‘Groundbreaking’ sewage-powered energy facility in Eastbourne to be explored

The current Sovereign Centre site in Eastbourne (photo by Jon Rigby)
The current Sovereign Centre site in Eastbourne (photo by Jon Rigby)

Council leaders have backed plans to look at whether sewage could be used to heat an Eastbourne swimming pool.

At a meeting on Wednesday (September 11), members of Eastbourne Borough Council’s Lib Dem cabinet agreed to release up to £115,000 to look at whether a sewage-powered energy facility could be built at the Sovereign Centre.

According to council papers, such a facility could see energy extracted from the town’s sewer system to heat the seafront leisure centre, reduce the town’s overall carbon footprint and – potentially – bring in funds to council.

The plans were supported by Cllr Jonathan Dow, the council’s lead member for place services. He said: “With the council’s focus on sustainability and carbon neutrality by 2030, it is imperative EBC seeks every opportunity to support this aim by delivering the most efficient buildings as possible. 

“This kind of opportunity not only supports our green initiatives but our commercial ones too as it is expected we will generate more energy than we consume and can sell back the surplus.

“I would rather we view this as an investment as opposed to a cost, especially considering the carbon neutrality move within the council. This is Eastbourne leading by example in my opinion.”

While at an early stage, the design of the energy centre is expected to redirect heat from the town’s sewage pipe to the Sovereign Centre, reducing its heating costs and carbon footprint.

If it proves viable, the council believes the energy centre could be developed to provide energy for other types of development and even see the authority get cash back under an incentive scheme.

For council leader David Tutt, however, the focus was on sustainability rather than council revenue.

He said: “This is not about income generation this is about the carbon neutral agenda [and] it is about doing things a different way.

“The agenda tonight demonstrated the groundbreaking approach Eastbourne Borough Council has taken in terms of tackling climate change in a structured positive way.

“This new idea – and it is a new idea – is groundbreaking. Is it going to make money? I don’t know, but that isn’t why we are doing it.

“We are saying this is right for the environment [and] right for the town.”

The £115,000 budget agreed by cabinet is to fund feasibility and design work on the proposed energy centre, which is expected to be considered by cabinet in February as it decides whether to continue with the scheme. 

While a stand-alone facility, its construction would also be expected to affect the final design proposed for the new Sovereign Centre building so that it could take full advantage of the energy centre.

It is unclear what effect this will have on the overall timetable for the replacement Sovereign Centre.

The original timetable for the project (as approved by the council’s cabinet in July last year) predicted construction work would have begun in June this year, but no planning application has come forward so far.

Despite these timetable changes, council officers told councillors at a scrutiny committee last week the authority ‘remains committed’ to building the new centre and was carrying out due diligence on the project.