Sustainable South Brent
South Brent is a village and parish on the south east edge of Dartmoor, covering an area of 3742 hectares with a population of approximately 3000. In 2006 a group of residents formed Sustainable South Brent (SSB) in response to concerns over climate change and fossil fuel depletion. Inspired by community energy projects elsewhere, members of SSB investigated the possibility of a locally owned wind turbine that, as well as generating low carbon electricity could provide an income stream to support other local low carbon projects.
A site was identified at Marley Thatch Farm, the owners of which have worked closely with SSB to successfully gain planning permission for the installation of a Vestas V27 wind turbine. The planning application was supported by the Parish Council and approved by South Hams District Council in April 2010.
In December 2011, members of SSB established the South Brent Community Energy Society Limited (SBCES), an Industrial and Provident (Community Benefit) Society, to take the project forward.
The society opened its community share offer on 1st November 2012 and had received applications totalling £195,061 by the close of business on Friday 18th January 2013, the original deadline. In accordance with the Terms and Conditions, the offer was extended to 22nd March.
Applications as of 21st March totalled just over £380,000 towards our target of £420,000, and reached £430,000 at the close of the offer.
All being well, now that the foundations are in, we are hopeful that the turbine will be operational late this summer. Over time is it hoped that the turbine, as well as generating clean energy, will generate funds which form the basis of a local Community Energy fund
Over the next 10 to 20 years South Brent and the surrounding area's community buildings will need significant investment in energy efficiency to reduce their running costs, so a proportion of the income from the sale of electricity and the Feed-In-Tariff subsidy will be directed towards improving their energy efficiency through a Community Energy Fund.
Local charities and other community organisations will be invited to apply to the Society for funds to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings. For example, it is anticipated that the South Brent Old School Centre, Village Hall and Recreation Association Pavilion, amongst the many buildings used by the public, could benefit in this way. We also hope to support charities committed to reducing fuel poverty.
Woodfuel from Hedgerows
Andrew Shadrake of the Dartmoor Circle helped SSB to host a Woodfuel from Hedgerows event in November 2012. Aimed at farmers, looking to generate an income from wood sales, and improve the management of their hedgerows, and at People in the community with woodfuel stoves or burners, interested in forming a group to cut wood and take it for home use.
The day was led by Andrew, explaining how the practical work was done, answering questions - and most of all, telling people why they might want to cut their own firewood. People were shown what was involved in cutting and laying hedges, and had hands-on opportunities to try it themselves, under the expert guidance of Maxine McAdams from Devon Rural Skills Trust.
The event, funded by Dartmoor Circle and Devon Hedge Group, attracted about 15 people, some coming from as far as North Devon. Talks and demonstrations were interspersed with amazing food. We followed on from the enthusiasm generated by this event, with a winter-long focus upon the roadside hedge at Penstave Copse, a Woodland Trust site just outside South Brent, with most of the hedge having been successfully laid by the end of March. The Woodland Trust sent along Jim White on 2 occasions to undertake any chainsaw work, and a considerable amount of wood has been taken to the Marsh Composting Site for storage.
We aim to get the stored wood chainsawed so that it can season effectively. We are looking into the viability of a chipper to process the smaller pieces (of which there is much) still up at Penstave Copse. Again this would be used as woodfuel. Work will start again in the autumn. In the meantime we hope to hear that our funding bid to develop this work will be successful, and form part of a strategy aimed at combating fuel poverty in the parish.
Community Radio Project
SSB hope to host a temporary community radio station which would provide a platform for local people, organisations, initiatives, and which celebrates the breadth and diversity of activity within South Brent.
The idea of community radio developed out of initial meetings of the Community Well Being Group, (branch of Local Services and Produce) established in March year. We were able to test the water for such an idea during the week of our Pop Up Shop in October during which 24 local people expressed a written interest to take part, with ideas/proposals including local issues, climate change issues, local history, St. Lukes Hospice, Youth Transition, Classical music, oral history with local older residents, low impact technology, local poetry, animals, and youth music.
We hope that outcomes from the project would include an archive of community activity and engagement; skills development for local people, and a pilot project that could lead to other developments. All these things enhance South Brent’s community resilience. We await news of funding in order to take this project further.
Laura Denning After a career in higher Education, Laura and her son took a gap year and returned a year later, deciding to focus on smallholding and horticulture. Returning to South Devon after seven years, Laura now hosts a weekly environmental broadcast on Soundart Radio, is the woodlands lead for Sustainable South Brent, has commenced a forest garden and willow bed, and is developing and exhibiting her artwork in the South west.
Images: organisers of the SBCES at the Winter Faire