‘Zero carbon’ opportunity missed for Lewes’s North Street scheme

Beneath the ‘hype’ over Santon’s suggestion of using the River Ouse to heat buildings in the North Street Quarter, reality is somewhat different.

Their Sustainability paper lists four options to heat the buildings, three of which cannot be described as ‘sustainable’; they are simply variations on using natural gas, via individual boilers or a district heating network.

The use of a true low-carbon option, using local wood for heating – which we have ample supplies of – did not even make it as an option.

By opting for a technologically risky ‘open loop’ water source heat pump solution, the developers face significant salinity and water extraction issues. In a drought, the whole system might be shut down. This leads to a suspicion that Santon are simply putting this technology up to ease through planning and will then quietly drop it later when it proves too ‘difficult’ or too ‘expensive’ to implement.

The fact is heat pumps do require a big increase in electricity and unless a big low-carbon solar PV array is integrated with the development, carbon emissions will result. Santon do not even acknowledge this problem and have no serious proposal for mandatory on-site solar. At present it is solely an ‘option’ for home buyers. This means that they are not committed to a low or zero net carbon solution.

In truth Santon are serving up a superficially interesting energy proposal, but which on further searching will deliver standard gas condensing boilers. For such a big development it would be a major ‘zero carbon’ opportunity missed for Lewes, and should be outright rejected by the Planning Authority.

Stewart Boyle