Two Suffolk councils’ climate change ambitions have taken a step forward, following approval of over £600k in funding for solar carports.

Cabinets at Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have approved an additional £350k and £300k respectively this week, for pilot solar carport schemes at two of their leisure centres.

Approval of the funds follow £800,000 of Government matched funding from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Getting Building Fund. Awarded by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, the money is to help deliver jobs, skills and infrastructure in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The infrastructure will be installed in the car parks at Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury, and Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket, with works due to be completed by Spring 2022.

Works will enable the councils to produce energy through solar panels to help run the leisure centres, as well as provide battery storage, and a number of electric vehicle charging points.

The schemes form part of the councils’ Carbon Reduction Management Plan and town visioning programmes in Sudbury and Stowmarket.

Cllr Jessica Fleming, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for environment, said:

“Approval of this project with match funding from Government reduces the carbon footprint around our leisure centres which are one of our highest emitters, and takes us closer to meeting our ambition of carbon neutrality. Using our own assets to generate electricity provides us with an opportunity to make best use of available space and to set an example for others to follow.

“Encouraging sustainable travel and improving air quality in the district will help to support a greener future and vision for our key towns.”

An initial in-depth feasibility study carried out by REN Energy, set out a best case scenario for energy generation at the sites to ensure the councils maximise the benefits of the technology.

Cllr Elisabeth Malvisi, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for environment, said:

“The introduction of solar carport technology in Sudbury really demonstrates our forward-looking approach for our towns. We want to see them thrive, and lead the way when it comes to clean growth and tech – and this is one of the ways we’re doing just that.

“Suffolk, and Babergh, are a natural fit for solar, receiving more sun hours on average than the rest of the UK. I hope this project will help to ensure Babergh continues to be a place people are proud to live and work.”

The plans are being looked at holistically, as part of the wider town visions for the districts. The carports will also link in with further carbon reduction measures currently being explored for all of the councils’ leisure centres.

This ensures other projects and local initiatives – such as the councils’ parking strategy, wayfinding improvements and active travel schemes, are joined up.

While capital spend has been approved by both cabinets to avoid unnecessary delay, further external funding options will be exhausted first to ensure best use of tax payers money.

A full planning application and procurement for a contractor to carry out the works is expected later this year.