Widows' Land Proposal:
A Model of Sustainable Living.
Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) and the Bodhi Eco Project (Bodhi) are working with the Core Residents Group (CRG) to develop a plot of land in Burntisland known as The Widows' Land. The group are planning to build a development with a low environmental impact that provides numerous benefits for Burntisland, such as affordable rented housing, an outdoor education centre, community allotments and food projects, woodland walks and wildlife areas and a play area.
This project will showcase a number of innovative ideas and technologies and use sustainable building methods to create permanent low impact buildings such as Earthships and Straw Bale buildings - types of construction that are possible using recycled materials and sustainable methods. The plans include 12 houses, and the site will be, as far as possible, off-grid - generating its own power, recycling its own waste, and growing some of its own food.
The education centre will become a part of the local community, providing community education, community arts and ecology events, and a venue for hosting events/workshops.
The project will attract many visitors, placing Burntisland on the sustainability map. Visitors will be encouraged to travel sustainably - by public transport, walking or cycling, also increasing the likelihood of visiting other local attractions and shops.
The extra tourism which this project will attract will bring a significant, year-round boost to the local economy. Employment will be created by the on-site businesses (e.g. the organic café and shop). These businesses will purchase local goods and services, as an ethical and environmental priority, therefore the income generated in the ecovillage will remain within the local area for longer.
SCI, Bodhi and CRG each have over 10 years of experience working on this kind of project. Many sites have been looked at by CRG and during discussions with Fife Council (FC) Widow's Land was identified as a potential site. It is now the CRGs preferred site for the development - it fulfils the group's criteria; has support from within the local community and from FC
On behalf of the group SCI has been discussing possible lease terms for the site with FC. The basis of these discussions are a long lease (possibly 99 year long) and will include conditions ensuring that if the work is not completed within an agreed time-scale the site is returned to it's original state. The group will provide FC with a bond to ensure this work can, if needed, take place.
Proposed Plan of Site
The proposed next steps are as follows:
to complete the business plan for the project with clear milestones
carry out further community consultation in the half term holidays in October
carry out site feasibility surveys, e.g. site stability, water and sewage treatment options
Funding has been secured for the above. The community consultation and feasibility surveys will shape the final plans for the site. The next step after that will be to gain planning permission for the development and raise funding for the development of the site and construction of the Centre.
SCI will be carrying out the community consultation on behalf of the group. One of the main criteria for the project is that the development works as part of the local community. The role of the consultation is to get a genuine sense of the community's feelings about the project, what community needs are and how the development can meet them, and what concerns the community might have.
The consultation will have two main objectives: to inform the community about the current plans and to get feedback from the community detailing how these plans can be improved.
In order to inform the community about the plans SCI will be:
Placing an article in the Burgh Buzz.
Delivering information to every household in Burntisland.
Preparing displays in the Burntisland Library
Circulating information to families through the school, nursery and Playgroup
Making copies of this report available to local organisations, businesses and other interested parties.
We will be asking the Burntisland Community Council (BCC) for advice as to the best ways of gauging the communities views on the proposal and assisting us with feedback.
The group are constantly receiving input that is helping our plans evolve. During the consultation period SCI will, in particular, be requesting feedback from the community via the BCC and from feedback forms that will be delivered to every household. SCI will be holding a community event to be at the Toll Centre during the October school holidays where more information will be available and people will be able to provide feedback to the group directly.
This feedback will enable us to develop the plans that will then be submitted to FC for planning permission. During the planning stage there will be further opportunities for any questions that are raised by the development to be brought up via the normal planning process.
Whilst planning is submitted the other aspects of the work will be addressed including setting up the relevant legal structures, raising funds and finance, and expanding the volunteer network.
The overall direction of the project is being guided by they CRG. Both SCI and Bodhi are registered charities and they will be responsible for raising the funds for the continue development of the project.
A housing co-operative (currently named Liminal) has been set up. This will raise funds for and oversee the development of the housing aspect of the site.
A not-for-profit organisation will run the community aspects of the site, the nature of this organisation has yet to be finalised - a Community Land Trust (CLT) and a Community Interest Company (CIC) have both been considered.
The community elements of the site, including the Education Centre and allotments will mostly be financed by donations and grants. Once constructed these elements should be self financing and the business plan allows for a small surplus so some of the finance could come from commercial lending.
The Housing Co-op will raise most of the money for the construction of the houses from commercial sources. Various options are available including commercial lending and some kind of local bonds. These and other options are currently being explored