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Swale House to save 70 tonnes of carbon a year with refurbishment

Published Thursday 18 March, 2021
Last updated on Thursday 18 March, 2021

Councillors have approved plans that will save around 70 tonnes of carbon a year through the first stage of the refurbishment of Swale House.

The plans were approved at a meeting of the council’s cabinet last night and include installing double glazing, repairing and insulating the roof and upgrading all lighting to more efficient LEDs in the 1970s building.

The works could help reduce the council’s carbon footprint by 70 tonnes a year and create a more thermally efficient building.

As part of the works Swale Borough Council is looking to reduce the amount of space it occupies, allowing staff to work flexibly in the building and at home and provide the opportunity for other businesses to locate to Swale House.

Cllr Monique Bonney, cabinet member for economy and property at the council, said:

“In 2020 the new administration agreed to end the Spirit of Sittingbourne venture as we did not want to move to an expensive new building.

“Instead, we have committed to reducing our carbon footprint and making Swale House a net zero carbon building by 2025, and these plans will help us with our ambitious target.

“This building provides a significant economic benefit to Sittingbourne town centre, with its proximity to the High Street, the bus services and the train station, and it is important we support Sittingbourne town centre by encouraging businesses to locate here.

“Swale House has had very little capital invested in it over the decades the council has occupied the building.  Anyone who has visited Swale House can see the building is tired and well past its best.

“The old, draughty, single-glazed windows are more than 40 years old and desperately need replacing. Issues with the roof need addressing urgently, and we need better insulation and lighting to lower the amount of energy we are using to heat and light the building.

“The last year has been tough, but it has shown us that overall, we can continue to deliver services for local people without all needing to be physically in the same place.

“That is not to say it hasn’t been difficult for officers, who have been struggling with home-schooling, isolation and uncertainty as much as the rest of us. But it has given us the chance to rethink what is possible in future, and plan how we can free up some space – approximately 20,000 square feet - to generate income.

“We are taking a phased approach to hitting our carbon neutral target, and these proposals are the first steps that provide a solid foundation for further improvements in the future. Once the roof has been repaired, we can look at the possibility of installing solar panels, and with better insulation we can start to look at more efficient heating systems.

“We could keep trying to patch up problems as and when they crop up, but that’s a false economy in the long run. We can’t keep ignoring problems because it then becomes considerably more expensive to deal with them.”

The works have been estimated as a cost of £1.9 million pounds, paid for from borrowing at a cost of £38,000 a year. The estimated savings to the council from carrying out the works are £16,800 a year, not including the benefits of the increased insulation and potential letting income. The council would only need to let a small amount of space to recoup the remaining interest cost.

The plans were discussed at a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Wednesday, 17 March, and the report can be viewed on the council’s website.