About the project
The RECCKN research was conducted in two towns in the North and West Midlands: Shrewsbury in Shropshire and Newcastle-under-Lyme in Staffordshire. We chose these towns because of their contrasting socio-economic profiles and the different levels of community energy activity taking place within them. Within these two towns, we focussed on four wards as our case study communities: Silverdale and Knutton and Cross Heath in Newcastle, and Belle Vue and Porthill in Shrewsbury. During the RECCKN project, we discovered that these wards vary significantly in their social cohesion and local sense of community.
Comparative analysis of how energy information is perceived, discussed and shared in these four study areas has enabled us to identify differences and similarities in how people think and talk about energy use and the environment.
Newcastle-under-Lyme is immediately west of the neighbouring city of Stoke-on-Trent, their suburbs running into one another. Silverdale and Knutton and Cross Heath are both residential areas to the west of Newcastle-under-Lyme centre. They are ex-coal mining communities that have experienced economic decline over several decades. According to the Office of National Statistics, they are among the most economically deprived wards in the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme and among the 10% most deprived in the country. However, they each have a number of amenities (clubs, churches, schools) and green spaces, and have a distinct sense of community identity – notably in the village of Silverdale, where this is particularly strong.
Some energy reduction and fuel poverty initiatives focussing on building infrastructure improvements have been trialled in the areas, driven by local council and housing associations initiatives aimed at areas of high socio-economic deprivation. Members of the research team have been working for some time with these communities. Our novel contribution has been to focus on the nature and effect of knowledge networks in these wards.
Shrewsbury, the county town of Shropshire, is an historic market town. It is relatively affluent and has a low unemployment rate, with an economy largely based on the services and tourism.
Belle Vue and Porthill are both residential areas, to the south and west of Shrewsbury town centre, respectively. Like Shrewsbury as a whole, both areas are largely affluent and have a relatively elderly population, with around 20% of people being over 65. Each ward also has its own active centre of shops, restaurants and amenities, along with several churches.
Shrewsbury has a fairly long history of sustainability engagement and is currently an active Transition Town with around 40 volunteers working on a range of projects, including an annual Green Doors event and recycling schemes. An emerging hydro project on the River Severn has reached feasibility study stage and in time could generate enough electricity for 450 homes. There is also active commitment to a town cycle network, and the Town is home to a range of small businesses promoting environmental and sustainability projects. Shrewsbury is also home to our key project partner, Marches Energy Agency (MEA) which has had a presence in the town for over 12 years.