Pioneering partnership could draw down millions in net zero funding

Last Updated: 30 January 2023

30 January 2023

An innovative partnership project aimed at helping move South Lakeland towards net zero has been backed to the tune of nearly £75,000 – with the potential to draw down millions more.

A collaboration between South Lakeland District Council, Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) and the University of Cumbria has been given £74,625 from government innovation agency Innovate UK to establish how "non-technical barriers" to decarbonisation in rural areas can be reduced or removed.

Such barriers include high transport costs, inability to achieve economies of scale, a shortage of green skills, inefficient housing stock and lack of funding.

Only 30 bids to the Pioneer Places competition were successful throughout the UK and six of those will be picked to share £30 million to put their carbon reduction plan into action.

The other partners in the project are Victorian House Hotel, Fell Brewery, Holker Estates, Kendal Nutricare, Ourea Events, Pelta Medical Papers, Playdale Playgrounds and The Heaton Cooper Studio.

Councillor Dyan Jones, South Lakeland District Council's portfolio holder for climate action and biodiversity, said: "This council declared its position in 2019, recognising the climate emergency, committing to action and unanimously agreeing to make this a whole council priority. Since then we have been proactively improving and increasing our support for community action and to businesses in South Lakeland and within our own operations –  thinking globally, acting locally.

"We are passionate about working collaboratively. This is the best way to meet this vital challenge. Local action on climate change can make a huge difference towards our net zero ambitions.

"I am delighted and excited that our project has been backed by Innovate UK and I look forward to the next stage and what we can do together."

Cumbria Action for Sustainability CEO, Karen Mitchell, said: “Rural areas like South Lakeland can be hard hit by the kinds of extreme weather events caused by climate change. We look forward to working with local communities and businesses to figure out how to reduce their use of fossil fuels in ways which benefit their lives and livelihoods.”

Helen Manns, director for the University of Cumbria's Institute of Science & Environment, said: "The University of Cumbria is pleased to be a partner in such an exciting project. We were established in Cumbria for a reason, and this drives us. We work in and through student, educational, employer, sector and place-based partnerships and collaborations, to co-create and apply new knowledge and to positively embrace our civic responsibilities.

“The project's focus on carbon reduction aligns with our own carbon reduction ambitions and commitment to supporting research into sustainability and carbon reduction.”

The South Lakeland project builds on the work of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership (ZCCP) – a ground-breaking collaboration of more than 80 public, private and third sector organisations that has identified the priority actions needed to reduce carbon emissions.

The project will focus on the priority areas for carbon emissions reduction which have already been identified by the ZCCP and include: improving the energy efficiency of buildings, enabling active travel and electric vehicle infrastructure, decarbonising local manufacture/production and the rural economy.

Will McMahon, commercial director of Kendal Nutricare, said: “Kendal Nutricare is a family business that proudly manufactures Kendamil, the award-winning baby milk, made from our home in the Lake District. As an energy-reliant manufacturing business, we are excited to be a part of the Pioneer Places program, which will form a key pillar in our business’ journey towards net zero. We look forward to working with CAFS, our fellow participants, our dairy farming network and the local community to design future-proofed, sustainable solutions that benefit our local community and the millions of Kendamil customers around the world.”

Tim Bloomer, managing director of Fell Brewery, said: “We are a small, independent craft brewery and bars business that have been operating in South Lakes for the last decade. With operations spanning the production, distribution and hospitality sectors, we are well versed in and aware of the unique challenges that the economy of South Lakes faces. The prospect of developing and adapting our processes to become truly environmentally sustainable is something we are committed to above all else at Fell. Having begun to get to grips with the task at hand, the task is undoubtedly daunting but nevertheless exhilarating, exciting and presents huge opportunities for our local economy.

"Being involved in the Pioneer Places feasibility study is something we are very excited by. Amidst all the uncertainty that remains around paths to net zero and wider sustainability, one thing that is for certain is that a collective approach will yield the most impact. By bringing all major stakeholders together and encouraging dialogue, realism and open-mindedness, I believe that our local area can emerge reinvigorated with a pathway to both learning to live sustainably in this amazing place and to take advantage of the opportunities this will provide.”

Serena von der Heyde from Victorian House Hotel in Grasmere, said: "It's a game changer for residents and businesses.  Cumbria has the will and the expertise to work to Carbon Zero. Now it has the money. As a small business I believe this funding will help us to make long lasting cuts in our carbon emissions."

Martyn Bland, technical Manager for Playdale Playgrounds Ltd, said: "We are acutely aware of the climate emergency. We want to do everything practically possible to reduce our carbon impact toward a net zero future. As an SME with limited resource, knowing where to focus these efforts is a challenge within the overwhelming volume of data, information, and opinion."

David Matthias, sustainability manager for Pelta Medical Papers Ltd, based at Beetham, said: "We are pleased to support this project looking at the non-technical barriers to net zero living. Our employees and their families live in the area and the decarbonisation challenges will affect us all."

About Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS)

CAfS is Cumbria's climate change organisation. Its vision is a zero carbon Cumbria, bringing about a better way of life in balance with our environment. Its mission is to empower and enable people, communities and businesses to live and work more sustainably by sharing our knowledge, practice, skills, networks and practical experience. It promote low-carbon living, energy saving and reduced use of fossil fuels across Cumbria through inspiring events, training courses and practical projects.

CAfS is a registered charity and company, based in Penrith and working across Cumbria.

Some of its activities are funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and are part of the Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership’s ambitious emission reduction programme to make Cumbria carbon neutral by 2037.

The Zero Carbon Cumbria Partnership brings together over 70 organisations in the public, private, and third sectors and is jointly chaired by Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS) and Cumbria County Council.