St George’s Church and Centre is a 1970’s built church serving the parish of Newtown, an extremely deprived inner city area one mile north of Birmingham City Centre.
It is home to a wide range of community groups and initiatives which include;
56th Birmingham Brownies and Guides
Community Advice Surgery
Newtown Chess Club
Newtown Neighbourhood Forum
Newtown Resident Design and Quality Review Group
In addition the worship space is also used by Congolese, Zimbabwean, Ethiopian, Nigerian and Angolan faith and cultural groups.
Hundreds of people access the centre each week. The local area is now undergoing significant changes with large scale residential redevelopment taking place.
St George’s Church would like to expand the youth and homework clubs, attract more one-off party hires and set up groups for the very young and elderly, such as toddler groups and a lunch club. The biggest obstacle to achieving this goal is the current heating system which is completely inadequate for the size of the building. The current system relies on budget electric panel heaters that are undersized and of sub standard specification which results in the building failing to be heated adequately and efficiently. The current heating system is expensive to run; the electricity bill in 2014 was £889 a month.
Community groups described the building as being “warmer outside than in” and “freezing”. The ESOL group have to move to a smaller room in the winter months as the hall is too cold to accommodate a crèche. Some elderly parishioners will not visit the Church in the winter because it is so cold, leaving these vulnerable members of the community isolated and excluded from regular social contact.
The Church has very limited opportunities for raising funds; they received a number of quotes for upgrading the heating system which varied from £70,000 to £100,000. It would be an enormous challenge to raise this amount of money even through grant funding as they would struggle to achieve the minimum match funding required.
NGAWS (National Grid Affordable Warmth Solutions) secured funding for a new gas supply completed by T & K Gallagher (Total cost of £10,007) and Warm Energy (Total Cost of £34,700) installing the new heating system. Total NGAWS funding is c£45,000.
On the 25th February 2016, NGAWS appointed contractor T&K Gallagher Ltd. who commenced works laying 48m of new gas main. The duration of this part of the project was five working days which was completed on schedule. Brendan Meanwell, Operations Manager for T&K Gallagher stated “that it is very gratifying for me and the team to provide our services to a very worthy cause for all the services they provide to the local community of Newtown”.
Thereon Warm Energy commenced works to
- Introduce a gas-fired wet central heating system to supply heat to the whole building;
- Replace the existing hot water cylinders with gas-fired combination boiler DHW to existing outlets;
- Zone the building to allow individual use in agreed areas. Fit TRVs to emitters as appropriate.
Warm Energy completed works mid March. Paul Edgar, Warm Energy Managing Director, stated “Working with National Grid Affordable Warmth Solutions and the group at St George’s Church & Centre to find a low cost heating solution that delivered controlled heat that met the many and varied demands of the users of the centre was both challenging and rewarding. Traditional designs for heating such a complex space would have come at a cost beyond the reach of this community run facility, but having the freedom to approach the problem in a collaborative manner resulted in us achieving a fantastic design at an incredibly low cost. The system was installed over a 2 week period and to witness the joy brought by having a warm worship and work space and seeing people from such different cultures and countries come together at the end of the project to help decorate and organise each space was truly inspiring. Thank you for asking us to be involved”.
Sue Rowledge - Parish Administrator, commented “the investment made to us by National Grid Affordable Warmth Solutions has made a huge difference to all of us here at St George's Church & Community Centre. It has turned a historically freezing and therefore unwelcoming building into a place where people look forward to attending and spending time in. It also means that we can and will increase the future usage to include projects for very vulnerable groups such as pre-school children and the elderly who previously have been excluded due to the cold. It says a lot when, all year round, the inside of the building was generally far colder than the outside no matter what we did.
The support given by NGAWS from start to finish was excellent. They were always on hand to help and talked me through every process to enable me to cascade the information to everyone using the building so that we were all kept in the loop. We are now looking forward to the energy bills instead of dreading them. We are also looking forward to having the opportunity to host energy efficiency surgeries to be able to help other local community groups as we were helped. It will make a massive difference to local people visiting us to actually see our system up and running so well. Proving that NGAWS not only talk the talk but actually are willing to help in a practical way too. Too many times in the past this area has been promised things that have never materialized breeding an atmosphere of doubt and mistrust and feelings that they have been forgotten.
Without NGAWS's investment we would have had to continue to use this cold, damp building as local need outweighs the inconvenience but the usage would have always governed by the extortionate heating costs and the elements.
Now we can look forward to a better and more secure future”.
Jeremy Nesbitt, Managing Director, Affordable Warmth Solutions commented “we understand the challenges facing community facing organisations of inefficient buildings and associated high heating costs and are delighted to be able to provide support for such a diverse and culturally embracing facility such as St George’s Church. Our investment now enables the community to embrace its history and look to future use of the church facilities in a far more inviting and comfortable environment with controllable heating systems that will lead to increased usage and critically lower energy bills”.
‘Affordable Warmth Solutions, in partnership with National Energy Action (NEA), will be holding energy efficiency advice and fuel bill surgeries to help deprived householders in the area reduce energy bills and improve the quality of their lives’.