Driving the green way in Ashton Hayes

PUBLISHED: 17:15 03 October 2011 | UPDATED: 20:05 20 February 2013

Ashton Hayes villagers celebrate the arrival of their wholly electric car

Ashton Hayes villagers celebrate the arrival of their wholly electric car

The 'green' residents of Ashton Hayes village, near Chester, are now recognised as experts in the field. Their advice is being sought far and wide WORDS BY FRANCESCA CLAYTON

This time last year the residents of Ashton Hayes, near Chester, were working towards making their picturesque village more environmentally friendly. It was all part of their project, begun in 2005 to make Ashton Hayes the first carbon neutral village in the UK. They had managed to cut their overall carbon emissions by 25% in five years.

But now their mission has gone global, with government delegations from as far away South Korea visiting Ashton Hayes in order to gain tips on how to go green.

The instigator of the project, resident Garry Charnock, explains things have progressed well in recent months. Last year we were selected by the Department of Energy and Climate Change as one of 22 communities to receive a government grant of 400,000 so that we can continue reducing our carbon emissions. We also raised over 30,000 through community events, which has been used to build a new low carbon pavilion for the recreation field.

The pavilion houses changing rooms for the village sports teams and uses solar panels as well as an air source pump to take heat from the air in order to provide hot water for showers. Not only does the use of purely renewable energy sources help the environment, it also means that the energy bills for the pavilion are only 100 a year.

Ashton Hayes is also now the first place in the North West to have a wholly electric car. The Nissan Leaf is charged by the solar energy from the pavilion and can drive 150 miles on one charge. Anyone over 18 can join the Commonwheels club via a website and book online when they want to use it.

Garrys personal dedication to combatting climate change was rewarded this year when he was named the Inspirational Leader of the Year for co-founding Carbon Leap Frog, an organisation which helps other communities cut their carbon emissions.

After the community in Ashton Hayes had been working for three years to reduce our carbon footprint through behavioural changes, we started to find it difficult to continue. In order to develop further we needed to generate our own energy but that means talking to companies and drawing up contracts, for which we needed lawyers and accountants.

We are now self-sufficient and we now sell any excess energy we make back to the national grid, and Carbon Leap Frog helps other communities to do the same by providing professionals who work free of charge. When you have some of the best environmental lawyers in the country sitting at a table with an energy company it really makes that company sit up and listen.

The next aim for Ashton Hayes is to fit the local primary school with solar panels and insulated classrooms and put in a community bid for the village pub with the hopes of transforming it intothe energy efficient centre of the village.

Garry said: The project has given the community confidence and pride. Because buildings like the pavilion show the success weve had, the value of the scheme is apparent and now over 100 communities around the world are following our example. The biggest thing for me is the community spirit the whole thing has created. Its great.

Easy ways to cut your carbon emissions

Replace your light bulbs with energy-saving ones.

Invest in draught excluders for windows and doors.

Never put a washing machine or dishwasher on without it being full - youre wasting water as well as energy. Wash your clothes at 30 and youll save around 40 per cent of the energy your washing machine uses.

A year of hanging your clothes outside instead of using a dryer will save you around 75 and 635kg of CO2.

ather than filling the kettle to the top, boil only enough water for your needs. Its estimated that if all of us stopped filling the kettle, enough energy would be saved to power between 50 and 75 per cent of the UKs street lights.

The print version of this article appeared in the October 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

We can deliver a copy direct to your door order online here

Latest from the Cheshire