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  • Writer's pictureWiltshire Wildlife

Quarterly Newsletter, Spring 2023

Message from Chair Here comes the sun...

After what felt like an interminable winter, I am thrilled to be able to say that it looks as though spring may finally be ‘springing’ here in Wiltshire. The extended cold, wet weather has had many worrying about how they could stay warm without incurring huge energy bills, so I am pleased that the mercury is now rising and incredibly proud that our ‘Keeping Warm This Winter’ initiative was able to offer advice and support to over 340 people across the region during this troubling time. We were lucky enough to be joined by MP for Chippenham and Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Michelle Donelan for one of our final sessions. Having praised Jessica and WWCE in a letter last year, we invited her to attend in person so she could see the programme’s positive impact first-hand. From my conversations with her on the day, I know that she was delighted that her constituents had access to such a useful tool which would allow them to reduce, not only their personal energy consumption, but also the carbon footprint of the entire region. I’m sure you’ll agree that this kind of community outreach is invaluable to those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis and we look forward to building on its success with a new programme later this year. Meanwhile, on the global stage the urgency of the climate situation has once again been highlighted with the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) ‘Synthesis Report’. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said, “This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe.” He called for governments to take drastic action to reduce emissions by investing in renewable energy and low-carbon technology in order to avoid disaster, however here in the UK our own leaders seem less concerned by the warnings. In March, we heard from the chancellor Jeremy Hunt in the form of his spring budget. Now, it’s fair to say that nobody envies him – I expect managing the UK economy against the backdrop of global uncertainty must feel a bit like trying to carry a priceless vase covered in grease across an ice rink wearing six-inch heels. However, with the climate emergency reaching the point of no return and, given that a recent poll found the majority of Conservative voters want to see more renewables deployed in order to combat rising bills, it was unfortunate that this budget did not deliver in the area of green schemes. Instead, Mr Hunt seemed to suggest that it was job done as far as renewables were concerned. I was similarly uninspired by the ‘new’ papers released on so-called Green Day at the end of March. The government used the day as an opportunity to open bidding for the annual renewable energy auction and said that a Floating Offshore Wind Manufacturing Scheme was to be launched – something which appears to have first been mooted in 2021. Clearly, the UK cannot or will not attempt to compete with other nations in the race to net zero despite former Cop26 president Alok Sharma telling The Guardian that “what we still need to see is that big bazooka moment, commensurate with the scale of the challenge”. It's a shame, then that what we’ve seen so far has been the government choosing instead to deploy the equivalent of a spud gun in the battle against climate change. Here at WWCE we continue to do what we can for the planet. We are currently working with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust ecologists to conduct a review of biodiversity and ecology at both Chelworth and Braydon, with site surveys due to be conducted in April and early May. This work will provide new recommendations for ecology monitoring and will inform our land management plans to maximise biodiversity gains at each of these unique sites.

We are also seeking opportunities to develop new renewable energy schemes which will help Wiltshire meet its carbon reduction objectives. After receiving a positive response from councillors and support from Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, I look forward to the submission of planning for our Petersfinger project which has the potential to cut 300 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere every year. Please do lend your support to this new renewable energy initiative and in doing so, support a greener, cleaner future for Wiltshire. Julian Barlow WWCE Chair Performance Overview Strong performance hampered by a gloomy March

Overall, WWCE's solar sites performed roughly as predicted over the January-March quarter, with generation exceeding P50 projections by 1.8%. January and February were standout months for irradiance, surpassing projections by more than 20 and 40% respectively. However, the total quarterly irradiance figure came in at 6% below projections which was largely down to a particularly poor March – with irradiance coming in 30% under projection.

Energy advice cafes reach hundreds across Wiltshire this winter WWCE welcomes Michelle Donelan MP to Keeping Warm pop-up event

WWCE’s Keeping Warm This Winter pop-up energy sessions have now come to a close, having helped over 340 residents from across Melksham and Purton to better understand how they can keep warm while shaving pounds off their energy bills. In our previous newsletter, we highlighted the positive feedback the programme had garnered from local MP and Secretary of State, Michelle Donelan. Since then, we’re proud to say that she visited us during one of our recent sessions at Melksham Library and was equally enthusiastic about the impact WWCE’s scheme has had on her constituents. She said, “It was great to see for myself the community support being offered by WWCE in Melksham. These energy workshops have been proving invaluable for local people, providing them with the much-needed tools to reduce their bills with advice, tips and support.” Over the course of the initiative, our carbon reduction champion Jessica Thimbleby hosted a total of 16 drop-in sessions at venues including Melksham Community Larder, Berryfields Village Hall, and Pips Community Cafe. She worked closely with a host of local groups and shared useful hints, tips, and valuable energy saving advice with all those who came through the door. Here’s what a couple of the groups had to say… “Jessica, thanks for spending time with us…Nearly everyone learned new things and where to find the information [they need]. The practical displays piqued most interest and conversations…For our group the informal session was exactly the right way to do it.” John Firth, That Meeting Space Just wanted to say thank you so much for today, I am sure you have given our clients positive things to think about to help with the energy crisis” Kay, Foodbank Manager Community Fund News Holbrook and Shaw Ridge put funds to good use and new pond scheme gets green light

The WWCE Community Fund has approved funding for another fantastic conservation scheme, supporting the Friends of Broadmead Pond (FoBP) with a seasonal, multi-year desilting project as part of a wider scheme to promote aquatic life, reduce water loss and increase the sustainability of water flows. Our grant will cover three years and, together with support for a reed bed from Wessex Water, will allow FoBP to minimise water loss from the pond and improve water quality in order to create a more sustainable habitat for wildlife, particularly its Great Crested Newt population. Work on the programme is expected to begin in September. The Community Fund is still looking for a new member of the panel, so if you’d like to be involved with selecting our next worthy cause, please contact Jon Bateman or Jessica Thimbleby at for more information. Petersfinger gets warm reception from councillors Plans for solar scheme due to be submitted this month after Sec of State intervenes

Sophia Karlberg and Eva McHugh gave a fantastic presentation to councillors at a recent meeting of Salisbury City Council on 13th March, summarising the Petersfinger solar farm opportunity. We’re pleased to report that the pair received a warm reception from the assembled councillors, who largely welcomed plans for the scheme. As you may know, the proposed solar array at Petersfinger will consist of a total of 2736 panels and be set in an area of 5.5 hectares. Once operational, it will have the potential to cut around 300 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of 525 people’s annual driving emissions – every year. Surplus profits of approximately £5,000 per year will also be issued to the Community Fund to support local causes. Unfortunately, we hit a bump in the road last July when Wiltshire Council's planning department recommended that the project would require a full environmental impact assessment (EIA) contrary to the recommendations of statutory consultees. A full EIA adds considerable time and cost to a project and is rarely appropriate for an installation of this scale. Following recommendations from our specialist consultants, we appealed this recommendation to the Secretary of State’s office for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, who thankfully overturned the decision. The support of Mr Gove’s office is a welcome affirmation of the project’s potential and we are relieved to say we are now back on track. We would love to hear what you think about the plans, so please complete our online survey or send us an email at Jessica helps Purton celebrate local heroes WWCE’s carbon reduction champion introduces Purton’s Community Awards

Volunteers in the village of Purton give many hours of their time to improve the lives of their neighbours and without them many of the village’s events, clubs and services simply would not exist. Each year the Parish Council offers residents a chance to recognise these community stalwarts and we’re very proud that our own Jessica Thimbleby was invited to speak at the 2023 awards evening. Jess set out her stall and gave an informative talk before the prize giving got underway, sharing some of her energy saving wisdom with the assembled audience. Well done, Jessica and congratulations to all the winners on the night. Country Comes to Town for WWCE WWCE supports Wiltshire Wildlife Trust at annual community event

WWCE will be joining Wiltshire Wildlife Trust at Trowbridge Park on Saturday 20th May, speaking to visitors about how we can all create a more sustainable future for wildlife and people. There will be nature crafts and a host of interactive wildlife experiences and activities on offer, including animal face painting, plus a chance to meet some sheep and encounter birds of prey. Entry to the event is completely free, and we’d love to see you there on the day! We’re also appealing for support manning our very own stand, so if you would like to join Jessica Thimbleby anytime between 10am and 4pm, please get in touch with your availability and she will get back to you. If you have any further questions about WWCE, please always feel free to contact us at Join our online community by following us on Linkedin here.

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