New funding allows environmental project to grow with full-time staff

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TWO new faces in an urban regeneration group are hoping to sow new ideas that will reap rich pickings for a community in future years.

Thanks to funding from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund (CCF), CLEAR has been able to hire two full-time workers for a year – project co-ordinator Neil Stoddart and community horticulture worker Judith McGowan.

Based in Buckhaven Theatre until more accessible office space is found, the pair are planning to become a well-known public presence in the town, spreading the word about the aims of CLEAR and spearheading events and activities to gradually increase community involvement.

With a 10-year background working in the renewables field, Neil comes to Buckhaven from a successful similar project just outside Cupar in the Howe of Fife, promoting energy efficiency in the home and the potential of a community renewable resource.

In Buckhaven, his top priority is to increase knowledge of the benefits of energy efficiency and he is currently in the process of recruiting 100 householders whose homes will act as the initial subjects to show how energy – and money – can be saved.

“I’m very positive about how people will respond,” said Neil, who is looking forward to helping local people take more involvement in how their home town looks by becoming part of various planting and growing projects.

Colleague Judith has moved to Scotland from Leeds where she worked as a community gardener on a Groundwork initiative.

Groundwork is a network of charities covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland aiming to help people create better neighbourhoods and build skills and job prospects. Groundwork focuses its activities on disadvantaged communities.

“With Groundwork I was helping communities and groups set up growing spaces,” Judith said. “I also ran my own gardening project with asylum seekers.”

Her background is in environmental conservation.

In Buckhaven, she is going to be encouraging more fruit and vegetable growing and get people talking about, and getting involved in, food.

“But there are more benefits than just having fresh fruit and veg to eat,” Judith said. “There are health benefits for simply being outside and getting involved, it is a very sociable thing, doing different activities with different people.

“Anyone, no matter their age, experience or ability, can join in and gradually it can break down barriers.”

Neil and Judith’s first major public outing was organising the Eco and Food Zones at the Buckhaven Event Network gathering in Sandwell Park on Saturday.

The topics covered in the zones were energy, transport, waste and food with talks and advice from experts on hand.

If you would like to find out more about forthcoming CLEAR activities go to www.clearfife.org.uk or call Neil on 07546403326 or Judith on 07546421127.

The Climate Challenge Fund has invested more than £27 million in 331 projects throughout Scotland, helping reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 696,212 tonnes.

Other Fife projects to receive funding recently include £212,000 to the East Neuk & Landward Energy Network (ENLEN), a community-based energy efficiency program which, similar to Neil Stoddart’s in Buckhaven, will provide local solutions, including energy audits, support and advice to increase the uptake of the various schemes currently on offer for energy saving measures such as cavity and loft insulation and draught proofing,E

East Fife Allotment Association, another project aiming to help local people to grow their own fruit and vegetables, has been given £1500 towards the cost of legal and planning processes.

Changing a town...one tree at a time

CLEAR, which stands for Community-Led Environmental Action for Regeneration, is a voluntary group set in 2007.

It was started by like-minded local people who each in their own small way had already been doing their bit as individuals to improve their surroundings – from picking up litter when they were out for a walk on the Ness Brases to pulling out weeds causing an eyesore on their own street.

They got together in the shared belief that community efforts really can make a difference – ultimately they would love Buckhaven to become a ‘garden city’ by the sea.

However, just as giant oak trees start as tiny acorns, the group does not expect transformation to happen overnight but believes many small changes can quickly add up to immediately noticeable improvements.

From litter clearing and recycling to planting flower bulbs, fruit trees and hedges, the changes can already be seen in the approaches to Buckhaven and in various green community spaces in the town.

More help is always needed and you can find out about activities on www.clearfife.org.uk or in the Mail’s District News pages.