SB Chairman’s Annual Report for 2016
This annual report was presented at the AGM last night for the benefit of those unable to attend. A second mailing will follow shortly containing news and requests for support for some of the new initiatives described below.
It has been another steady state year with the organisation focusing its resources on the core business of supporting the Farmers’ Markets which continue to provide SB with its main source of revenue. The coordinating group met 5 times during the year and particular thanks are due to Phil Dunn and Heather Tipler for their support to the CG during the year and to Chris Lloyd for taking charge of the website refurbishment and updates. Despite repeated requests WHS have been unable to provide a youth representative for the CG and the Brampton Parish Council representative John Hodgson has recently stood down and may not be replaced.
Sustainable Brampton’s greatest success has been the spawning new independent organisations such as the Brampton Food Network, Brampton and Beyond Energy and the Lover’s Lane Community Garden which all feature below. However this has had the inevitable effect of reducing the number of active volunteers who are both willing and able to take part in other opportunities that have been offered over the last year.
A summary of the organisation’s finances is included at Annex A. In spite of a one-off cost of £584 to rectify the damage caused when a faulty extension cable melted a socket in the Moot Hall, the account still ended the period with a modest increase in the overall bank balance, thanks to the net income from the Farmers’ market of just over £1000. The only other source of income in 2015 was £250 from the hire of Farmers’ market gazebos to Kirklinton Hall for their opera. The new external socket is an improvement on the previous arrangements and can also be used by other organisations needing power in the market square – a community benefit.
The total operational expenses of £831 includes the annual cost of book-keeping (charged by BBCT) due to the continued lack of a volunteer Treasurer.
Brampton Farmers’ Market
The Farmer’s Market continues to thrive in a difficult financial climate and has a very good reputation in Cumbria and there is now have a complete set of policy statements and processes to ensure that the market conforms with FARMA guidelines.
The market has established a group of around 20 regular stallholders, each of whom derives a worthwhile income from it. Numbers attending the market only vary slightly seasonally but it also acts as a draw to new residents to the area. SB signed up 35 such supporters in 2015. The market continues to be the most visible presence of the organisation on the ground.
Gazebo hire for the market remains the single biggest drain on resources and the CG is still deliberating whether to buy 2 gazebos outright which would potentially generate an additional income of £300 per year. The CG is currently investigating new sources of grant funding to enable the purchase of a greater quantity of gazebos plus a trailer which would free us from having to hiring gazebos from elsewhere and would also provide a valuable resource for others to use.
Last year Heather Tipler confirmed that the Brampton Market Charter if exercised would allow the road around the Moot Hall to be closed, thus potentially allowing the Farmers’ market to expand. However, there would be associated legal costs of ~£500 which would have to be paid by the market. Demand for stalls exceeds supply so a steady expansion of the market is under consideration which would benefit both Brampton town and Sustainable Brampton.
There is still an aspiration to hold social events during the year but demand does not appear to be high and no-one has offered to coordinate them. In reality the monthly Farmers’ markets are as much a social occasion for supporters to meet as an opportunity to buy good local produce.
Newsletters. The CG circulated 8 newsletters and other notifications by Mailchimp in 2015 each containing a mix of local and national sustainability issues and requests for assistance. The newsletter circulation is just over 360 and as reported above new supporters tend to be recruited at the farmers’ markets.
Website. The old website was never easy to maintain as a result of which it has suffered from increasing neglect. However, we are indebted to Chris Lloyd’s son Thomas (a website designer) who over the last 6 months has created a much more easily maintained website which is now live and which Chris is managing actively.
Cumbria Sustainability Network (CSN). SB, together with CAfS, organised a networking day on 7 July 2015 which was attended by 18 representatives of sustainability groups from around Cumbria. The event was the first of its kind for 5 years. An information exchange and contact channel was subsequently established through the CAfS website and a network event was held this month hosted by the University of Cumbria Institute of Learning and Sustainability. The potential for the sustainability network includes information and expertise exchange, joint community project development, and engagement with strategic players such as local authorities, MPs, education establishments etc.
Fracking. The immediate threat from fracking locally has receded over the last 6 months, mainly through the collapse of the global price of oil making it economically unattractive in the UK. The Environmental Audit Committee’s report on the “Environmental Risks of Fracking” concluded that fracking should be halted because it is incompatible with the UK’s climate change targets and could pose significant environmental risks to public health. SB has been in correspondence with MP Rory Stewart over the last year asking for clarification of the government’s strategic position. Sadly fracking was pushed further down the local agenda after the December floods but we remain alert to this threat to the environment re-emerging as the price of oil recovers.
Carbon accounting. SB is in early discussions with DEFRA about offering Brampton as a pilot area for measuring total local carbon emissions and capture in order to establish the contribution of rural areas like Brampton to the national carbon budget and to be given credit for any surpluses identified, which we anticipate would be the case.
Brampton Food Network
BFN became dormant last summer as it had insufficient directors to function, but it was decided at the last AGM held in 2015 to keep the account open which still contains ~£3K, to enable the organisation to be re-activated as and when new opportunities arise. BFN was created as an Industrial and Provident Society which itself has value as there remains potential for the emergence of a new food growing organisation to sell local produce in conjunction with other initiatives such as Fair Food Carlisle.
Lovers Lane Community Garden
LLCG is thriving with involvement by old and young alike. The garden won prizes at the Hallbankgate Flower & Produce show in September and a Level 4 Award from RHS Britain in Bloom ‘It’s Your Neighbourhood’ scheme. SB provided a composter for the garden and LLCG now has effective compost / recycling systems in place. An NHS funded project called ‘Dig For Dinner’ is currently running in partnership with Brampton Primary School. During the year LLCG gardeners appeared in the Cumberland News on several occasions and on ITV News. Members met Princess Anne at the CN 200th Birthday Celebration. On Saturday April 16 2016, as part of a ‘Resourceful Communities’ project, the garden will be having an open afternoon entitled ‘Grow Your Own’.
Travel Action Group
TAG (Travel Group) is a very active sub group. Its work focuses on travel in and around Brampton: walking, cycling, cars, buses and trains, including existing projects such as Rural Wheels. One of TAG's main aims is to encourage people to use public transport more. The group encourages walking and, through TAG, Brampton now has become a Walkers Are Welcome town. WRW works with the Parish Council to monitor local footpaths.
Several members are keen cyclists and encourage cycling within the town. They also organise and lead occasional bike rides and have run successful cycle maintenance courses in the last year.
The group is supporting the expansion of routes for the Border Rambler volunteer run minibus. They have offered to leaflet Hallbankgate to determine the level of interest in having this as a new route.
TAG is also working with the Integrated Transport Team in Cumbria County Council to examine traffic flow in the town. TAG has produced a leaflet which signposts people where to find out about all public transport in Brampton. TAG also keeps a check on bus timetables, making sure they are up to date.
Brampton and Beyond Energy (BABE)
The BABE project emerged from discussions about local renewable energy potential by the now dormant Energy Action Group. The technology selected was anaerobic digestion, the location of the plant being on the western edge of Carlisle Airport on land leased by Stobart Group. BABE secured a soft loan of ~£120K earlier this year in order to secure planning permission, a process that started in March and will continue to the end of the year. The Rural Cumbria Connects consortium is managing this aspect of the project on BABE’s behalf.
The main focus for the BABE Board over the next 6 months will be to build local support for the AD plant within the wider Brampton and Beyond community, prior to launching a community share issue towards the end of the year to provide part of the equity required to build and then operate the plant before it begins to generate income.
Local Sustainability Initiatives – Looking to the Future
Reaching Communities. SB expressed strong support for a Reaching Communities bid made this year through CAfS, which would base a workers in 5 or 6 communities across Cumbria including Brampton, linked with the Cumbria Sustainability Network to support sustainability activity. This would be a welcome development bringing with it much needed additional resources and manpower.
Partners. Progress is being made with the production of a Brampton area economic plan. It was noted that this could be a significant development in providing a context for future sustainability project development. SB will be seeking additions to the environmental theme relating to carbon capture, the sustainable development of rural land and biodiversity.
East Fellside Landscape Partnership. This is a Heritage Lottery Funded bid that is looking for interested local people with exciting ideas for local projects covering enhancement and celebration of nature conservation, historic buildings, cultural history and traditions, access, environmental education, nature and cultural based tourism, small scale sustainability issues and heritage skills training……these will be developed into a full bid in 2016 for implementation in 2017.
Cumbria Boglife project. Natural England are bringing Bolton Fell Moss near Hethersgill back to life and are looking to create opportunities to work with local communities on practical projects over the coming years. A Cumbria BogLIFE newsletter will be published in the Spring to keep local communities up to date with the restoration and to publicise ‘stuff to get involved with’.
Hallbankgate Hub. Hallbankgate Hub came into being in response to the closure of the village Co-op in 2015. The Hub is more than just a shop. It will also be a place where people can meet and share information about events in the village and surrounding area. The hub is an excellent example of local people responding to local needs. The Hub should open in July 2016.
Campaign to Open Gilsland Station (COGS). The opening of Gilsland station will provide significant economic benefits throughout the Brampton and Beyond area through increased tourist footfall. Thanks to fundraising efforts by Northumberland County Council and COGS and the enthusiastic backing of Gilsland’s local councillors and two MPs funds for the detailed research by Network Rail into the feasibility and practical considerations of building the station are in place and work is proceeding. An interim feasibility report by Network Rail's consultant is due shortly.
We hope that initiatives like these above will begin attract new people wanting to join SB and get actively involved in a range of emerging projects, encouraged and supported by the Coordinating Group.
27th Apr 16 TBJ COOMBE