Portrait of Martijn

South Norfolk Sustainable Communities Day

02 Oct 2010

I spent this Saterday at the South Norfolk Sustainable Communities Day 2010 at the Costessey Centre.

I attended three workshops, wearing my Wymondham Scouts and Guides Hall Management Committee hat.

The Grants and Funding workshop

by Meryl Harding from the South Norfolk Council.

This workshop was more about general fundraising processes rather than specific funds available from the council itself. Lots of good info about tips and pitfalls wih applications, and I look forward to reviewing the slides. Some points that stood out:

  • Ensure that your project is covered under the governing documents of your organisation
  • If you're a single person, become a team of a few
  • Have policies for: Health and Safety, Equality, Protection of Children and vulnerable adults. Voluntary Norfolk has some templates
  • Quantify the amount of time volunteers at your organisation spend. When quantifying the value of volunteer time in monetary terms, accepted norms are £8/h per person, and £15/h for professionals.
  • Determine strengths in your community -- even people who don't want to commit to time on the committee may have skills to contribute. Note to self: at the next AGM invite, spell that out.
  • Personality types: "Anchor" is the person who takes pause to question the project being suitable/feasible, which can be viewed negatively as prohibiting progress, but also positively as a sanity check.
  • Obviously need a project plan, with milestones. Need a consultation. Need a communication plan, to show partners and beneficiaries what progress has been made. We do that as a matter of course, but it's not something we normally spell out in an application; we should.
  • Need a delivery team, which may be distinct from the funding team.
  • Spell out what happens after a project. Funder like a lasting positive effect, and it's important to show how any obligations/costs (if any) would be met.
  • Projects ideas/plans can run away with themselves, in a direction that's not a good match to the organisation, or you personally.
  • Capital projects need legal tenure of the site. Our management committee is OK, as we act as Custodian for the owning trust.
  • Do you need planning permission for your project?
  • See the presentation for a list of advisors/helpers. For me, Voluntary Norfolk and Norfolk RCC look useful for helping to find grants.
  • Norfolk Pro Help is an organisation that provides professional help, from laywers, architects etc.
  • local government sources of funding: County Council, South Norfolk Council, Wymondham Town Council
  • GRANTnet. I signed up for that a while back but haven't used it yet.
  • Meryl gets daily notification on funding opportunities with occasionally short deadlines. Email her specifics of your project to be notified of possible matches, and get a project plan prepared so you can execute an application quickly.
  • From the "Making It Happen" slide: people from the left (funders) want to see things from the column on the right (volunteers etc).
  • Some companies are happy to donate materials, e.g. B&Q (See B&Q Community) often for specific types of project (e.g. pond materials)
  • Some villages have village charities. The Parish Clerk (in my case Town Clerk) would know.
  • loans: often local people/organisations are prepared to extend loans. Availability is typically word of mouth, but again the Parish Clerk would know.
  • reporting (during and post project) is often important, and in some cases so onerous you may regret ever doing the project.
  • Some public companies have schemes for matched fundraising, or volunteer teams (something mentioned in committee by Tracey; was it Aviva?).
  • LCF companies in the area: WREN Veolia BIFFA
  • check out the Big Lottery Fund
  • South Norfolk Council Neighbourhood Fund
  • Before doing Lottery applications, get adivce (e.g. from Meryl)
  • From our region 29% of applications (not sure to who) were succesful. I guess that means I shouldn't feel bad about an unsuccesful application

I asked a few questions:

  • For emergency short-term funding (like our heating), there isn't anything available.
  • I asked about the typical "have you applied elsewhere" question in applications. Funders quite like to see different applications for different projects under some umbrella initiative, but they don't like you hedging your bets by applying to different source for the same project.

Energy Efficiency for Domestic properties

Christopher Ejugbo (@cejugbo) from the Energy Saving Trust.

Topics included energy saving and renewable energies. There are still cavity and loft insulation grants for the over-70s and people on income support. There is increasing interest, and shortening payback times, in domestic Photo Voltaic, especially since the Feed-in Tariff scheme became available earlier this year.

He mentioned free solar schemes where a company essentially leases your roof, installs panels, gives you free electricity, and then make money on selling the excess to the grid. As I write these notes, the TV shows an ad for HomeSun which sounds like the scheme he referred to.

There was an audience question about an estimated figure of 10% energy use of standby mode devices. It may be fashionable to rag against unsubstantiated statistics, but for the purpose of this presentation I didn't feel it really mattered much. Still, I had a quick look on my iPhone (thanks ubiqutous wireless) at David MacKay's Sustainable Energy book online and found the Chapter on energy Efficiency where he quotes a 8% figure from the International Energy Agency 2001 study, see annex A2.2; they are estimates, and there's quite a spread between countries. But I guess that's where that figure comes from, and I would imagine the subsequent standby regulations for manufacturers have improved things.

David also nicely illustrates a personal case study where he was able to make significant savings in his own house after switching off "vampires". See also the chapter on Gadgets. But do balance all this with chapter Every BIG helps. Anyways, I digress; back to the presentation.

There was a question about Air Source Heat Pump efficiency in practice. Christopher referred to the Heat pump field trial report and its conclusions. As a heat pump owner myself, I looked over the recommendations and re-appraised our installation:

  • the new part of our building is well insulated
  • we have it mainly for underfloor heating
  • we have occupation during the day
  • we have solar collector assist
  • we're not served by the gas network
  • we were replacing and end-of-life boiler that relied on oil deliveries

so in our case it made a lot of sense. Of course the system is as yet untested in winter, so we'll see.

Waste Management

This session was split in parts: an introduction by Alexandra Bone (@alexandraboneuk) Senior Environment Officer of the South Norfolk Council, a case study of the Denton Community Composting scheme by organiser Liz Cargil, and a presentation on recycling strategy from Gill Flanagan from the Norfolk County Council. Followed by general questions to Alex and Gill about mainly rubbish bin collection.

I found the Community Composting Scheme intriguing. Denton has 150 households, 61 take part, scheme has run for 7 years now. Waste is collected weekly in bags. A volunteer working party processes the material one afternoon a week. Waste is collected already separated (grass, weeds, other). Rough bits are shredded. The reception bins reduce to half size in a week, are forked over into other bins and left a year. The resulting compost is sold at 50p/bag, back to the local community only. Some gardeners buy up to 20 bags in one go. Income from bags is about £140/year, additional income comes from the council's recycling credits. Total proceeds are ~£800. Tricky aspects:

  • access/location is important
  • green garden waste only; no kitchen/food waste
  • paperwork/licenses because they collect, and more because they process
  • seasons depend on weather
  • weather conditions require extra mangement (e.g. add water in dry periods)
  • attracting volunteers

It sounds like a successfull and well-run scheme; but also sounds like a lot of work.

Gill Flanagan explained the NCC recycling credits scheme. It is built on the idea of disposal avoidance -- disposing costs the council money (£72/tonne), so if you reduce waste you save money, and get to share in the saving. Materials collected are paper, glass, cans/metals, textiles. Collection/processing is often arranged through third party recycler services. Furniture is re-used where possible, like through the Salvation Army Furniture Workshop (see also Furniture Re-Use Network. The recycling credits scheme deals with 350 organisations, 6300(?) tonnes, and £239.000 credits. More on the website.

The recycling credits are an important part of the income for my organisation, so I asked if any changes in level were foreseen. Nothing is known at this point, but given that this is a cost saving scheme, it is perhaps less likely to be affected by budget cuts.

Keynote

Prof. Tim O’Riordan Emeritus Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia.

This was a talk without slides, and my note-taking was lacking here so I can't do the talk full justice, but here is a flavour. Please let me know if you have corrections.

Tim started off sharing his astonishment how the environmental agenda has been pretty much disappeared from the news and public conscious, because of the banking crises and fears over austerity, even though climate change is a problem of much more major impact than short-term economic bips. The focus now seems to be mainly on the short term, and getting back to the (unsustainable) way things were, rather than on looming crises, future generations, and humanity's survival.

He pleaded for action at a local level, by normal people, pushing society at large and politicians in particular from the bottom up.

He proposed a South Norfolk Low Carbon Fighting Fund to part-fund local initiatives, but keep it outide of councils so the fund can be ring-fenced from budget pressures. The fund could be generated from among other things £1 on parking. I found that amusing, given the enourmeous controversy over council pay car parks in rural market towns like Wymondham and Attleborough in the last few years. Many people in the rural community can only access services in those towns by car, and there are concerns for local shops if access is impeded, with customers chosing out-of-town supermarkets with free parking instead. This is an ongoing battle, and extra fees would be deeply unpopular and politically difficult.

Another suggestion was a Norfolk Citizenship Initiative, aimed at young people, to allow them to contribute to the community at a decent wage. The idea would be to "make better people". This sounds intriguing.

There was a mention of people in the community getting together to take advantage of ASDA bulk buying, but I know no more about that.

There was a mention about Parish Car Club schemes, and tax reduction for car-less households.

Procurement policies should include supplier requirements with regards to sustainable practises and possible revenue.

Section 106 could be another avenue for sustainable practises. This prompted one builder in the audience to complain that there is already so much in regulation and requirements that it just becomes way too expensive to actually build a house.

The Carbon Reduction Commitment was mentioned, a scheme that requires CO2 reduction in e.g. schools.

Reepham Low Carbon Communities Challenge looks like an impressive initiative, with projects right accross the community. By the way: unusual visual navigation on the front page -- interesting idea, but I think it actually interferes.

Prof. O'Riordan is publishing a new paper is forthcoming in the next couple of months; hopefully that will talk about his ideas in more detail.

Other

Helene "Master Composter" Rinaldo gave me some leaflets and advice about composting (I want to put my excess building pallets to good use) and wormeries.

Jo Maddock from Voluntary Norfolk gave me some advice on grants (specifically Awards for All and Norfolk Community Foundation who do Grassroots).

A lady from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust identified my salamander as a Smooth Newt (to be confirmed).

Briefly met a fellow Dutchman: Erik Buitenhuis from Transition Norwich

Discussed some local issues with Cllr Joe Mooney (Wymondham Town Council) and Cllr Robert Savage (Norfolk County Council).

Met John Penell from Bunwell Parish Council.

Met John Heaser from Norfolk Freegle. Freegle split from FreeCycle in recent years. John is looking for funding to develop the website, using Microsoft technologies.

Had an interesting chat with a lady from the stand about emergency preparedness, business continuity, and community emergency plans. In particular I think the idea of local door-knocking in remote areas during severe weather conditions is an interesting idea, and may be something I'll look at implementing around my home. The other thing of note is that "your local scout hall" is sometimes identified as a temporary community shelter during emergencies, which is not really something we've thought about at all. See Norfolk Prepared, NORMIT and the SNC Environmental Emergencies page.

Feedback

I think it was an interesting and useful event.

Location, facilities and staffing was great, and well organised. There was a good turnout, although I think it remains hard to get through to the right people who can take initiatives on a local level.

Suggestions: It was a little unclear that the workshops were repeated in three slots, and you didn't know in which order you were planned in until the day.

I'd like presentations posted online before the event, to make it easer to refer back during the workshop, and make it easier to write up after.

A twitter hashtag would be good too; but I expect I'm the only one there who would care.

Would I come again? Quite possibly, if there wasn't too much repetition.