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Electric Revolution for Belper Cluster Heritage Site

Part of a UNESCO world heritage site in rural Derbyshire is set to undertake a new industrial revolution.

The Belper Clusters Heritage Group felt it necessary to explore adopting technologies for electric vehicle charging and renewable energy generation in the fight against climate change, and commissioned Cenex to explore possible solutions that protect the site’s conservation area.

“We have really enjoyed working with the Belper Clusters Heritage Group and getting to know the interesting history of the Clusters,” said Chris Rimmer, Infrastructure Strategy Lead at Cenex.

“Due to their unique situation and restrictions on what is allowed to be built, conservation areas like this risk being left behind in the transport revolution.

“We think that this is a scheme which has considerable merit with potential to benefit the local community and others like it”.

Michele Pattison of Belper Clusters Heritage Group said: “We are very happy with the report and believe it will provide excellent evidence and support in progressing to the next stage of the project.

“Cenex were great to work with as they adapted well to the situation of working online and made sure that we were kept informed and had input as the process went on. I’d be happy to recommend them.”

The Belper Clusters is a community of ex-mill worker’s cottages constructed at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Previously owned by local industrial pioneer Jedediah Strutt, a contemporary and former colleague of Richard Arkwright, the streets and cottages survive to this day with many of their original features intact.

To protect the area’s legacy and historical importance, the area has been designated as part of the Derwent Valley Mills World UNESCO Heritage Site.

But despite its history, the community is not a museum piece, and with growing global pressure to tackle climate change and the ever-increasing rise of new green technologies, the Clusters area felt the need to adapt to this new industrial revolution.

Innovation is at the heart of the area’s heritage, and with that in mind, Cenex were commissioned via funding from the RCEF (Rural Community Energy Fund) to undertake a feasibility study, assessing how the Belper Clusters (and other areas like it) might adopt technologies for sustainably powered electric vehicle charging, whilst protecting the characteristics most valued by the local community.

Any solutions also need to align to other elements of the Group’s community projects, including the road renovation, education and outreach programmes, community-led activities, and art projects.

After desk-based research into available technologies, case studies and funding, Cenex engaged with the local community through online surveys and workshops to understand, and accommodate for, their values and requirements.

A feasibility assessment concluded that two innovative schemes could meet the demands of an electric revolution while preserving the protected characteristics, one for off-street situations, and one for on-street situations without the integrated solar generation component.

Both of these could benefit The Clusters and create a chargepoint solution for other rural communities.

Cenex recommended that all aspects of the scheme be taken forwards to implementation as they bring value to the community, potential value to others in similar situations, and enhance the wider roads renovation project.

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