The Staiths Café

The Staiths Café

A local business in Dunston, Gateshead has used our ERDF grant to help reduce its carbon footprint and save money on its energy bills.

The popular Dunston business The Staiths Café, which is close to the historic Dunston Staiths on the banks of the River Tyne, received £2,710 to buy and install new energy efficient equipment.

The café’s owners have used the money to fund the instillation of solar panels to reduce their carbon footprint, boost their energy independence and protect them from unpredictable increases in utility prices.

The new solar panel system is estimated to generate over 7,500kWh of renewable electricity a year and will save 2.7 tonnes of CO2 annually.

Suzanne Hutton, co-owner of The Staiths Café, said: “It’s always been part of the plan to get solar panels, but one of the problems was that they’re just so expensive. I eventually came across BEST after speaking to my local councillors.”

The BEST project is a simple council initiative for small and medium sized businesses, involving a free energy efficiency audit and report highlighting areas you can improve on within the business.

Following the audit, there is the opportunity to apply for a grant to help implement the report’s recommendations.

Suzanne continued: “The process was great. The energy audit contractors Narec DE did a substantial report on our equipment and how efficient it was. They were knowledgeable and very supportive throughout.

“It was quite a quick process, they then sent me the application of how to apply for the funding.”

The solar panels will not only help The Staiths Café reduce its energy bills, but with customers becoming more environmentally aware, participating in BEST also provides a great way to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.

Suzanne concluded: “We’ve always been conscious about our energy usage and the effects it has on the environment, it’s a growing thing for everyone.”

Councillor John McElroy, Cabinet member for Environment and Transport, says: “It’s great to see local business taking the whole issue of climate change as seriously as we do. That’s going to be really important going forward.

“The council has been using solar panels for some years now, so we know this is an effective way to reduce your carbon emissions. We are currently generating around 2mW of energy from our solar panels on 35 different buildings in Gateshead.

“What’s important for local business, though, is not just the financial savings this can generate, it’s the public goodwill it can create. The public are demanding ever more loudly that organisations both large and small should be greener and more sustainable, and these demands will only continue to grow. Showing your commitment to sustainability is therefore not only good for the climate, it’s going to please your customers and that’s going to be good for business.”

One regular customer seemed to confirm that view. “We’re pleased to see their commitment to the environment, it only adds to the vibrant café,” she said.

BEST has been made possible with £670,000 from England’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme for 2014-2020.

For more information about BEST and an eligibility check, please visit

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