Wednesday, 20 January 2010

community led proposal

hello, it seems there are only 4 months before DMBC is opening the door to proposals fof the Earth Centre, this site is obviously a target for many businesses and its gonna take alot of public support to make sure that the outcome is one that benefits the land and the people!

below is a copy of the proposal for a community led People's Earth Centre, we need help to make this a viable option for the council and the community, we ask you to contribute, this is an important piece of land and it would be a crime and a real shame to see it in the hand of greedy corporates once again!

The People’s Earth Centre

A proposal for a community led centre

The People’s Earth Centre is a volunteer based environmental community
project, seeking to facilitate community education and environmental
awareness programmes demonstrating household-level methods of sustainable
energy generation. With volunteer coordination of training programmes to develop new working skills, such as the installation of solar-panels, wind
generators, ground-source heat pumps and high-tech building solutions.

It is the intention that the centre becomes primarily a showcase for the
UK and other international communities, acting as a 'activity and
demonstration centre of excellence' to local schools, universities,
societies and individuals through educational training, with the target
user-group in this regard being local schoolchildren and young people and
the young and long-term unemployed. The secondary function of the centre would be to offer training courses to develop new working skills in environmental technology, for which the target user-group would initially be young people and the young and long-term unemployed.

Volunteers and professionals will deliver workshops to the community that target lowering energy costs and impact on the environment. Workshops will cover, grey water systems, cob building, insulation, pedal power and other affordable alternatives to enable people to support themselves and each other. Links will be made with Good Energy and Ecotricity and other ethical companies to establish employment opportunities.

The objective is to maintain and reopen this facility and to partially
adapt its use for the benefit of local people. The project will be rooted in
community-based development embracing old and new sustainable design principles. This project will help to ensure both the economic and environmental sustainability of a community that has been victim to long-term structural unemployment - a legacy of the closure of Denaby Main coal pit in the mid-1980s.

The centre is built on land that has a long and significant history, where
thousands of men, women and children worked the land and hundreds lost
their lives working in harsh conditions for corporate coal masters.
The mine was central to the life of the community until its closure in
1968 and what was left behind was a legacy of despair and high
unemployment among the local population of Conisbrough, Denaby and
Mexborough. In order to preserve the history and the memory of the lives
lost a community led initiative is being implemented to ensure a long and
sustainable future.

The Earth Centre has been derelict for five years with little maintenance therefore we propose a sensitive refurbishment of the existing buildings, regeneration of the landscape, utilising a good mix of traditional techniques and modern technologies to provide a sustainable place for the community and a strong precedent for other communities to take direct action within their own environment.

The People’s Earth Centre is to be run primarily by volunteers and donations. We have established an initial team of 30 volunteers that can commit 900 hours (equivalent of £7 per hr) a week for the first year of operation, this equates to £6300 time in kind per week totalling £327600 per year. The volunteers have had extensive experience in running environmental community projects and will have relevant health and safety certificates and CRB checks. A ‘Volunteer Coordinating Team’ will co-ordinate the safety and security of the site and of the community whilst they are using the space.

Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC) will be invited to have representation on the project’s Coordination and Organisation Committee, responsible for overseeing the strategic management of the project as a key stake holding partner of the project. The following is a model of The People’s Earth Centre management plan,

“Coordination & Organisation Committee”
Members include representatives from local community and voluntary orgs, the community development dept of DMBC, architects, renewable-energy appliance design experts, a representative from the local Community Development Trust and reps from the local education authority.
Strategic Supervision
The People’s Earth Centre, (within
which there will be a Management
Committee, who devolve tasks to
a Volunteer Coordinating Team).

The proposal is that the People’s Earth Centre would have flexibility to have responsibility for day-to-day management of the proposed project, with the Coordination and Organisation Committee meeting regularly once every 6 weeks to oversee the progress of the project, in general ensuring the project is maintaining it’s achievement of fulfilling it’s short to medium term goals and that long-term strategies remain on course, as well as, if appropriate, monitoring the allocated budget should monies have been received.

Raising funds and resources to sustain The People’s Earth Centre

The project is designed to run without incurring huge costs, money ruined it last time. In order to establish the resources needed to achieve this we will use an initial start up grant of £5000 from South Yorkshire Community Foundation and will apply for further funding from a number of other sources including The Coalfield Regeneration Fund. This will enable the centre to have sufficient tools and certification to begin the first stages of the project.

Once The People’s Earth Centre is running we will apply for funding from The Arts Council for installation projects and will investigate further sources of funding throughout.

We anticipate that within the first year we will double the amount of volunteer time committed to the project estimating time in kind in the second year to be £655200 per year. This is based on the interest received from volunteer organisations such as ‘Pixie Works, British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV), Voluntary Action Doncaster and Rotherham, Circle Communities, businesses such as Zedfactory Ltd and individuals that have expressed intentions to be involved.

A shop and café will be opened as soon as sufficient health & safety measures are in place and will be run by the volunteers. Products will be made from locally sourced food and organic food that will be grown on site. The People’s Earth Centre will establish a relationship with local food outlets to acquire donated food and vegetables that can be used to create meals and snacks. This will help to promote sustainability and community cohesion, the shop and café will promote healthy eating and will adopt a no meat policy for health & safety reasons and to lessen any impact on the environment. Research has shown that local people that currently use the area around the centre would use the shop and café regularly.

A recycling facility will be constructed on site and local community and business will be invited to use the facilities to reduce their impact on the environment. The materials collected will either be used in installations or exchanged for cash at local recycling plants. A composting area will be open to the community who can use it to dispose of their green waste.

During the first year of The People’s Earth Centre creative events will be held where camping will be an option. A contribution of £20 for waged and £10 for unwaged will be the minimum fee to camp. We estimate that an average of 30 people will attend each event. This is based on interest received from individuals and the success of similar events at gatherings held by likeminded organisations such as Coed Hills, Northern Green Gathering and Treefest. The camping events will include environmental workshops and campaigns, permaculture, organic veggie cafes, stalls, healers and alternative therapies, kid’s space, theatre and circus workshops, and a showcase of environment living in action, including solar power and wind power (eg a solar powered cinema). Our aim is to promote sustainable living and co-operative working.

Local businesses will be offered advertising space and market space during events. There will be a small charge for this service. Based on the success of trading market space achieved by similar local projects such as Northern Green Gathering, Treefest, Shambala, Bomfest and from the interest already shown by the local community we estimate that this will generate funds for the centre.

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding ways you can make a real difference to people living in the toughest circumstances. Most people volunteer because they want to give something back and find they get much more in return. The People’s Earth Centre will work closely with volunteer organisations to provide opportunities for local and international volunteering. This will generate vast amounts of time in kind that will help cover maintenance, housekeeping, caretaking and teachings of the site.

The original Architect of the Conference Centre and the Shop, ‘Bill Dunster’ and his team have agreed to contribute through voluntary action. This would be to assist volunteers to gain the correct knowledge of the buildings in order to maintain them and learn about the skill used to make them. This will help reduce costs and provide learning opportunities and skill share situations for volunteers and local community.

WWoofing opportunities will be offered at The People’s Earth Centre, WWOOFing is volunteering to work on organic farms to learn the principles involved in organic farming. A WWOOFer is a volunteer who works on an organic farm for a few hours (generally 5-6 hours a day) in exchange of food, bed and learning experience. The person who owns the organic farm is called a WWOOF host. To facilitate the entire WWOOFing activity, there are various WWOOF Organisations. These are not for profit organizations that provide a list of hosts and membership cards to aspiring WWOOFers. Dorm and camping facilities will be free to individuals committing time in kind through this activity. Hedge laying will be carried out with the aim to completely remove the metal fencing. Allotments and the Forest Gardens will be maintained and cared for.

Bee keeping will be introduced to the site with the aim to help local biodiversity and educate children about wildlife and the environment. Volunteers will have the opportunity to learn how to keep bees and process the honey.

Community Welfare & Education

We plan to collaborate with the Miners Gala that runs once a year in Denaby and aim to work closely with the ‘Pin The Pits’ Campaign to support their work and the local community. We feel that ‘Pin The Pits’ the campaign headed by local artist Rachel Horne is an important goal for our nations history and culture and that it complements the landscape and community that is home to The People’s Earth Centre. The activities involved bring together old and young from many backgrounds and areas and will benefit our local and wider community.

A weekly seed exchange will be held at the centre and the community will be invited to help construct a seed and plant information base. This project will help to establish native species and share the knowledge of our local environment. Volunteers and communities will then collaborate to connect and develop local Abundance Projects to create a map of wild food throughout the region. A website will be launched to publicise and network the project.

Local naturalist groups, Wildlife Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Friends of the Earth (FOE) will all be invited to work with the centre to develop a regional map of wildlife. Local community will be involved in running a project to preserve and protect areas and species.

The Café will host a monthly ‘Community Cook-up’ event where all are invited to bring along an item of food that will be prepared and served by volunteers. The event will incorporate art and music and give local artists an opportunity to showcase their talents and meet their communities. The event will promote healthy eating, The People’s Earth Centre, community cohesion, local business and environmental awareness.

The jetty and ponds on the Earth Centre site will be open for fishing and an onsite fishing steering committee will be established and run by volunteers to ensure the proper use, management and caretaking of the activities. This will benefit local angling clubs and youth.

An open air art gallery will be established with local artists invited to carry out installations as well as schools, universities, children’s groups and others. Art is an integral part of human nature and The People’s Earth Centre intends to be a common ground for creativity and expression to be used by all. The art will be shared with all the area.

A skate park area will be designed through a project where local youths and skateboarders take the initiative and help to build the area. This will engage the local young people and create a vibrant centre. The youths will have the opportunity to then volunteer for other activities and learning programmes on site.

Local outdoor pursuit volunteers have agreed to assist the running of the climbing and zip wire facilities. They are experienced instructors who hold appropriate certificates and have had extensive training. Plans are to organise canoeing and a range of outdoor adventures.

Traditional activities will be available to the community and organisations they will cover a wide range of traditional craft and ancient skill. Such as:

Woodland crafts; coppicing, besom (broom) making, basket making, chair making, hurdle making, rake making, fork making, handle making, ladder making, charcoal burning, broaches and pegs
- A green woodwork area will be constructed using recycled materials and locally sourced timber. Volunteers and community will use the facility to make their own tools and art.

Building crafts; bender building, yurt building, earth ship construction, roundhouse construction, steam bending, walling, wooden building, thatching, slate cutting
- Materials will be selected from local sustainable sources or recycled material. Opportunities for schools and community groups to construct their own shelter will be offered this will serve as an educational exercise to raise awareness of low impact living and community action.

Crafts of the field; hedge laying, dry-stone walling, making stiles, animal husbandry
- These techniques will be used to reconstruct the borders around site by volunteers from local colleges and community with the aim to eventually take down the metal fence which will then be recycled and used for art.

Workshop crafts; coracle making, charcoal burning, chair making, founding, turning, boat building, rope and net making, knife making, stick and crooks, making field gates, potting, brick making, tile making, paper making, basketry, rush and straw work, jewellery craft, sled making, carving
- Plans are to construct a foundry and use existing buildings and materials to hold the suggested workshops. Trained and skilled volunteers will assist participants to learn the skills and create pieces of work.

Textiles and home crafts; spinning and weaving, wool craft, cotton craft, dyeing, candle making, soap making, cloth making, needle craft, felting, hat making, clothing alterations, blanket making
- A sewing room will be created with facilities and machines for public use. Participants will be encouraged and assisted to make their own looms and use recycled materials to create household essentials and art.

Power of the Community – Our story

Although the much loved Earth Centre had become a curiously vacant ghost ship the people had not forgotten. Many had wondered why it was no more, and more questions arose as a corporate war-games company moved in followed by the Police and the MOD. This once lively colourful resource was now in the hands of the few and they were shooting at each other!

A group began searching for like-minded folk and it wasn’t long before a few became many. To begin with they contacted the Council and asked politely if they could access the site to harvest the abundant fruit and medicinal plants so that they could be distributed to local community groups. Unfortunately they were refused on the grounds that the fruit was nearly all rotten and infected. Saddened by this the group took direct action and retrieved a haul of apples that were then made into lovely pies and shared amongst the community.

The group decided then that more community action was needed and that The Earth Centre was far too important and must be saved and reopened for the people. Initially they asked the Council to hold a meeting with the community to discuss the future of the site but to no avail. In response a public meeting held by the people was arranged and local press was contacted to spread the word that all were invited to share in this meeting and have their say over the future of the Earth Centre.

The public meeting was a huge success for the campaign and the community, it was well attended by locals, former employees, councillors from various parties, Green Party members, local volunteer workers, BTCV, ‘Compost’ John of York, local businessmen and women and community groups such as Pixie Works. It was established that all were in favour of reclaiming the Earth Centre as a community led project. The meeting venue was Denaby & Cadeby Miners Welfare Club and it was noted by former worker and Labour Councillor for Denaby, Chris Mills that ten years ago the original Earth Centre group met in the very same place. The feeling was positive and a second meeting was arranged.

During the campaign members of the We Love The Earth Centre group meet every Sunday at the Earth Centre to greet new people, learn more about the ecology of the area and enjoy the space around. An event was organised prior to the public meeting so that people could meet each other and take part in ‘Bender building for a better world’. On the day there was a great mix of community members such as local families, university students, local artists and local tradesmen and surprisingly the Police although they did not help construct the bender!

The group has met every Sunday since October not always in great numbers but we anticipate once the winter passes the people will grow like wildflowers. We intend to continue to share skills with one another and make positive actions to highlight the need for The People’s Earth Centre and to complement through art and community action the natural landscape.

This is a rough draft and we invite you to contribute to your ideas and thoughts this is a proposal for The People’s Earth Centre and everyone is welcome.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant stuff, but where have you been, where are you?