At a meeting of Adur and Worthing Councils’ joint strategic committee on Thursday (October 7), members heard that a bid for £5 million in funding from the government Heat Networks Investment Programme (HNIP) had been successful.
The funding will cover preparatory work, initial construction and a private sector partner to help finance, design, build, own and operate the WHN.
Part of this funding will be a ‘low-cost’, fixed rate loan of around £1.275 million.
During the meeting, officers said ‘excellent progress’ had been made on the ‘UK-leading’ project.
Following investigations into Worthing’s sewers, it was discovered that there is enough heat for the new network to replace gas boilers – a major step forward in the plans.
Councillors were delighted at the news with Kevin Jenkins (Con, Gaisford) saying: “I remember the phrase you used to hear in films: ‘there’s gold in them there hills’. Well, we’ve got heat in them there sewers.
“We spoke on the earlier paper and decarbonisation and this is just another very significant step in that direction – with the potential for 28 premises to be connected to the heat network.
“We should actually be challenging ourselves to find ways to do things differently – This is one of those ways of doing it.”
Rebecca Cooper (Lab, Marine) noted that things had moved on ‘substantially’ when compared to a few months ago, with ‘a lot more funding available’.
She said: “This is obviously going to be a really big piece of work, involving quite a lot of upheaval.
“Have officers spoken to people who’ve done this before, in other countries, and have we got a sense of how it went? How will we manage the risks in our community as it goes forward?”
Council officers said that the most significant disruption to Worthing residents and visitors would be the construction phase, when pipes are placed into the ground.
They said that they were already planning for ‘significant disruption years in advance’ with partners like West Sussex County Council Highways and other stakeholders.
Site visits to other areas with similar innovations including Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham and Westminster have already been undertaken by the officers.
“There are support networks we can call on,” they said.
Mr Jenkins said that disruption was inevitable but would be worth it in the long term.
He said: “We have a tight, dense town centre. Yes there will be disruption, as with any construction in urban areas and metropolitan areas; that’s the nature of the beast.
“But to be able to do this, looking at such a wide area of sites across social, healthcare, education, our own premises, other key partners and, hopefully, even a solution to the Splashpoint Leisure Centre, would be most welcome across this town.”
This heat network is among the first of its kind in England but successful projects are already in operation in Scotland and Europe.
It is hoped the project will heat around 28 buildings in Worthing’s Civic Quarter and new developments with an expected ‘on date’ of late 2024 or early 2025.
Phase two of construction is expected to take place throughout 2025.
This would help the councils to meet their pledge to become carbon neutral by 2030 by reducing emissions from heat sources by up to 90 per cent.
Heat was identified as a major challenge to this goal as emissions from gas are responsible for approximately one third of the councils’ footprint.
When the WHN is operational, a pump would capture heat passing through the mains sewer, which runs below Worthing’s high street, thus providing sustainable energy.
This is a list of all the buildings which could be connected to the WHN:
West Sussex Health & Social Care
Davison C of E Secondary School for Girls’ Wallace building
Davison C of E Secondary School for Girls’ main building
Worthing Library and Community Hub
Lyndhurst Infant School and Children and Family Centre
Davison Leisure Centre
Worthing Town Hall
Worthing Assembly Hall
Worthing Museum and Art Gallery
Worthing Integrated Care Centre
Splashpoint Leisure Centre
BG Site: St William
Sussex Police West Downs Division
Worthing Hospital Homefield
Worthing Law Courts