This panel was led by Anna Francis (FTC), Mark Letcher (Climate Works) and Sonya Bedford (Renewable Energy Solicitor)
Anna began the session with how FTC has focused on Sustainability and Resilience. She spoke about:
- making an Environment Policy, which has recently been ratified by the councillors
- linking Sustainability with Health and Wellbeing
- linking Sustainability with our pollution and our local economy
- how acting on improving Sustainability and Resilience raises the profile of the Town Council
- creating a win-win situation by recruiting Masters students for extra support. (In 2017 30 people applied for 2 two-month voluntary placements at FTC)
Anna then shared that the Centre of Sustainability, Bristol can provide training and support, and that National Energy Action can provide free resources to help councils, for example with reducing emissions around energy and transport.
Other ways that councils can help is by providing space and support for groups to who are setting up, or are established.
Examples of sustainability-focused community groups in Frome were shared, these include:
- the Frome Renewable Energy Cooperative
- Community Cars, a volunteer driver scheme which was set up by one of FTC’s Masters student volunteers, and broke even after just 7 months
- Plastic Free Frome, who are making the community more aware of waste, ways to replace plastic, and bringing local businesses together to collectively replace plastic items
- The Share shop, which is “a library of things” for people to borrow and use, has 900 members, and runs repair sessions and skills training
- Frome started the UK’s first community fridge which has saved 24 tonnes of food waste since its opening. Edible but ‘past its sell by date’ food from supermarkets is collected by volunteers and then available to anyone who needs it. Here is a link to our open-source toolkit, with information on how to help set up a community fridge in your area, and there is also funding and information available here from an environmental campaigns charity.
Anna also talked about promoting local transport. By sending information on bus times to 12,000 houses in Frome, at a cost of only £300, the number of bus users was boosted.
Sonya Bedford, a local Renewable Energy Solicitor then spoke about how gaining the support of the local community makes cooperative energy groups more likely to succeed. She suggested speaking with the community, broadcasting all relevant council meetings (i.e. on YouTube, Instagram Live, Facebook Live), and linking community energy groups with the council. Sonya said “The more these initiatives are discussed and community owned, the more likely they are to succeed.”
The topic of ‘Passive House’ also came up. This is a way of building houses to have ultra-low energy use, reducing its ecological footprint. Sonya mentioned how getting construction industries on the side of the council is a key step in working towards future passive houses being built. Councillor Mel Usher briefly spoke about the benefits of neighbourhood planning too, and let the group know about the Planning Advisory Group meetings which are held at Frome Town Hall, run by the community.
Mark Letcher, from Climate Works, then spoke with the group. He has worked with FTC since 2015 and helped to set up the Clean Healthy Future for Frome initiative, which is working towards Frome meeting its heat, power and transport needs without fossil fuel by 2046. Mark has also written reports about these aims, which you can access here, and ways for Frome to become fossil-fuel-free here. Free resources for local councils, are also available on the Climate Works website, here.
Additional notes on this topic from the Breaking the Mould booklet can be found here.
For more information about Frome Town Council’s sustainability initiatives visit frometowncouncil.gov.uk/your-community/resilience