Youlgrave, a rural community in the Peak District of 1000 residents, kicked off their climate change project at the beginning of 2006. At the beginning the group consisted of two residents, but this number grew following a few informal get togethers at the local pub. As the group expanded they decided to formally constitute a community group and hold a public meeting to gauge reaction and engage support to the three identified strands of activity;
- energy efficiency measures through conducting household energy questionnaire through village
- a renewable energy project
- ‘related’ community projects such as saving village shops and car sharing
The public meeting provided consensus to pursue these ideas, so the group formed sub groups to look at each activity. It was decided that the overall aim would be to ‘take the Youlgrave area beyond Carbon Neutral’ and that this would be done through renewable installations. The group now consists of a committee of ten core volunteers, ten ‘helpers’ and a further fifty ‘supporters’.
What are they doing
With a mix of 3 or 4 public events a year, a strong media presence (which was unlooked for), articles in the village newsletter, poster and flyers, as well as the support of key agencies in the area, the group feels it has the tacit support of about a third of its community. It has particularly achieved the support of local dairy farming community – and has run a dedicated farmers social meeting in order to investigate the potential for an anaerobic digestion plant.
The interest has been so vibrant in the two years that the project has been underway, that they are now used as beacons to encourage and support similar groups in other peak district communities, creating a strong network – which in itself acts as an efficient influencer in the council, over a variety of issues.
The group is entirely made up of volunteers – who have families and jobs. They have found it very time-consuming dealing with professional local authorities and staff, and through this have learnt to be persistent, dogged and resilient. The group has also struggled to get funding, and until recently has had to pay for all activities out of their own pockets. At the beginning of 2008 they won £5,000 cash prize through the ‘Future Friendly Award 2008 (community action section). This has also helped increase their credibility within the local authority. The next twelve months will see the group looking to set up a renewable energy social enterprise company in order to help it meet its twin aims of taking community action on carbon and doing it through funded means.
Sustainable Youlgrave Top Tip
Reading: The Guardian newspaper
Tools: Community spirit, doggedness, enthusiasm, self-motivation, organisation
Organisations: Sustainable Development Fund (National Parks only), Peak District Sustainable Energy Group, Sherwood Energy Village, Energy4All
Web address: www.sustainableyoulgrave.org