A popular community sports complex in the North East of England looks set to secure a financially viable future thanks to two social enterprises and the Government’s feed-in tariff (FiT).

The Norton Sports Complex, which has been operating as a charitable trust on Teesside for the past 50 years, has been hit hard by the recent economic downturn, with many of its services being put under threat.

Now thanks to the FiT, which offers a regular tax-free income to those who generate their own electricity, the centre looks set to secure much-needed funds for the next 25 years by using some of its previously unutilised land to house an array of photovoltaic (PV) panels.

The project, which is being developed by Community Interest Company, Community Energy Solutions (CES), with funding and ongoing management by Empower Community, will see 1.5MW of PV panels being installed at the complex – with electricity they generate being sold back to the Grid.

The funds from the FiT will be divided between CES/Empower Community (to cover the cost of the installation and ongoing management) and the Norton Sports Complex. This will ensure the trust will not only benefit from no capital outlay but will also receive a regular, tax free annual income to help secure its services over the next 25 years.

The Norton Sports Complex trust is run by a board of 12 trustees, as well as a senior management team consisting of a chairman, vice chairman and secretary and a dedicated band of more than 50 volunteers, who in turn are struggling to give their time for free due to the financial pressures of the recession and the rising cost of living.

In these difficult times the complex has become even more vital to the local community, not just in terms of its sporting and social facilities, but in providing employment and volunteering opportunities to the large numbers of people across Teesside who have found themselves out of work due to business closures and large scale redundancies from the likes of British Steel.

Mike Mulligan, Chairman of Norton Sports Complex said “We are actively involved in community projects and make our facilities available to local groups during the day, which would be difficult to maintain if we have to cut back costs any further.

“Our main source of income over the years has been our own social club, although attendance here has now reduced by 60% with people no longer being able to afford to come along. We have also been hit hard by a decline in sponsorship from companies in the area, as they cut their marketing budgets in an effort to preserve their own income.

“It is crucial for the complex’s survival that we find a sustainable and long-standing form of income and thanks to the Government’s Feed in Tariff, solar PV looks set to be the answer. We also hope to benefit more directly by using energy generated by the system in the complex itself, which will bring down our costs and hopefully ensure our survival even further.”