Community-led initiatives in UK

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Transition in UK

Transition Town Totnes in Southwest England was the world's first local Transition initiative, launched in 2006. Totnes is also home to Transition Network, coordination and support organisation for the Transition movement since 2007, and the two organisations share an office in the town. Spreading initially by word-of-mouth through permaculture and other sustainability networks, Transition was quickly adopted in communities across Britain before spreading to other countries in the world. Britain is thus home to many of the longest-established Transition initiatives, and shows examples of various patterns of establishment, growth, maturation, succession, decline and in some cases cessation.

In May 2018, the initiatives page on the Transition Network website lists 261 self-registered initiatives in the United Kingdom.[1] This figure reflects apparent decline in the number of active Transition initiatives in Britain, for various reasons, since around 2010.

Scotland has operated its own national coordination structure or hub since 2010, when funding from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund supported operation of Transition Scotland Support. This ceased operation as a legal entity following cessation of funding in 2013-14, but maintained an active web presence and in 2018 became the national Transition hub for Scotland.[2] Transition Scotland and many Scottish Transition initiatives are also part of the broader Scottish Communities and Climate Action Network (SCCAN), which was among the ECOLISE founder members.[3]

The situation in Scotland and Ireland, which formed a single national hub for the whole island (including Northern Ireland) meant no national hub was ever formed for either Britain or the UK. For a number of years Transition Network has operated as de facto national hub for England and Wales at the same time as being coordinating organisation for the global network. Discussion towards formation of national hubs for England and/or Wales have taken place since around 2014 but so far not led to establishment of any new such organisation.

Permaculture in UK

The Permaculture Association was set up as a charitable unincorporated association in 1983 and in 2006 registered as a charity in England[4] and as a charity in Scotland in 2010.[5]. The strategic network of the Permaculture Association in Wales Paramaethu Cymru was started in 2010.

The Permaculture Association is run as participatory organisation for its 1480 members [6] and is operated by a member-elected board of trustees, 21 employees and several volunteer-run working groups.[7]

According to its website,[8] the charity´s mission is to Empower people to design thriving communities across Britain, and contribute to permaculture worldwide

and in doing so address several specific aims:

1. Improve access to permaculture
2. Enhance collaboration within permaculture and related networks
3. Nurture and grow permaculture networks
4. Increase knowledge of the benefits of permaculture within society
5. Develop permaculture theory and practice
6. Build an effective and sustainable organisation

The Permaculture Association is a member of ECOLISE and organises the regular National Permaculture Convergence[9] and is actively investing in academic and citizen science permaculture research according to the Permaculture Association UK Research Strategy 2014 – 2018. The Learning And Network Demonstration (LAND) Network lists established permaculture sites (LAND Centres) that can be visited and supports projects in development (LAND learners).[10]

The LAND Network lists over 115 permaculture projects in England. The LAND Network of permaculture learning and demonstration sites run by the Permaculture Assocation (Britain) includes 115 registered projects in England.[11] The Welsh permaculture network Paramaethu Cymru lists 36 such projects in Wales[12] and the equivalent Scottish network, ScotLAND, includes 18.[13]

According to Andy Goldring, chair of the association, these figures cover only a small fraction of the projects that actually exist, with substantial numbers of unregistered projects in cities such as Leeds (ten or more) and Bristol (fifty or more); the actual number of community-level permaculture projects in Britain is probably around 500-800.[14]

An academic study of permaculture in Britain reports an estimate from Chapter 7, an organisation that supports land-based projects to navigate the planning system, that in 2003 around 10,000 people in Britain lived in 'Low Impact Development' projects.[15] Many such projects are obliged to keep a low profile due to their insecure legal status.[16]

Ecovillages in UK

The Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) lists 15 projects in their database. This number only includes projects that have registered themselves on the database. The ecovillage database contains ecovillage projects of all sizes and in all stages of development.[17]

The visible and actual scope of the ecovillage movement in Britain may be limited by planning constraints, that both create barriers for initiation of new projects and encourage many existing and ongoing projects to operate 'under the radar'.[18] According to an academic study of permaculture in Britain, Chapter 7, which supports land-based projects to navigate the planning system, estimated in 2003 that around 10,000 people in Britain live in [low impact development] projects, many of which are obliged to keep a low profile due to their insecure legal status.[19]

These legal restrictions were challenged during establishment of Lammas Ecovillage in West Wales, which following a protracted legal battle with local planning authorities in Pembrokeshire was awarded planning permission on appeal to the Welsh national authorities in 2009. The process provoked a change in Welsh legislation to provide scope for new low impact development projects within its One Planet Development policy, effective from July 2010.[20]

ECOVILLAGE EXAMPLE The Findhorn intentional community, founded in 1962 comprises an experiment in conscious living for 500 people guided by its core values of the Common Ground Agreement, the spiritual and education centre Findhorn Foundation and an ecovillage.

“The Findhorn Foundation is an NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information, holder of UN Habitat Best Practice designation and is co-founder of the Global Ecovillage Network and Holistic Centres Network. The Foundation is at the heart of a community of more than 500 people who every day support and live the vision of creating a better world by starting with themselves“.[21]

World Cleanup day in UK

Community Energy in UK

The State of the Sector Report 2017 on behalf of Community Energy England (CEE), an NGO founded in 2014 with the primary objectives of “creating a voice for the sector, supporting sector development and building cross-sector partnerships,[22] looking at community energy in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, lists 222 projects with more than 30.000 members with a clear concentration on Southern England and a majority of projects run as social enterprises. There are an increasing number of regional and sub-regional networks setting up around England including Low Carbon Hub, Community Energy South, Repowering London or Bristol Energy Network. According to the report “Community Energy Organisations have delivered over £620,000 in community benefits in the last year, delivering a wide range of social and environmental projects”.[23] Local Energy Scotland lists more than 600 projects in Scotland.[24]

According to the 2013 report EUROPE IN TRANSITION, community renewable energy projects have especially in Scotland a strong tradition and have grown in the UK in general significantly in the years previous to the report. Compared to other countries, community energy is however „less well developed in the UK, though in rural Scotland, community buy-outs of land and widespread use of community trusts have paved the way for community ownership of energy“.[25] The Community Energy Coalition (CEC) was formed in 2011 and aims to “ignite an energy revolution which places communities at its heart and strives for a clean, affordable and secure energy system for all. We are achieving this by helping communities across the UK to own, generate and save energy together”.[26] CEC published a Vision for community energy in 2020.

The British Academy research project “Cultures of Community Energy” states that while “central government policy making has typically been driven by a culture that favours centralised, large scale energy generation”, the increasing support in terms of funding and support schemes for local energy projects has led to an active community energy sector in the UK. “The centralised nature of UK energy markets and policy made community energy a rarity until the advent of Feed-in Tariffs (FiTs) in 2010, which led to rapid growth in community projects, and the 2014 introduction of a Community Energy Strategy.”[25] According to the State of the Sector Report 2017, there is a „growing national movement actively looking to produce and supply energy at a local level.” The report also states the importance of governmental support: “As the UK energy system moves away from more traditional models of energy generation and use, communities must be supported in their intentions to access new opportunities and ideas, particularly at the early stages of their energy activities. This is where government support is crucial - in supporting community successes, innovation and, ultimately, development throughout the UK”.[23]

The Department for Energy and Climate Change of the UK government created its first Community Energy Strategy in 2014, recognizing the „vast potential“ of community energy, creating an Action Plan to support it´s development and stating “Our ambition is that every community that wants to form an energy group or take forward an energy project should be able to do so, regardless of background or location. We will back those who choose to pursue community energy, working to dismantle barriers and unlock the potential of the sector”.[27] This was followed by an update in 2015 stating: “The first year of implementing the Community Energy Strategy has seen significant progress. The Government has begun a rolling programme of action to address the barriers to community energy deployment, and has introduced new policies and programmes as well as improving existing ones”. [28] A guide by the UK government to support local groups interested in setting up a community energy project is available online. [29]

In late 2015, the UK Government announced that there would be an early withdrawal of, and significant changes made to, many of the support incentives and mechanisms within the Levy Control Framework (LCF) that had helped the sector to grow in previous years. Substantial reductions were made to the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT), including the removal of pre-accreditation for sub- 50kW solar projects. There were also changes to Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Community energy schemes were made ineligible for the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax relief schemes. In addition, the Urban Community Energy Fund (UCEF), an important stream of funding for early stages of projects in urban areas, ceased altogether.“[23]

These recent policy changes have slowed the growth of community energy projects[25] and according to the State of the Sector Report 2017, “the outlook for the community energy sector in 2017 remains challenging” but also notes that “The community energy sector is showing impressive resilience through the development of innovative new approaches to project development”.[23]

In the Clean Growth Strategy from October 2017, the UK government states: “We understand the need for Government funding that is accessible to private, public and community sector organisations with all playing key roles in supporting and harnessing innovation” and “Government will continue to work with and support local leaders. We will establish a Local Energy Contact Group, building on the valuable work of the previous Community Energy Contact Group, to continue the crucial dialogue between local stakeholders and Ministers.”[30]

The British Academy research project “Cultures of Community Energy” advocates the need for developing a long-term policy framework supporting community energy and suggests a range of policies under the headlines of “incentivising local energy economies, diversifying the community energy sector, encouraging a social enterprise approach within the community sector and supporting communities to encourage engagement and action.”[25]

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in UK

While the first CSA-like initiatives in Britain were started as early as 1994 (Earthshare in Scotland) and 1995 (Tablehurst Farm in England), the movement is still less known than other local food schemes such as farmers markets and operates in a situation where the overall food retail market is dominated by large supermarkets (in England 70%). The Soil Association´s Making Local Food Work programme (Big Lottery funded 2007 – 2012) supported the expansion of the CSA movement and the cooperative membership organisation CSA Network UK was founded in 2013 to connect, support and promote the CSA movement in Britain. The 2016 URGENCI report "Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe" identifies 80 CSAs providing for up to 10.000 eaters.[31]


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  5. Accessed on June 4th 2018
  6. Accessed June 4th 2018
  7. Accessed June 4th 2018
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  10. Accessed on June 4th 2018
  11. Accessed May 28th 2018.
  12. Accessed June 4th 2018
  13. Accessed June 4th 2018.
  14. Andy Goldring, personal communication, May 2nd 2018.
  15. Pickerill, J., 2013. Permaculture in practice: Low Impact Development in Britain, in Lockyer & Veteto (eds.): Environmental Anthropology Engaging Utopia. Bioregionalism, Permaculture and Ecovillages. Berghahn Books, New York, pp. 180–194.
  16. Fairlie, S., 2009. Low impact development. Planning and people in a sustainable countryside. Second edition. John Carpenter Publishing.
  17. Accessed May 23rd 2018.
  18. Fairlie, S., 2009. Low impact development. Planning and people in a sustainable countryside. Second edition. John Carpenter Publishing.
  19. Pickerill, J., 2013. Permaculture in practice: Low Impact Development in Britain, in Lockyer & Veteto (eds.): Environmental Anthropology Engaging Utopia. Bioregionalism, Permaculture and Ecovillages. Berghahn Books, New York, pp. 180–194.
  20. Accessed June 4th 2018.
  21. Accessed June 4th 2018.
  22. Accessed on June 19th 2018
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Community Energy England, 2017. COMMUNITY ENERGY STATE OF THE SECTOR - A study of community energy in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  24. Accessed on June 19th 2018
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 "Dr N. Simcock, R. Willis and P. Capener in association with Lancaster Environment Centre – Lancaster University. THE BRITISH ACADEMY 2016. Cultures of Community Energy International case studies"
  26. Lipman, P., Fairclough, M., Cotterell, H., Atkins, A., Kober, C.C., n.d. Communities Climate Action Alliance 2
  27. Department of Energy and Climate Change (UK), 2014. Community Energy Strategy.
  28. Department of Energy and Climate Change (UK), 2015. Community Energy Strategy Update.
  29. Accessed on June 19th 2018
  30. HM Government (UK), 2017. The Clean Growth Strategy
  31. Volz, P., Weckenbrock, P., Cressot, N., Parot, J., 2016. Overview of Community Supported Agriculture in Europe