Southill Community Energy (SCE) and Thomas Gifford Trust (TGT)
SCE wishes to congratulate TGT for the completion of the amazing new library and sports centre which will be huge assets to the town. We look forward to their opening in September.
As many people will be aware, SCE is a community renewables cooperative with a commitment to distribute some of its surpluses to benefit the community. When we applied for planning permission for the solar farm in 2014, we gave a commitment - made binding in our subsequent Section 106 agreement - to provide grant funding of up to £100,000 to the TGT to help ensure that the building uses as little energy as possible to help minimise future running costs.
SCE has been engaged from the outset with the TGT's design and construction process, providing advice and guidance to the trustees on how best to deliver a low energy building. This was in addition to the donation of £242,000 from the Charlbury Motor Fire Brigade Fund to the TGT which had attached to it a condition that TGT use best endeavours to deliver a building to the passivhaus energy standard if possible.
TGT made various improvements to the building's design to improve its intended energy performance, and made financial commitments to have these included during the course of their negotiations with the selected contractor. Training was also provided for the contractor who subsequently delivered a building with minimal air leakage - a real achievement. As part of its contract with Solar Century, SCE was able to make the first contribution of its S106 commitment by providing the solar panels that were installed on the roof.
Meanwhile, SCE was raising funds from the community and banks during 2016, and was able to sign contracts for the construction of the solar farm, which was commissioned in November 2016. It has now been operating for nine months, and so far is generating electricity in line with expectations.
Unlike a commercial developer, SCE was not able to deliver on its S106 commitments by paying funds to the TGT upfront before the solar farm was operating because it had no reserves of cash on which to draw. SCE has to be operating for a year, and to be able to calculate its surpluses, from which the community benefit can be paid. All our members have agreed to forgo their interest payments this year, so all of our surplus will be going to the TGT.
The Section 106 agreement does not mandate a timescale over which the funds are to be paid out. However, the SCE board recognises that the TGT has incurred considerable costs to date and it is the intention of SCE to make the funds available as soon as possible within the constraints of its financial performance and the community benefit society and accounting rules by which it is governed.
The SCE board wishes to be entirely clear that there is no question whatsoever over the commitment made to the Trust.
Liz Reason, chair of SCE on behalf of the board