Shropshire County Council - Keeping Shropshire warm
PUBLISHED: 13:25 21 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:31 20 February 2013
The community council has ignited a campaign to help rural communities at risk of fuel poverty
This winters snows may have been greeted with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, but for some residents in Shropshire, the impact of these extreme weather conditions has been far-reaching. While many have struggled to clear paths and roads and have pulled the winter woollies from wardrobes, some households have faced real difficulty in keeping warm in their own home during the bitterly cold conditions.
For the past 50 years the community council has supported communities to highlight and tackle important issues such as rural transport and access to services, the impact of foot and mouth or the closure of post offices, shops and other rural amenities.
Currently the community council is involved in a unique national project supported by Calor to help rural communities most at risk of fuel poverty. Fuel poverty is when a household needs to spend more than 10 per cent of its household income on all domestic appliances and to heat the home adequately.
According to energy charity National Energy Action, rural households are twice as likely to be in fuel poverty as those in urban areas. This is primarily because rural residents are more likely to live in older, possibly stone-built properties with solid floors and high ceilings. These can be very inefficient and more costly to heat, a problem which is compounded by the higher cost of fuel for properties that are off the mains gas network. Even in our more affluent areas there are severe pockets of poverty where people get by on very low incomes.
Research carried out by the Commission for Rural Communities and Calor Gas has indicated that south Shropshire has some of the highest rates of fuel poverty in the country.
In partnership with Calor, National Energy Action and several local community groups, the community council is hosting a three-year project raise awareness of fuel poverty. Through the project, the community council is calling on parish councils, parish plan groups, good neighbour schemes, village hall committees and other community groups to help address the challenge locally.
Fuel poverty can seriously impact on peoples lives and often leads to social withdrawal and difficult choices between heating and eating as budgets are stretched, explains Clive Leworthy, CCS project officer.
By raising awareness with local groups and activists, we will be able to help establish a number of community projects aimed at seeking out people that need support to overcome fuel poverty.
Following two conferences held in Newcastle on Clun and Craven Arms in December, several community groups have come forward for help to establish projects aimed at addressing the cost of fuel and maximising energy efficiency.
Fantastic community activities are already being achieved by groups like Stretton Climate Care, Ludlow 21 and Home Energy Services and we are keen to help other communities to take similar steps to help local residents overcome fuel poverty, says Clive.
Project ideas that have already been suggested by communities include bulk fuel buying schemes, training community members to carry out home energy surveys and holding community green days. The community council is looking at ways in which it can attract further funding into the county to help local people address fuel poverty in their community.
For more information on the project, and how your community can address fuel poverty contact Clive Leworthy on 01743 342172, email firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.shropshire-rcc.org.uk