A Modern take on a district heating scheme

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Ground Source Heat pumps are a very clever and currently ‘trendy’ approach to residential heating – watch any program like Grand Designs and there is a good chance that you will see a large trench being filled with pipes! The concept is simple, extract heat from the ground to enhance the heating system in the property and thereby reduce costs.    

The basic concept


However, this has tended to be only a practical approach for new builds due to the land requirement for the system’s installation.      

It is therefore good to see that Mansfield Council may trial green heating in Fifty-five properties in the New England Way area of Mansfield. The properties concerned are currently heated by the council’s district heating scheme. The council said it will now consult people living in the area before deciding to go ahead with the trial.      

District Heating Schemes were popular in the 70’s and 80’s  and fifteen schemes were installed in the Mansfield area more than 25 years ago, with three-quarters using coal-fired boilers (based on the coal mining in the area) and the others gas.  These district heating systems are getting tired and the Council have been working on plans for a long-term replacement for sometime.      

A council spokesman said;      

“We hope other householders in the district will also be able to see the benefits of this new type of heating at first hand and consider installing their own systems.”      

If the trial proves successful, the authority would consider converting all 1,630 properties on the coal-powered heating schemes to ground source heating. The new form of heating would also cut CO2 emissions and reduce bills for tenants and homeowners.  

This is an excellent idea and a good take on an old idea – the heat taken from the ground is free and improves the areas green credentials – always a good thing!

Real Council Waste!

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I blogged a couple of weeks ago about how I found the Councils ‘newsletter’ a classic example of how to waste money in a time when we should be saving it. I will admit now that I am becoming a grumpy old man and this is a pet hate. But please read on!  

The Tweet


This morning I received this Tweet from Nottinghamshire County Council, informing me that the latest newsletter is in the process of  being delivered to all Nottinghamshire homes.  

Our new Council leader is making herself highly ‘popular’ by looking to cut costs, reduce staffing – and generally cause mayhem withing our local council and Greater Nottingham area (yes – I still use this description, sorry Councillor Cutts).  

However, she still appears to want to tell us all what a great job she is doing!  

Why can she not use ‘free’ media?  

TV, the internet, radio, local newspapers to name a few, spring to mind as suitable FREE conduits to ‘the people’. Why spend our money on self publicity!  

Oh, and to really get me going – the headline is a peach!  

Taking the p…s!

Rant over – for now………..  

Nottingham get behind England!

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It’s good to see that Nottingham City Council have finally sorted out their ‘flag issues’ surrounding the World Cup!    

After a shaky start which involved council staff taking down flags erected on a road in Clifton by a pensioner (which made the national news) and then a personal apology to the pensioner concerned by counsellor Jon Collins (and the flags being reinstated) –  the City have now done us proud with this;    

photo: Scott Osborne


The massive 18-metres wide by 8-metres high flag has taken pride of place on the front of the Council House – a landmark building in the city’s central Old Market Square.    

The impressive sight is intended to add to Word Cup fever in a city which has a strong footballing history, and is also looking to be a host city for the 2018 World Cup.    

Councillor Jon Collins said;    

“We’re hoping that in eight year’s time, the World Cup could be coming to us but in the meantime this flag shows everyone the size of Nottingham’s ambition and pride. We reckon it could well be the biggest St George’s flag in the country.”    

Nottingham is also to play host to an infamous piece of World Cup memorabilia from next week. The shirt worn by Diego Maradona when he scored his controversial ‘Hand of God’ goal against England in the 1986 World Cup is to go on display at Nottingham Castle.    

Let’s hope that after last night’s little goalkeeping issue things improve for us in South Africa!

A Greener Nottingham

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The City Council have today announced their intention to try to improve Nottingham’s green credentials.  Nottingham City Council wants to cash in on the green energy revolution by attracting large-scale investment in environmental technology, which would cut residents’ fuel bills and create hundreds of jobs.     

The council’s plans include;    

 A scheme to more than double the size of the city’s district heating system, which is already the biggest in the country and provides cheap and secure green energy to thousands of city homes.    

A large-scale photo-voltaic (PV’s) project which could mean solar panels going up on thousands of roofs across Nottingham, and also create “green jobs”.     

A cutting-edge “Energy Park” in Bulwell where new businesses will be powered by food scraps, garden trimmings and wood waste from across the city.    

Eradicating landfill by making recycling more efficient and picking out more materials than ever for reuse – including the leftover ash from the city’s incinerator (which powers the district heating scheme) for road aggregate.    

 Deputy city council leader Councillor Graham Chapman commented :    

 “It is not just some great big idealised approach that we want to be green. There is money in waste and there is money in energy. The whole aim is to be green in order to provide green energy to make us competitive. We are already the most energy self-sufficient city in the UK and we want to maintain that lead and increase it and compete with European cities.”    

In addition to this  two electrically powered zero carbon vans have recently joined Nottingham City Council’s  vehicle fleet. One will be used by the new park ranger service, in and around all the city’s parks and open spaces. The exact use of the other has yet to be confirmed, but no doubt it will become a common sight in the City centre. The vehicles cost the council £33,559 – the same as a conventional vehicle – thanks to funding from the Department for Transport’s Low Carbon Vehicle Procurement Programme.    

Also via the same fund source, new electric buses could be running in Nottingham city centre from next summer. The city council has won nearly £400,000 of government funding to replace the diesel vehicles running on the Centrelink route. The four replacement low-carbon buses would operate the free bus service linking The Victoria Centre, Old Market Square and Broadmarsh Centre.    

Solar Shading with PV's in a car park


Whilst on holiday in Italy last year I saw numerous ‘clever’ uses of PV’s, for example forming shade in car parks and powering the ticket machines at the same time! Uses like this are both ‘green’ and very obvious to the general public – something that I believe can benefit the ‘roll out’ of these technologies in the ‘real world’  and their acceptance by the general public.    

Lets just hope this type of  proposal doesn’t get killed off by budget costs!

Nottingham Trent’s new Flagship!

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I had the opportunity offered to me this week to go and look around the new Arkwright Newton building at Nottingham Trent University – I jumped at the chance!  

As a former student (1980 to 84) I spent many a happy hour in Newton building in its 8th floor lecture theatre. At the time it was one of the only theatres large enough to accommodate everyone on my course, and was relatively modern. As we will see things have moved on now and the new facilities are quite frankly stunning!  

The proposal to pull the two buildings together by the addition of a link was highly controversial, and quite a brave move by the University. Arkwright building is the original University building and is one of the cities most well-known from the Victorian era – it is also Grade 2 listed, so to add anything to it was going to require a lot of negotiation with both the local council and English Heritage. External alterations were going to be minimal, but the demolition of the central lecture theatre was proposed to create a quad.  

As if this wasn’t enough of a challenge, Newton building is also Grade 2 listed! The building dates from the late 1950’s, not a time noted for its great architecture. But the building stands like a sentinel over the city and is I believe well-loved by most people (the archetect also designed the Council House in the Market Square)o. The proposal here also required some demolition and complete internal gutting, again a major issue for English Heritage!  

My memories of Newton are of a dark, dingy building with good natural light in the seminar rooms, but poor everywhere else. Arkwright was occupied by textile students (which was great as most were ladies!) but as a building it was run down and crowded. What one finds now is so different!  

The New Entrance Lobby


The new link building provides a fabulous modern atrium with glulam beams supporting a glass roof – it is a breath takingly fabulous space. But that is not the best bit! This now links seamlessly into Newton Building. Vast light areas with access to new lecture theatres (the largest being capable of seating 430) and exam halls. The quality of the finishes and attention to detail is also superb.  

One of the new lecture theatres


The old lift core remains but has been updated with new lifts which are much quicker and ‘intelligent’, allowing easy transport between floors.  

The front section of Newton is now a conference facility, very nice and basically self-contained. But it is the teaching space that is most impressive. The basic corridor format remains, but now with glass walls and massive amounts of natural light. This is very impressive space and gives the building a very up-market feel (possibly far too good for students!).  

An upper floor corridor


But this is only half of the building, the link also unites the space with Arkwright via a glazed wall into a new quad where the old lecture theatre sat. This space feels very ‘academic’ and although not quite up there with the Oxford and Cambridge colleges still has a ‘special feel’ – according to the Dean even the students don’t run in there!  

The link to Arkwright


Add to this that the building has great green credentials, one of the largest sedum roofs in the UK (which has helped the University gain 1st place in the Green League Awards) and has direct access to the tram network and we have a very sustainable building formed out of two very diverse original buildings.  

The old adage that ‘you get what you pay for’ is so true. This scheme cost £92 Million, no doubt partly due to the use of a nationally recognised architects practice – Hopkins & Partners (who also did the Jubilee Campus for Nottingham University), but the results speak for themselves. The University now has a true ‘focus building’ and can only benefit from it. And if the University grows so does the city.

They are joking – right?

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I live in Nottingham a city that has so much to offer (despite what the BBC try to tell you). We are known countrywide for various things; Robin Hood (very topical at the moment with the film due out shortly), Boots (the home of Jessie Boot), two top class universities, the oldest football club in the football league to name but a few.

One other thing that we have also lead the country in is speed and red light cameras. I believe we had the first red light cameras in the UK and have embraced the technology in a big way!  Nottingham is now a city in which it is not a good idea to speed, go through red lights (or now do any other ‘crime’ in sight of a City Council camera), a good thing in my opinion. We have red light ‘Gatso’s’, average speed ‘Spec’s’ and mobile cameras in most areas of the city.

Until recently the mobile cameras have been in the normal white vans that you see elsewhere in the UK, however today I spotted this (and yes that is a camera coming out of the roof!);

Are they serious? This is going to cause accidents when people spot it!

A wind farm on our doorstep!

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I commented here about wind farms in France and the French view of them as a ‘generally welcome’ addition to their skyline. Obviously the French have a much more rural and spacious country which may well have a bearing on their views. Also they don’t appear to have the NIMBY attitude that we have in the UK.

This week I have become aware of the Severn Trent proposal for some large wind generators on the Trent next to Burton Joyce. The local council have been very proactive in relation to the proposal (for that is what it is at the moment – planning has not been applied for yet). They have prepared a report which is available from their website, it makes very interesting reading and highlights a number of issues common to this type of proposal. And also highlights the issues in this country caused by our compact size and dense occupation!

I have sympathy with the residents of Burton Joyce as it is clear that the proposal from Severn Trent is a ‘maximum’ size scheme created with a view to it being ‘down sized’ following consultations. It is unfortunate that the providers of such schemes feel they have to do this to get schemes past the locals. I can understand why they do it, but it ensures renewable energy gets negative press rather than assists it.

A planning application by Severn Trent is apparently expected any day – we will no doubt all hear about this on East Midlands Today and in the Evening Post!

Reading some of the comments on the Burton Joyce website by locals does depress me though. Many comments are valid, but the ‘unhealthy for our children’ comment also appears (as is common in cases like this). How is it unhealthy? Are they going to fly into the blades? I am not aware of any evidence to support this?

Let’s all try to work together to build some renewable energy in Nottinghamshire! Yes it’s not great to have things in our back yards, but perhaps we have had too much say on things over the last 20 years. Perhaps it’s time for more power for Government to push through ‘sensible’ schemes? Otherwise little will happen in the renewables area – and then it will be too late!

Let’s push the offshore wind farms forward as well – no one can complain about them – can they?