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Community Environment Action: Energy, Bees and Faiths, Fuel Poverty, local planning and successful campaigning

For the last year Community Environment Associates’ website has been quiet. We have been very busy working on projects for a range of clients and with some very different groups.  This is an update on these various projects – there are a range of links inside this article.

Community Energy

The last year has seen a rapid growth in the number of community energy projects across the UK, along with the launch of a government strategy.

Chris was heavily involved in this in 2014, working with the Low Carbon Communities Network to help launch the new infrastructure body Community Energy England (CEE). CEE is now well established with a strong board and Emma Bridge from Sheffield Community Renewables as Chief Executive.

Chris is also on the Board of Westmill Sustainable Energy Trust (WeSET), the charity set up by members of the Westmill Wind and Solar co-ops to do education and outreach work around these two linked projects. WeSET organises visits by many groups to see wind and solar farms up close.

CEA has also run two workshops on this topic for the Big Lottery ‘Big  Local’ programme. These have looked to put community energy firmly in the ‘community’ sector and make this hugely important work area accessible to smaller and less skilled community groups.  A report and video on this will be available shortly and a Big Local guide is here: Big Local Guide to Community Energy final.

CEA is also advising two local projects and Chris recently helped run the very successful ‘Powering Up North’ community energy conference in Manchester.

Bees and Faiths – ‘Creating a Buzz’.

Jan is leading CEA’s work for Oxford Friends of the Earth on this innovative project. ‘Creating a Buzz’ is a new project working with local faith communities to create bee-friendly green spaces around places of worship and faith-based buildings. More information is here:

As Jan points out:  “Many faith communities are significant land owners or managers of green spaces. The land around faith buildings is a often a shared public space and a place of quiet reflection. These spaces can be very suitable for growing bee-friendly plants.  There is a historical link between bees and faith communities. Every faith stresses the importance of protecting nature.”

Jan’s background makes her an ideal person to take this work forward, due to  her long involvement with faiths groups such as Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum and the Faith-Based Regeneration Network.

 Climate Change

Chris is still chairing the Low Carbon Communities Network. We recently ran a successful conference on ‘New directions for local action on climate change’ with the Climate Coalition.  New plans include a focus on supporting local climate leaders / champions. Keep up to date on this by liking the LCCN Facebook page.

Fuel Poverty

For three years CEA has worked with London Voluntary Services Centre (LVSC) on their programme on ‘Climate Change Leaders for a Low Carbon London’, funded by the City Bridge Trust. Climate Change Leaders was an initiative which started in 2011 to actively engage the mainstream voluntary & community sector (VCS) in carbon reduction activities by working with infrastructure organisations.

This project became increasingly focused on fuel poverty and some very useful material emerged. A summary report is available here:Developing joint approaches on fuelpoverty.

Local Planning

CEA are as ever involved in supporting various local planning initiatives. These include developing Big Local plans for the Lottery programme of that name, where Chris advises four neighbourhoods and Neighbourhood Planning, which also includes work on the NP for our own locality, Botley in west Oxford.

Chris will also be advising communities in the year ahead as part of the First Steps programme that aims to help at least 100 new communities to identify important local issues and develop community action plans.

Local campaigning

Finally, perhaps the most  satisfying outcome this year has been the campaign here in Botley to stop a huge commercial development (8 stories, 254 m long) of superstore, cinema and more, that would have obliterated our small suburban local shopping centre.  We’ve been heavily involved in the campaign work which included 750 people turning out to form a line of red balloons around the edge of the proposed development (there a good short video of the action down the page here) and over 1300 people formally objecting.  Despite the council planning officer recommending support, the Planning Committee (of Vale of White Horse DC) threw it out 13 votes to zero.  The developers have now abandoned that plan and a smaller development is now to have extensive pre-application consultation.

It’s been interesting: you give people guidance on local campaigns and are never fully sure if it’s the best way to go. Then you do it yourself and lo and behold, it all works!



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Recent Resources

These are some current resources – see the CEA Resources page for a complete list of what is available.