Warrington Borough Council’s Cabinet is being asked to approve plans for an innovative, green project which would give the public the opportunity to invest with the council to develop a new solar farm.

The Cabinet will consider proposals at its meeting, on Wednesday 27 May, for the launch by the council of a new Community Municipal Bond (CMB) to help it deliver the project.

These solar farm plans have been in development since 2018, as part of the council’s ongoing work to deliver its Green Energy Strategy and meet the aims of its climate emergency declaration. If the plans for the CMB are approved, the public will be able to be part of the project.

The power generated from the solar farm, in Cirencester, will be used to meet the council’s energy needs, with any surplus energy generated sold.  In this way, it will support the council’s aims of:

• tackling the climate emergency and becoming carbon neutral by 2030
• generating an income for the council to help protect essential services
• engendering collaborative working with residents on the green agenda

A CMB is a bond issued by a local authority directly to the public via an internet-based crowdfunding platform. By investing as little as £5, investors will be able to support an important project for Warrington’s future and receive a long term, low risk return.

The plans form part of a nationwide pilot exploring using CMBs to fund infrastructure for local authorities, and would see the council issuing a CMB to fund up to £10m of the Cirencester project. The bond would be issued to residents and investors from across the country to receive a percentage return on their capital for the investment. 

It is expected to be launched in the coming weeks, as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The scheme would be administered by Abundance, who are a separate FCA registered company, on behalf of the Council.

Warrington Borough Council Leader, Cllr Russ Bowden, said: “We have recently seen much emphasis being put on the need for climate-friendly stimulus policies to reboot economies in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. In Warrington, we remain committed to delivering a carbon neutral future, while doing all we can to protect our vital services now and in the future.

“The proposed Community Municipal Bond scheme would allow people to invest directly with us to help build a greener and more prosperous future for the borough. As such, it would give residents and community groups a fantastic opportunity to make a sound, social investment, while supporting our work to address the climate change emergency we all face.”

The plans are the latest part of the council’s ongoing programme to mitigate climate change and carbon emissions, generate a financial return for the council, create employment opportunities and reduce fuel poverty.  Other successful council projects in recent years include the installation of solar photovoltaic (PV) on 3,000 Golden Gates properties, developing investments in solar bonds that other councils have invested in, and acquiring solar farms in York and Hull.

While the bonds would be targeted at people living within the Warrington region, they would also be available to people living across the UK. CMBs are built to prioritise individual investment but are compatible with the requirements of institutional investors such as pension funds. 

Abundance is an FCA regulated investment platform founded in 2012 with a mission to help turn members of the public into real stakeholders in things they care about, and allowing anybody to invest as little as £5. 

In 2016, Abundance launched the first Local Authority Green ISA bond with Swindon Borough Council, which funded two 5 Mw solar parks with the participation of more than 1,600 investors. 

Abundance have carried out consultation with Warrington residents who were all very supportive of the bond issue, which allows local and UK residents to invest in positive, green investments that are secure and low risk, paying a competitive rate of interest.

For more information on the Community Municipal investment, and to sign up to receive email updates, please visit abundanceinvestment.com/warrington