by Colin Hynson and Matthew White
Four years ago, on the north side of Norwich, a new community centre came into life. Before that the Silver Rooms had been owned and run by Norfolk County Council as a drop-in centre for local older residents. In 2010 Norfolk County Council announced that it was selling off the building as a response to cuts imposed by the coalition government. A group of local people fought back determined that the building should carry on benefiting the local community. In 2012, the building became an Asset of Community Value (later used in the campaign to save the Owl Sanctuary). Norfolk County Council then abandoned the auction and said that the building could be run for the benefit of the community and the rooms were leased to the community for 25 years for a peppercorn rent of £1.00 a year.
Successfully bidding for various pots of money and then linking up with local groups meant that a building that had been neglected for quite a few years was given a make-over with new floors, a café area, a garden and much-needed equipment like a projector. The whole building has become much more welcoming.
Since then Silver Road Community Centre (as it’s called now) has transformed itself into an energetic and vital hub run by and for the local community. There are yoga classes, play sessions for parents and toddlers, lots of dance and a drop-in session at the café for the over-50s. The list continues to grow and there are lots of plans for the future; ideas include cooking classes for young people and more practical support for the homeless of the city.
Silver Road Community Centre (as it’s called now) has transformed itself into an energetic and vital hub run by and for the local community
So, there are exciting times ahead, but one of the most exciting plans is to bring solar power to the centre.
The Centre is currently in the running for a share of £300,000 2017 M&S Energy Fund, a fund awarded to community renewable energy projects throughout the UK. The Energy Fund is something of a popularity contest, with the funding going to the project in each region that gets the most votes from the public. If the Silver Road Community Centre succeeds, it will install a 7.84kW solar power system on its roof.
Solar power would make a huge difference to the Centre and to the wider community. Of course it would make it much more environmentally friendly, offsetting 80 tons of CO2 over 25 years, but it would also be a huge financial help. Between lower electricity bills and income earned from the Feed-in-Tariff, the system would effectively raise the centre £25,000. This additional income would really help to secure the future of the Centre as an affordable community hub.
Alongside canvassing for votes, the Centre is crowdfunding for £8,500 for a 14kWh battery to accompany the solar power system. A battery would allow the Centre to keep the excess energy generated when the sun is shining, instead of exporting it into the grid, and then using it when the sun is down – further reducing its energy costs and carbon footprint.
All of our community centres (from village halls to student unions) should be at the front line of efforts to address climate change. Winning this grant, and being able to generate their own clean electricity, will be a powerful symbol of the Centre’s resilience, and an inspiration to other public and community buildings both locally and nationally.
All of our community centres (from village halls to student unions) should be at the front line of efforts to address climate change
So please vote for solar power at Silver Road Community Centre, or pledge some money to our Crowdfunder if you can spare anything, and help bring a little more clean energy and strengthen communities in Norwich. For more information, and for how to vote for Silver Road, visit M&S Energy Fund.
Featured image copyright: Silver Road Community Centre.
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