How Linlithgow Meets the Climate Challenge

From a small but sweet meeting just 2 years ago, William Ross, John Fleming and Peter Roberts have seen their dream of Linlithgow residents trying to reduce the impact of climate change develop dramatically. Linlithgow Climate Challenge has grown from a few concerned individuals to several hundred active participants who in turn have influenced thousands of others.

Peter Roberts explains, “This was initiated by the future needs for our children and grand children and to work towards making Linlithgow as a community more resilient in the face of the unknown changes which will have to be faced in the next 20- 30 years. The trick is, how to bring the community together in a common endeavour which I see as represented by the word ‘resilience’ – the name of our quarterly newsletter.”

Following a series of well-attended meetings, where speakers on various environmental issues were brought in, small groups discussed the particular issues of interest for Linlithgow. Thus, sub groups dealing with Food, Waste, Energy Use, Energy Generation and Transport were formed, each of which sit under an umbrella steering group who hold monthly public meetings to keep people informed about what they have been doing. In the Summer of 2008 the group was duly constituted and applied for funding. £90k was obtained to pay for a full time co-ordinator, Alan Brown, and seed funding for the sub groups. This all came on stream in April 2009.

With the Energy Saving Trust, their first project was the ‘Hot Spot Campaign’ which sought to identify ways to stop heat loss from domestic buildings. Every house in the town was leafleted and a 5% response rate saw several hundred homes receiving grant funding to improve their insulation.

LCC members

Each of the sub groups has been taking their own particular ball and sprinting away with it! The Food Group held a number of open evenings to raise awareness of the values of using locally produced food and the nitty gritty of growing your own fruit and veg. Last autumn saw the group holding a Harvest Feast at a local farm where there was a spit roast and an amazing amount of local produce. 200 people turned up to eat and chat and play games. In addition to this, a local landowner confessed to having a derelict orchard so the group were invited to clear the undergrowth and prune the trees (mainly apples and plums) activities which, it is hoped, will ‘bear fruit’ this summer. Their monthly newsletter advises on topical information and practical jobs such as weed control. In addition they encouraged residents to plant fruit trees last autumn, by offering bare root trees at Farmer’s Markets.

LCC gardeners

The Allotments Group became freestanding almost immediately. West Lothian lacked an Allotments Policy and so campaigning work was undertaken with the Council to put this in place. Some progress has been made, although land has still to be identified. Modern requirements demand disabled access, toilets and secure fencing, all of which push the set up costs to ridiculous heights and careful negotiations are requiring a lot of time and lateral thinking.

The Waste Campaigners, meanwhile, had identified that Linlithgow residents and businesses were wasting around £2 million of food every year and launched a Changeworks initiative called ‘Kitchen Canny’ to help people avoid this. They also promoted a local Freecycle Group as part of the global Freecycle nework, which enables people to pass on unwanted items. They have been working with the Council to identify possible locations where glass collection bins might be provided.

A number of individuals attended training courses to enable them to carry out Energy Audits as part of the Energy Saving Group. House by house audits have been carried out, with the aid of equipment like the thermal imaging camera, and advice given on topics such as insulation, draught proofing, pipe lagging and so on as well as behavioural components like turning off lights. The facility to hire energy monitors at the Library lets people see which of their appliances is clocking up the kilowatts but people have to understand that it isn’t just about one-off solutions like insulation – behavioural change is vital.

The Renewable Energy Group has been looking at the general overview of Linlithgow and trying to identify the most effective options. An Energy Showcase is scheduled for the 8th of May, at which installers and advisors will be on hand, is likely to attract a lot of interest. This group also looks at Community scale Renewables and is preparing briefs for research into hydro, wind and geo thermal projects which could be carried out by PhD students.

The Transport Group has been working with Linlithgow Cycle Action Group and Spokes, the Edinburgh cycling champions, firstly to look at how people travel from the outlying Springfield Estate. Signposting and cycleways and the promotion of a local bus have been identified as helpful. Further funding is now being sought to support the running and promotion of this initiative and to see whether it could be replicated to  other parts of the town.

The final group concentrates on Raising Awareness of the issues and has organised film shows and meetings. With support from the Council, an empty shop has been identified as a drop in point where information on all the initiatives is available.

It is really quite mind boggling to learn how much has been achieved in such a short space of time. An inspiration to others, you can follow their activities at where links to initiatives and sub-groups can be found.

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Suse Coon

Suse Coon started life training to be an architect but ended up as a fashion buyer then civil servant. After some time out to bring up her family of three, she returned to what had been a hobby and entered the field of freelance journalism. After becoming regional correspondent, then editor of the orienteering magazine CompassSport, she formed Pages Editorial & Publishing Services. In this guise, West Lothian Life was launched, while Suse maintained a level of freelancing and wrote the award winning children's novel Richard's Castle. In 1999, Suse bought over CompassSport and found her time taken up pretty well exclusively with the two magazines. In 2004, West Lothian Life was expanded to form Lothian Life, however, the workload was too great. In 2006, CompassSport was sold and Suse concentrated on the web version of Lothian Life. Her hobbies include gardening, orienteering, sea kayaking and Tai Chi.

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