilities eligible for funds, including sports pavilions, schools, theatres, and scout and guide halls. Fiona Danks, Director of TOE2 says, “Community centres do exactly as their name suggests, creating a space for local people to come together and enjoy activities, hobbies, special occasions and friendship. We know that many of these facilities struggle to balance their running costs while trying to provide welcoming spaces for their communities. This is where the ENRICH programme can help.”
In 2014 Sandford on Thames received TOE2 funding for its village hall, after an EiE energy audit highlighted issues with the insulation. A TOE2 grant of £7,000 with funds provided by Grundon Waste Management supported the installation of insulation to the ceilings, walls and doors of the building, and the fitting of velux windows. Similarly, Kirtlington Village Hall received £5,000 of funding following an audit, in order to make improvements to its insulation, windows and doors. Both facilities have witnessed an increase in the amount of community use, with Kirtlington Village Hall receiving the first Eco-centre award in Oxfordshire due to its demonstration of keeping sustainability at the heart of its operations.
Danks continues, “Through our ENRICH programme we have been able to benefit whole communities, making their halls and centres more user-friendly by the energy saving improvements we have helped facilitate. We are not aware of any other charity across the whole country offering this service, so TOE2 is really leading the way on this venture. We are now looking to promote and expand these grants to a broader range of community facilities and to encourage Parish Councils to contact us regarding increasing energy efficiency in all the community facilities within a Parish. As a key environmental funder for Oxfordshire, TOE2 is committed to reducing energy wastage and we would love people to get in touch with us if they think their local community building might be eligible.”
If anyone thinks they have a community building that could benefit from the ENRICH programme they can contact TOE2 on firstname.lastname@example.org