New heating for historic Lancaster City Museum and Library with greener options in future

Lancaster’s City Museum and Central Library are set for a new gas-fuelled heating system after alternative greener heating technology was ruled-out for a number of reasons.

Lancaster’s City Museum and Central Library are set for a new gas-fuelled heating system.

The City Museum and Central Library are based in Lancaster’s landmark former town hall next to the Market Place. The museum is also home to the King’s Own Regiment Museum.

The historic nature of the listed Georgian building, dating from the 1780s, means that significant alterations would have been needed for alternative greener heating technology available at this time, the city council cabinet heard this week.

But a new gas-fuelled boiler system will be more energy-efficient and cost-effective; will enable separate heating and billing arrangements for the museum and library from one boiler, and can be adapted with greener technology in future.

The current 30-year-old boiler system sends 83 tonnes of emissions into the atmosphere each year, the city council cabinet heard this week. The historic site is ranked tenth on the list of city council buildings for carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Replacement is essential before the boiler fails, a report to the cabinet stated.

Because the two buildings were originally joined, the heating system boiler is located in one basement room. Lancaster City Council and Lancashire County Council manage the museum and library respectively, and investigations were carried out into the possibility of creating two separate heating plant rooms – one in the existing museum and a new one for the library . However the building work and costs involved were seen as too disruptive and expensive.

Lancaster City Council declared a climate emergency is 2019 and aims to cut emissions from its own buildings, vehicles and operations, along with those from homes and businesses. Following this year’s local elections, the council is now led by Greens along with Eco-Socialist Independents.

At its latest meeting this week, the city cabinet agreed that £79,000 from a £105,000 museum boiler budget should be released to complete the project. The total project cost is estimated at £178,600 with the county council earmarked to pay the remainder.

Green Coun Tim Hamilton-Cox said: “The three main issues to consider are reliability, cost and impact on emissions. The current boiler is 30 years old, so, in some ways, we should be grateful it’s still working. But the recommendation is to replace the gas boiler with a new gas system but ensure mechanisms are in place to install air source heat pumps at a later date.

He added: “Cost savings will ultimately be dependent on gas prices, which we cannot guarantee. But we can guarantee emission savings.”

A council officer’s engineering report to the cabinet stated: “The condition of the boilers has been of concern for a number of years and we have put considerable time and effort in to ensuring they continue to function. However, they are inefficient and there is a real risk that they will become unrepairable, leaving both the City Museum and Lancaster Library at risk.

“With the recommended replacement option, we remain open to introducing green alternatives at a time when the technology has evolved adequately enough.”

Labour Coun Anne Whitehead asked for clarification if Lancashire County Council had agreed to meet its share of the costs.

Other councillors were unclear on the latest state of play with the county.

Green Coun Gina Dowding said: “When I first read the report saying we could not install new green technology on this property split between the city and county council, I felt disappointed. However, I realise it shows how old buildings can be complicated and difficult. But given that the new boiler will be adaptable to different technologies and can be added to, then this is the right thing to do for carbon and energy consumption savings.”

Approval was given for the city council’s £79,000 contribution towards the new boiler work.