Many people are still sceptical about the use of social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook and others. Are updates about what someone’s having for lunch really going to change the world?

The truth is that social media has moved on in leaps and bounds in recent years. All platforms are focusing more on business content, with more than 20 million small businesses now having their own Facebook page. Within a matter of hours of a page being set up, a business could have a potential reach of thousands. Active Twitter users now total in excess of 645,750,000; a phenomenal number given the simplicity of the concept. Twitter is an easy, direct way of engaging with a business’ clients and customers and having an active Twitter presence is integral to brand awareness.

But the reach of social media extends even further; the story of Stephen Sutton, a 19-year old sufferer of terminal cancer, has been well-known for some time but in recent days has become nothing short of a social media explosion. I hope he doesn’t mind me using him as an example of the powers of these channels. Stephen (using the hashtag #stephensstory) has documented his experiences with the disease via a website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and many other platforms. He is a vocal supporter and fundraiser for the Teenage Cancer Trust (to whom I have made a donation having used Stephen as my case study!) and, until a couple of days ago had already succeeded in raising over half a million pounds for this important cause.

This week, Stephen updated his many followers to advise that he has had a turn for the worse and is in hospital, most likely for the remainder of his days. He is at ease with the situation and mentally prepared. However, his ‘bucket list’ included a fundraising target for the TCT of £1m and, despite having raised a huge sum, he was short. Fortunately, during his active fundraising, Stephen had gained the support of a number of celebrities, in particular the prolific ‘Facebooker’ and ‘Tweeter’ comedian Jason Manford. Jason has (at the time of writing) 670,853 Facebook ‘likes’ and 80,300 followers on Twitter and has a unique and enviable way of engaging his fans with insights into his personal life, honest social commentary and, occasionally, promotion of good causes.

Less than 24 hours ago, Jason urged his Facebook and Twitter followers to donate to the TCT via Stephen’s Justgiving page and accompanied his posts with stories of his own experiences of having met Stephen. It was clear that Jason was obviously very moved by the story (as, I think, would anyone be given that a 19-year old lad is about to lose his barely-getting-started life). By midday today, and in a storm of publicity and hashtags, the total topped £1m. This is one story that moved too fast for print media or even the TV news; they are all still catching up whilst the crest of the wave can still be ridden.

It is staggering to me that, simply through social media channels, such a large sum of money can be raised in such a short period of time. The best news of course is that it happened so fast that Stephen is fortunately still with us and has been told of his target having been reached. Surely even the most cynical critic of informal communication channels can appreciate that there is no greater achievement. Well done to Jason Manford, to all his loyal fans who picked up the baton and especially to Stephen for battling such an awful disease with good humour and dignity. You will leave a huge legacy.

You can support Stephen here:

Text STEPHEN to 70500 to donate £5 to the Teenage Cancer Trust or visit to make a donation.




District heating – an overview

District heating systems comprise a network of insulated pipes delivering heat in the form of water or steam from a central heat source to end users.

Energy sources vary greatly and include natural gas, biomass, geothermal and domestic and/or commercial waste. In some cases, only heat is produced, but in others, both heat and electricity are produced (Combined Heat and Power plant, or CHP).

District heating systems are used in a wide range of developments, proving their versatility. They have been used successfully across hospitals, housing developments (from single tower blocks to developments consisting of many units), mixed-use areas and, for example in Southampton, across many kilometres of the city connecting a huge range of end users to a single geothermal heat source.

Case study – Derwenthorpe housing development

Derwenthorpe is a housing development in York which, at completion, will consist of 540 units. The initial phase of the development has been constructed for the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust (“JRHT”) as affordable housing with the remainder under construction by David Wilson Homes. As part of the development, JRHT wanted the energy supply to be beneficial environmentally but also to draw the community together. A large and impressive boiler house was constructed towards the entrance of the site housing a biomass boiler capable of servicing all 540 units at completion. The boiler house serves the primary purpose of providing heat to the development but also comprises several meeting rooms and facilities for the use of residents.

The boiler is fuelled by sustainable and locally-sourced wood chip, delivered to the site by lorry and stored in secure, sealed and watertight underground fuel stores. It is essential for the fuel to be kept dry and therefore at its most efficient. The fuel is transferred into the main boiler which then serves to heat the water pipe network running around the site.

The pipe network is pre-insulated; main pipes are constructed from steel with the networks serving individual properties in plastic.

The energy boiler needs to meet requirements for clean air. ‘Scrubbers’ are attached to the chimney flues which remove the particulates from the air before it is diverted up the flue. The particulates can in fact be used themselves, particularly as fertiliser for plants. Any filter used for such a boiler must be matched to the size of the facility and so costs can vary greatly.

Residents of the JRHT properties (and others, once constructed) will contract with JRHT as their energy supplier and JRHT operate the biomass facility.

The fuel stores, when running at full capacity, will store around 3-4 days’ supply. In the event of a sudden surge or peak in demand, if the biomass store cannot cope gas is connected as a back-up. However, it is not expected that this will need to be used and the system has been designed to be as reliable as possible. JRHT, with Econergy who developed the system, invested in good-quality materials and believe that this will make the difference to ensure that the scheme is reliable, efficient and straightforward to operate. Feedback and buy-in from residents so far has been positive. JRHT did not disclose details of their funding arrangements for the project and whether they needed to borrow. An indication of cost for a system was given as £300,000-£400,000 based on an example of a simple biomass plant serving approximately 120 flats.

Econergy maintain the system under an ongoing maintenance contract following installation. JRHT deal with invoicing end users themselves, however. When undertaking a project such as this, it is important from the outset to provide for operation and maintenance long-term, both for certainty of cost and energy supply. 

Frequently asked questions

How is fuel stored?

Fuel is stored in sealed, underground fuel storage tanks. The tanks are constructed from steel and must be watertight to ensure that fuel is kept dry. The fuel supplier for Derwenthorpe carries out a drying process on the product before delivery to ensure that the fuel is as dry as possible before entering the boiler. Any water present in the fuel makes the burn less efficient.

A fuel auger in the tank delivers the wood chip from the storage tank to the boiler’s fuel receptor above ground.

Is there a back-up in case of shortage of fuel?

Gas is used as a back-up at Derwenthorpe in the event of demand surges.

What are the alternatives to wood chip? Why might these be preferred?

Wood chip is cheap which makes the fuel appealing to users. An alternative may be wood pellets, which are cleaner and have a higher density therefore making them more efficient. However, pellets are more expensive. Pellets may be preferred for example in high-density, inner-city areas where it is more difficult to deliver and/or store fuel; less is required due to the higher density of the pellets. If less storage space is available, pellets make the most efficient use of this.

JRHT agreed a price for their fuel supply, although details of this were not given. Cost and security of fuel supply is one of the biggest concerns for biomass plants and district heating systems and it is important that this is addressed right from the outset of any such project to ensure that it is viable to run and cost-effective to end users.

Other biomass-fuelled district heating schemes have used residential or commercial waste, or a combination of the two. The emissions would need to be treated to ensure that harmful particulates are removed but this presents an opportunity for waste to be used more positively than landfill.

How are end users charged?

Each property houses a meter and heat exchange system which is similar to a standard combi-boiler. Heat is transferred to the property’s radiators or under-floor heating system from the heat exchange box. End users contract with their landlord, developer or other operator of the scheme’s heat source (in the case of Derwenthorpe this is JRHT) who invoices as per the meter usage. At Derwenthorpe, residents of JRHT’s properties may only obtain their heat from the biomass source. It is important that there is a guaranteed load on such a system as this in order to ensure cost-effectiveness to both the operator and the end users. If residents were able to go elsewhere for their energy, the costs of the district heating scheme would rise accordingly  for those users left.

What happens to surplus energy?

A large thermal heat store in the boiler house stores surplus heat for future use.

How flexible is the biomass system and does this allow for future growth?

The heating scheme is designed with some ‘futureproofing’ in mind, particularly in terms of potential growth of the development. As technologies advance it will be possible for boiler improvements to be made and even for additional heat sources such as a geothermal supply to be ‘bolted on’ to the system. However, the system is designed to the best specifications possible at installation to ensure that it is as efficient to run as possible from the outset. At Derwenthorpe, it is presently intended to use just biomass as a heat source but in future it is possible to add others if necessary.

How are fuel deliveries made and do these impact on development?

Fuel deliveries are made to the energy centre at Derwenthorpe by lorry. The impact of this was considered at the planning stage. A large turning/car parking area is sited at the front of the centre along with the underground fuel storage tanks. The centre itself has been sited near to the entrance to the development meaning that delivery lorries do not need to travel through residential areas.

Even at full strength it is expected that fuel deliveries will only need to be made every 3 to 4 days; JRHT do not expect there to be a constant stream of deliveries to site.

Who owns the pipe infrastructure?

This remains in private ownership and is not adopted or maintained at public expense. The local authority liaises with the energy provider as to maintenance requiring the opening up of adopted highways.

What weaknesses does the system present?

Electricity is used to pump the heated water around the site through the pipe network. In the event of a power cut, the whole power to the estate goes down therefore meaning that the heat supply stops. The provider cannot plan for this and is aware that this presents a fault in the reliability of the system.


November 2012

Green Deal – or no deal?

The Coalition’s Green Deal programme was launched this week but what is it and can you benefit?

According to a recent poll by YouGov, commissioned by energy comparison website uSwitch, four out of five people have not heard of the government’s Green Deal programme despite this having been launched on Monday (28th January 2013). The scheme is designed to help homeowners and businesses make changes to their properties with the aim of cutting energy bills and promoting energy efficiency. Greg Barker MP, minister for climate change, has described the Green Deal as ‘a sea change in how we tackle energy efficiency’ and, with the government’s target reductions of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions being 80% by 2050, every step is vital. But what is the Green Deal and how does it work?

The Background

The Green Deal was proposed in 2012 and became available to the public, in both the residential and commercial sectors, on 28th January 2013. Participants under the scheme can take out a loan to carry out energy-saving improvements to their properties, such as installation of solid wall or loft insulation, new, more efficient boilers, draught-proofing and double-glazing. The scheme also supports renewable technologies such as wind turbines and photovoltaic (PV, or solar) panels. This enables homeowners and businesses to benefit from more energy efficient properties without incurring significant up-front costs. Properties are first visited by a registered Green Deal Assessor who will discuss with participants their energy usage and supply. Approved Green Deal Installers then advise as to potential improvements which could be made.

Participants take out the loan with a lender such as the Green Deal Finance Company (“GDFC”) which is a non-profit making, government-backed organisation (although participants are free to obtain funding from other sources if they wish). Loans are paid back through energy bills over a period of time, up to 25 years. Crucially, unlike a conventional loan, the debt does not move with the bill payer or the participant in the scheme but stays with the property; therefore anyone purchasing a Green Deal property assumes the repayments.

Landlords must obtain their tenants’ permission before participating in the Green Deal; similarly, tenants must obtain permission from landlords to participate. This includes social housing landlords and tenants. It is anticipated that funding available to commercial participants will be of a higher value than that offered to residential homeowners, although details of this are awaited.

The Golden Rule

The theory behind the Green Deal is the “golden rule” that expected financial savings must be equal to or greater than the costs attached to the energy bill.

Groundwork UK, an environmental and community charity which has worked alongside the government on the Green Deal, believe that typical average savings on a small residential property could be £120 per year. Larger residential properties, such as those with three or four bedrooms, could see savings of £270 or more.


The government has introduced a cashback scheme to incentivise the public to participate in the Green Deal, to be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. The more work a participant decides to carry out, the more cashback they could receive.

How the Green Deal will operate

The interest rate proposed for loans from the GDFC has sparked recent debate as to whether these are too prohibitive. The initial rate published on 25th January 2013 is 6.96% per annum. Further, each loan is subject to a set-up fee of £63 and an annual fee of £20, both of which are payable by Green Deal providers (such as energy and renewables companies) but which are likely to be passed onto participants as part of their overall package. Initial industry commentary indicates that the GDFC’s interest rate may be set at too high a level to draw the interest the government wishes.

Although the ‘golden rule’ remains the same for both residential and commercial properties, there are likely to be operational differences between them. For commercial participants, the Green Deal will need to operate and sit alongside other schemes such as the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme which may already affect their business. The government is looking at ways of ensuring that all schemes and programmes are fully integrated to enable businesses to participate wholly.

A revised Green Deal Code of Practice was issued by the government on 25th January 2013 and sets standards for Green Deal providers, assessors, installers and certification bodies.


Interested in finding out more or need advice as to the effects of the Green Deal on your property or business? We are happy to speak to you – with incentive schemes such as the Green Deal available and ever-increasing pressure from rising energy costs, now is a good time to review your energy needs.

DWF’s Energy & Infrastructure sector group offers a full-service, commercial legal service to businesses operating in the energy and utilities sectors. Please contact us and we would be delighted to help you ‘go green’.


January 2013

Dancing with the Stars!

This weekend (Sunday 21st July 2013), The Anna Shimmin School of Dance, based in Shevington, is proud to welcome James Robinson who will be running a series of dance masterclasses for students of the School.

James is a nationally-recognised dancer and choreographer who has worked on many hugely successful television series’ including The X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing On Ice. He has also worked with stars of the music industry as diverse as Cliff Richard and Chaka Khan to the Spice Girls, Jessie J, The Saturdays and The Pussycat Dolls.

James will be giving three commercial dance masterclasses, each two hours long, to students aged 10 and under, between 11 and 15 years and 16 and over. Commercial dance is the high-energy, fast-paced style enjoyed by the nation in their millions on Saturday nights and this is the first time that masterclasses such as this will have been run in Wigan.

Anna Shimmin, Dance School principal, says about this weekend’s visit, “We are very excited about being able to provide this opportunity for our students to learn from one of the best in the industry. James’ work has been viewed and talked about up and down the country and we are really looking forward to learning more from him.”

The masterclasses are taking place on Sunday at the following times (please note that the masterclasses are not open to the general public; places are limited to those already attending the Dance School):

Age 10 and under:           10am – 12pm
11-15 years:                        1pm – 3pm
16+ years:                           3pm – 5pm

We would be pleased to welcome a photographer to the School if you wish to feature the masterclasses. Alternatively, please let us know if you would like us to supply photographs.

About the Dance School:

The Anna Shimmin School of Dance was founded by Anna Shimmin in 2009 after starting her successful career as a professional dancer in shows and cabarets both in the UK and abroad. The School caters for all ages and abilities and currently teaches over 180 students across a range of disciplines such as ballet, tap, modern jazz and street dance. Anna also runs pay-on-the-day zumba fitness classes for over-16s and adults. Anna and her team have an infectious and passionate love for dance and they are dedicated to passing this onto their students. The School is proud to boast a 100% examination pass rate and will be performing their annual Dance School Show, this year titled ‘Live, Dream, Dance’ at St Helens’ Theatre Royal in November.     


Where you can find us:

Anna Shimmin School of Dance
Gathurst Lane
WN6 8EA 



Anna Shimmin: or phone 07738 350164

Victoria Gregson: or phone 07790 001937



Twitter: @ShimminDance

Facebook: Anna Shimmin School of Dance



Lytham business a natural success!

The Lifehouse Lytham launches its new organic smoothie bar to celebrate twelve successful months of business in the town.

When Michele Mills called time on her successful career as a secondary school ICT teacher and Head of Faculty, she knew she needed to focus her efforts on something she felt equally as passionate about. A lifelong interest in health foods and nutritional supplements led to her opening her first natural products shop in July 2012, named “The Lifehouse Lytham”. However, Michele’s interest in all things natural extends far beyond supplements and health foods, with her store on Park Street, Lytham, also offering a full range of organic beauty products, natural mineral make-up and baby products. Many years of interest and expertise mean that Michele can ably guide unsure customers through her ranges, ensuring that they leave with the products most suited to their needs.

The Lifehouse Lytham has recently celebrated its first anniversary and, to mark the occasion and to celebrate the first twelve months of Lytham’s newest booming business, Michele is proud to launch the town’s first smoothie bar. Customers can pop in and pick up, to enjoy in-store or to take away, a fresh green smoothie made of 100% natural ingredients and containing a mix of ‘Marvellous Superfood’.

‘Marvellous Superfood’ is an organic product, made in Wales, containing seven highly nutritious but easily-absorbed ingredients: chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass, barley grass, kelp, hemp and beetroot. The combination results in a powerful boost to your body’s functionality and brings with it benefits such as a stronger immune system, a healthy digestive system and clearer skin. The Superfood is suitable for everyone from young children through to the elderly.

Michele blends her smoothies on the premises and will offer a seasonal menu, with refreshing drinks in summer months and comforting, warmer pick-me-ups during winter. Examples of drinks currently available are:

The Original:                      Marvellous Superfood, banana and orange juice
The Antioxidant:              Marvellous Superfood, blueberries and apple juice
The Metaboliser:              Marvellous Superfood, raspberries, raw cacao and coconut milk

Michele also offers a protein smoothie, ‘The Recovery’, suited to those who wish to build muscle and containing vanilla protein, blueberries and almond milk.

About the launch, Michele says, “I decided to expand the business in this way to provide a healthy alternative to the numerous coffee shops and sugar-filled synthetic smoothies available in the area. It is a great addition to my main business, supplying health and wellness supplements to the local community. The motto of The Lifehouse Lytham is ‘all you need to live well’ and the new smoothie bar really complements this”.

The Lifehouse Lytham is a great example of successful entrepreneurship during what are otherwise difficult economic times and Michele is a committed businesswoman, fulfilling a long-held ambition of helping the community to enjoy and boost its health and wellbeing.  


We would be pleased to welcome a representative from your publication to The Lifehouse Lytham to meet Michele and to enjoy a smoothie on us. A photographer is also most welcome. Alternatively, if you wish to feature The Lifehouse Lytham, we will be pleased to supply a photograph to you.

Offer: The Lifehouse Lytham is pleased to offer any customer 50p off any organic or protein smoothie on production of this published article. This offer is valid until 31 August 2013.


Where you can find us:

The Lifehouse Lytham
11 Park Street


Michele Mills: 01253 739550 or email
Victoria Gregson: 07790 001937 or email